We’re living in a weird time with the current events of the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement. Everyone’s lives have been turned upside down. How are you currently holding up with everything that is going on in our world right now?
I am one who strives to live in the light, so I’ve been doing my best to stay as positive as I can, especially when my peers need someone to lean on. As far as the pandemic, it’s been a hardship financially and I definitely have had moments where I felt extremely alone because I’ve been pretty much quarantined alone this whole time. Prior to these events, as a society, we were all caught up in ourselves instead of each other and essentially stuck in the same routine. There’s no growth there, so as challenging as these current events are, I feel like this is the time to really take a moment to pause, self-reflect, and re-examine our lives in hopes of becoming better versions of ourselves.
For new listeners who may have just stumbled upon your music, how would you describe your songs, and what sets you apart from other artists?
My music is a message of vulnerability. I love to mix positive lyrics with darker tones and melodies and vice versa because it truly reflects the ups and downs of my journey. I also write specifically to my life events, but I like to switch up the writing in sections to be more universal. This allows the audience to get to know more about my personal life while still finding it very relatable to what they’ve experienced or what they’re going through at that moment. As far as my sound goes, I would say that it’s cinematic, which is what I really enjoy about dark pop. I also love to blend different types of genres that I grew up with or am currently listening to because they’ve all inspired me in different ways.
You’ve worked hard to forge your own path as an artist. How did you get your start in the music industry? What has the experience been like?
My first experience in the music industry was when I interned at Hopeless Records under Eric Tobin. I ended up getting a job on Vans Warped Tour to be a merch girl for a metalcore band called Attack Attack! that same summer, and Eric was very encouraging. I ended up leaving that internship. From there, I ended up working for other bands for a few years, and finally stopped because I really wanted to focus on my own music. Since then, it’s been very difficult, especially being a Filipino-American woman in the industry. I’ve been told that my image didn’t fit and I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but recently their CEO stepped down because of racism allegations in the workplace, so it kind of makes me wonder what they meant. I felt like I had to fit a mold to be successful in the music industry, so there was a time when I dismissed my culture. It wasn’t until 2016 when I took full control of my career that I started to embrace it and realized how unique I am.
Please tell us more about your new single “STARLET.” Personally, I find this song very empowering and take the message to heart: “Follow your dreams and be who you want to be. Ignore the ones who doubt your ability to succeed in life. There’s always going to be people who will attempt to do everything in their power to bring you down. Just focus on your goals and no matter what, don’t give up.” What inspired you to write this track and did it come together quickly?
This song was actually inspired by a music writer from Musical Notes Global who wrote reviews on my past releases, “Type Erase” and “1445.” She called me a “rising pop starlet” and my co-writer, a girl named jaen, called me saying, “We need to write a song called ‘STARLET,'” and I agreed. We hadn’t heard that term used recently, so we just thought it was a dope idea. From there, a girl named jaen sent me a melody idea which essentially turned into the chorus and she thought I wasn’t going to like it, but I loved it and we ended up getting together to sit down and write the lyrics and the rest of the melody. Once we established the theme of empowerment, the lyrics and melody flowed very easily. However, the production took a while because this was the first time we decided to work remotely on a song with producer, John McLucas. Normally, we would all be in the studio together putting the production together, so it was definitely hard to get used to communicating via email describing sounds that we wanted and trying to explain changes. We ended up with 10 production demos before I even laid down the vocals but honestly, I don’t really think that matters, and I feel like you can really hear how much time we spent into creating such a hard-hitting, anthemic production. There are a lot of production elements that are so subtle, but really are necessary to create that tone and “STARLET” wouldn’t be where it’s at with all of the time we put into creating it.
What inspired your ideas for the “STARLET” single artwork?
My videographer, Josh Suguitan, and I were storyboarding the music video and when he brought up outfits that I was thinking of, I didn’t really know yet, so he asked me, “Well, what makes you a starlet?” So, I started thinking about how I have different fashion personalities like one day I love to be super girly, then some days I like to be more boyish, and so on. Then, I ended up talking to my close friend and up-and-coming stylist, Aylin Padron, and she started telling me what she notices about my personal style and how I love the 70s, 90s, and early 2000s. I ended up having some pieces already that I hadn’t styled yet and went with the color aesthetic that I wanted to follow like the purple iridescent biker shorts, so from there, we started styling around each piece and ultimately, decided that there are four different fashion styles that I generally play with on a daily basis. Each look represents my fashion personalities that make up the starlet that is Lisa Danaë.
What is your writing process like?
