Curated by Zeppelin and Co and arranged by DITA Audio: 3 individuals go on their own parallel journeys to show us what it means to chase the Dream. This week, we spotlight Jilian (@Jiliansummers) a 23 year old singer-songwriter. Armed with an unflappable work ethic and a golden voice, she holds emotional resonance at the heart of her ethos, focusing on how music can serve as a binding agent between separate human lives.
We met Jilian in Zeppelin and Co. to find out more about her singing journey, one that officially began when she was 13 through the Destiny Music Awards, a local music award that seeks to highlight and groom young musical talent.
“We went through an audition and interview before we were shortlisted.” She says, describing her experience with the competition, “In the weeks to the competition there were workshops to help us along and a whole makeover for our final performance!”
Her competition experience served as an eye-opener and culminated with her winning credits from a local music equipment store, where she bought most of her recording equipment—her microphone, a mic stand, a pop filter, wires and software
“We weren’t so internet-savvy back then so our strategy was to walk in empty-handed, ask tons of questions and get recommendations.”
Jilian says that this initial rig remains largely unchanged and is what she uses to record her songs even today.
Between Fate and Hard Work
Jilian considers herself lucky to be pursuing a career in singing under fairly auspicious circumstances, being born with a talent for singing, winning recording equipment at 13, having a supportive mother and, presently, a steady stream of gigs.
When asked if fate had a bigger part to play than hard work, Jilian answered candidly.
“For my whole secondary school life, for about four to six years, there was a lot of doing free gigs, reaching out to random contacts that I find on random event websites and coordinating everything from there. I did that for a good four years without any pay.”
“Maybe fate had a part to play, perhaps if I was born with a different heart, I wouldn’t have come so far.” She concedes, but ultimately it was only after this period of trial by fire that the tables finally turned and clients started to seek her out instead.
“A lot of it was pretty tough.”
Hard work seems to be a common characteristic among performers and artists who finally find themselves in the public eye, where they are subjected to scrutiny and criticism, both from audiences and themselves. Jilian is no exception to this rule, she used to be her own harshest critic.
“I used to be a big perfectionist.” she says, recalling how minor hiccups during a song would often lead her to firmly believe that the rest of the performance was ruined, a mindset she would have to work at correcting in the years to come.
“But you get used to making errors as a newbie, you develop a thick skin and you learn to let it go. I’m still learning to be less tough on myself especially when people I know are watching, but you learn... One step at a time.”
Doubts and self-criticism of a slightly different sort creep into other areas of her life, where her camera-shy nature made it extremely difficult for her to upload covers on Youtube. “For my first few songs I just put a picture and played the audio behind it.” She says of her Youtube activity. The lack of video was not for a lack of trying either, she makes a habit of filming, editing and uploading videos, “ I post it, but 5 minutes later I put it back to private, so… that’s my biggest hurdle since 15.”
Today her camera shyness remains a work in progress "I’m okay with photos now, but as for videos, it requires a whole other level of mental preparedness .”
As a singer-songwriter, Jilian finds herself constantly challenging her own status quo, something that would have been difficult if not for the people around her.
“It’s the people that keep coming back to me that help push me along the way, that help me think that, oh, maybe I’m actually good at this, maybe, maybe it could work out.”
She attributes her success in her musical journey to her mother, who always believes that she could do anything she put her mind to. The only condition, she had to achieve her basic degree. “She believes in the importance of education, and insisted she’d fund me up till my first degree,” She says, talking about how her mother placed an emphasis on education even while supporting her in her performing dreams.
Jilian is now a graduate diploma holder in Psychology and she feels like her life is richer for it. “My mom always says education’s never wasted, and now I understand why. The cumulative experience of living as a student studying in university is invaluable. Even if you end up not using that paper, you’ve gained something greater, and that is life skills.”
“Psychology’s a real eye-opener.” She says, attributing some of her interpersonal success to experiences in her undergraduate studies.
In the realm of work, she often gets invited to perform from both longtime clients and even people who she’s never met before.
“It’s very nice when this happens, but I still don’t know how it happens. I’ve even asked how or whom did they get my contact from but I have never heard of anyone they’ve just named! And I always make the effort to remember everyone I have worked with!”
“Everyone’s been very professional and nice.” She says of the people she works with, she prides herself on her flexibility and her not being abrasive or demanding “It’s a two way street, if you’re nice to someone, they’ll most likely be nice back, and I’ve been blessed, haven’t ran into any problems, touch wood.” She laughs, jokingly poking at the wooden café table.
Matters of the Heart, at the Heart of her Music
When asked what she wanted to in the future, Jilian points to songwriting as a direction she’s working on— Her pet subjects are emotions, and the machinations of her inner world, “The greatest songwriters for me are those that can be so vulnerable in their music and in their words, but yet also writes with their listeners and audience in mind.” She explains.
“I endeavour to be like them.”
Jilian hopes her lyrics will be able to resonate with her audiences, citing this resonance as the most important factor in the songs she writes.
“Because after all art is a gift not just to be given but also to be received.” She says.
She references the well-known quote by George Berkeley, If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
“If there is music and no one is around to listen, would there be music?”
She finishes the interview after a minute or so of silence.
“I’m not very comfortable when people ask me what is my dream. I’ve stopped calling it a dream. Instead, I'm calling this a plan, I feel like in a bittersweet kind of way I’m possibly on my way.”
Jilian will be having a gig with Digital Shilin Singapore 2020 happening on
on 12-14 June and 19-21 June.
More updates and details will be on DITA Audio and Jilian Summer's Social Media Pages!
Listen to Jilian's singing in this cover of Hyukoh's Gondry, done in collaboration with her friend and fellow artist Jung-Woo Cho