I definitely tend to co-write, whether I start an idea or concept on my own and bring that idea to someone to write off of that or we just start from scratch together. With my frequent co-writer, a girl named jaen, our style of writing together starts off as an interview process. If I have a thought right off the bat, then she just starts asking me questions about it and she’s just writing keywords or lines that I’m saying to her. If I don’t necessarily know what I want to write about that day, we schedule a writing session, which is very rare, then she’ll start by asking, “What’s going on in your life? What’s on your mind?”, and she’ll end up finding a word or phrase that I may have said or reiterated a lot which determines the topic, and then we just go from there with the interview type process.
Who/what are some of your influences and inspiration for your sound?
My influences are all over the place, but I feel like I’m very inspired by Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop, and Jazz, and I like to pull from all genres just depending on the vibe of a song. I grew up listening to Donna Summer, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Michael Jackson, Queen, and many more. As I got older, I was very into *NSYNC, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, and so many more artists. And currently, I love Post Malone, The Weeknd, Drake, Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Kacey Musgraves, and more. To me, music is a universal language, so again, I feel like I pull inspiration from any artist and any genre, just really depending on what I want to make the audience feel with the lyrics.
Who are some of your favorite artists? If you could have a dream collab with anyone, who would it be and why?
All-time favorite artists are a long list and I named some already, but other than those artists, I’d add Aaliyah, Eminem, Missy Elliot, and Alicia Keys. I definitely have a lot of dream collabs, but one big one for a while now is Pharrell. I really think he is dope and creative even beyond music and I would love to see what we could come up with together. He seems like one of those producers that can really bring the best out of an artist and that’s very hard to find.
You have an active social media presence, especially on YouTube. Besides promoting your own works, you record and share different song covers and reaction videos. You interact with your fans, as you take the time to respond back and leave comments. It feels very personal. How has social media helped you throughout your journey as an up-and-coming musician?
Social media has allowed me to reach and connect with an audience from around the world. As an independent artist funding everything on your own, it can be stressful trying to figure out how to finance marketing and get yourself out there, but social media allows you to put your art in the eyes of people all over the world. Although it can be very overwhelming, I love how there are different types of social platforms because I feel like each platform allows you to showcase different sides of yourself as well. But yes, I love responding to fans and I love engaging especially when I feel passionate about something, but I definitely had to learn quickly how to figure out ways to block out the negativity, and you just have to remember that you can’t please everyone.
Which song of yours holds the most meaning to you?
I would say it’s a combination of “1445” and having the outcome of that period in my life being “STARLET.” “1445” talks about my battle with depression and self-worth during a time in my life that was full of instability and change. No one knew what I was going through and fortunately, I was able to get myself out of that dark headspace, which ultimately led to me taking full control of my life and my career. From there, “STARLET” was born and I still to this day really never thought I’d be in a position to feel inspired to write an empowering anthem. I’m the best I’ve ever felt mentally, emotionally, and physically, so as hard as it was going through something that inspired “1445”, I wouldn’t be where I’m at or feel as good as I feel without that period and “STARLET” also represents that powerful moment of finding confidence and self-love. The light truly came out of the dark with these two songs.
You recently released your new single “STARLET.” What else can we expect coming up this year? Do you have any goals set for 2021?
Well, I originally planned to release two more singles this year. However, since I did postpone the release of “STARLET” and I, now, have a lot more to share with this song, I’m not sure when I’ll release the second single at the moment, which could ultimately lead to a push back on the third. I’m sure I’ll also have more songs ready to go into production once I finish these two, so the order of releases could change depending on the lyrical theme and production vibe. This is a huge plus to being an independent artist. I have full control of my music and essentially I call the shots, so whatever I decide, just know that there is more music coming and more visuals to coincide. As far as goals for 2021, I definitely want to start playing live shows, but since we have to live day-by-day, I plan to get back into live-streaming regularly for the time being. Another huge goal of mine is to get my songs synced in TV, commercials, or film. I’ve been learning a lot about sync licensing during quarantine and really started paying attention to how music can really set the mood of a scene and I would be honored to have one of my own drive a storyline. I’ve also created a good community on YouTube with people in the Philippines, so I would love to travel there to connect with them more and collaborate with other Filipino artists.
Everyone’s been hit hard by our current circumstances, including artists, as the pandemic has slowed everything to a sudden halt. The music industry has been severely impacted by the postponement and cancellations of scheduled tours and festivals, leaving musicians stuck at home. The fate of many venues are currently at risk, and may be forced to shut their doors for good. Unfortunately, it appears that there will be a long waiting period before concerts make a comeback. What are your thoughts on the long term effects this situation may have on the industry? What actions do you think should be taken to combat this issue, and help artists get back on their feet once live music is able to return?
I have a lot of friends that work in the touring industry as tour managers, stage production crew, audio techs, etc., so my heart really goes out to those that have been affected. Touring is the majority of an artists’ income, so once we figure out safe ways to navigate, budgets will most likely decrease so, unfortunately, I feel like there will still be a lot of people out of jobs. I know that they’ve been testing out drive-in concerts in Anaheim, CA, which sounds really dope and I would love to check it out. I’ve heard great things about it, so I think we could potentially see a rise in that type of live entertainment environment. I also think live-streaming is going to continue to rise and become the new norm.
Due to the pandemic, live shows are placed on hold indefinitely and touring is at a standstill right now. However, many artists are finding new creative ways to interact with their fans amidst all of the chaos; utilizing their social media platforms to share content, check in with their audiences, participate in livestreams, perform songs and put on “virtual concerts”, and provide insight into their new routines in quarantine. Do you have any plans that are similar in nature, to help pass the time until shows are back up and running again?
I definitely went full force with creating content for every social media platform that I’m on. I focused mainly on YouTube and TikTok as I’ve been feeling really stagnant and kind of getting bored with Instagram. TikTok has been a lot of fun creating relatable content to quarantine life and what it’s like living by yourself during this time. I’ve also been creating different types of content to share my music like digital collages, I’ve been writing, working on visuals for the next releases, I host a music podcast called Sound Scrub where I dissect the writing, production, and recording process of a song with the artist and producer, and I’ve been networking and connecting with more people in the industry. I definitely feel like I’ve been given the gift of time to create more and more.
What is one cause or organization that you are passionate about?
Not sure if this is necessarily considered an organization, but I’m very passionate about figuring out ways to make sure there is more representation in the music industry within the Asian community, but more specifically within the Filipino community. It’s pretty non-existent and it’s really disappointing and was really discouraging when I first stepped foot into the industry. So, I’m doing everything I can to make sure our voices are heard. Aside from that, my music podcast focuses on independent artists as I want to give back to our community and also give other independent artists another platform for their voices to be heard as well.
Who/what inspires your fashion style and where do you like to shop to pick up your staple pieces of clothing and makeup (thrift, department stores)?
My mom and her sisters were always into fashion, so I was interested in fashion at a young age. I am definitely a child of the 90s and early 2000s, so when those eras came back around recently, I was very excited! I don’t really have a specific person that I turn to for inspiration, but I browse Pinterest every once in a while for ideas. Other than that, I love a good trend, but comfortability is key! As long as I feel myself in it, I will wear it whether it’s “in” or not. I’ve tried to thrift, but I feel like I have the worst luck because I never find cute things, but I’m also very impatient and don’t like to browse. I generally shop at department stores and I do a lot of online shopping because I hate trying on clothes!
What are some of your favorite books? Favorite films/TV shows? What are your hobbies?
I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, both book series and movie series. I recently started collecting the illustration books that are slowly coming out and the art is stunning. I also really love To Kill A Mockingbird and 1984. As far as TV shows, I am a huge Friends fan and I’m pretty sure I can beat anyone at a trivia game about that show, Game of Thrones, and some guilty pleasures would be Vanderpump Rules, Real Housewives of Orange County, and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I also watched the whole series of Schitt’s Creek during quarantine and I think it’s hilarious. Movies, that’s actually pretty hard for me, but I will say one of my favorites is Mean Girls! I’m obsessed with that movie and I really enjoyed seeing the musical on Broadway. A lot of my hobbies are honestly music-related, but other than that, during quarantine, I started making digital collages, which I really enjoy and I love going to the beach.
What is the main thing that you would really like for people to take away from your music?
Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. It takes a lot of courage to open up to people, especially in a time of need. Everyone goes through different struggles, so we need to learn how to be more empathetic with one another.
Do you have anything that you would like to tell our readers?
I want to emphasize how much I truly believe in creating your own path in the music industry, especially now, with everything going on in the world. I think it is time for independent artists to be heard and rise up. The majority of us are creating music for ourselves, so we’re not afraid to push boundaries. “STARLET” is all about authenticity and finding what makes you unique and using that to your full ability to show your true self. We have no excuses to be in the shadows anymore. There are too many tools that we can use to make our voices be heard.
Thank you so much for your time! It was a pleasure having the opportunity to talk to you and I love the new single “STARLET.” Looking forward to hearing more new material from you soon! Stay safe and take care!
Review by: Bri Rodriguez
Photo by: Josh Suguitan
Be sure to check out the “STARLET” music video released on September 9, 2020!