"Music is a kind of medicine. I hope I can heal all the broken souls with my music": An interview with ?te

"Music is a kind of medicine. I hope I can heal all the broken souls with my music": An interview with ?te

An enigmatic, new artist has emerged in the Taiwanese music scene. 

?te 坏特 has been topping charts in the recent months, piquing the curiosity of many with her unusual name, relative anonymity, and most definingly, her spellbinding blend of lo-fi jazzhop and R&B which accentuates her husky, laid-back tone. Singing in a mix of English and Mandarin, she collapses physical boundaries, narrowing the distance between her and the rest of the world, and effectively transforming her music into a multifaceted statement of intent. 

In our interview below, ?te speaks with us about her music inspirations and being an artist in Taiwan today.

What's the story behind you embarking on your music career?

My producer, Tower da Funkmasta, was my senior back from jazz club in university. I didn’t expect him to be the managing director of ChynaHouse now. He heard ‘Cazzo’, a song I wrote five years ago, and was the first person willing to release my songs. Without him, I could still be playing the guitar and writing songs in my room now.

It was my guitar teacher who first brought me into the world of jazz and I’ve come to know different jazz musicians because of him. I really like Lianne La Havas and Cyrille Aimée. Tower has also introduced me to a lot of soul music and I’ve begun to keep an eye out for this genre. I also really like Tom Misch.

I’m really happy that many people on the Internet like my songs; they give me the motivation to continue composing and singing.

Congratulations on your latest single ‘Baby Cakes’! Can you share more about the song? 

This song is about a girl in a long distance relationship, and it's about how I feel recently. It’s sweet, but also mixed with an acute sense of loss because of the distance.

Your recent single ‘Santé’ really exploded. Can you share more about it?

My songs are mostly related to love. ‘Santé’ talks about learning from love and learning how to let go. The pain that love brings is sometimes necessary. The more painful the love, the more memorable it is. The female protagonist in the song faces the pain very bravely. The message is about enjoying the pain and staying strong.

As a singer in Taiwan, why do you choose to make music in English?

English isn't my first language. I’m used to composing and writing music in English because it allows me to more easily express my artistic vision. Often, my English lyrics are not deep or difficult to understand. I hope to directly convey a mental image to my listeners. My first song, 'Cazzo', is written for an Italian friend of mine. I wrote it in English because she doesn't understand Chinese. 

For an Asian artist, making music in English will allow international fans greater access to my music. I hope there will be opportunities for my music to take me to different countries. 

How does it feel to be a rising artist in the Taiwanese indie scene today? 

I’m really grateful for all the people that have helped my music career, especially my producer Tower. He found the potential in me and came up with the idea of lo-fi beats that perfectly fitted my voice. Also, it’s a blessing to live in Taiwan, where different voices can be heard, where I can freely write whatever I want to say.

What is the rationale behind remaining mysterious and relatively anonymous for now?

There are so many female artists who are judged by their appearances. I choose to wear a hat or loose clothes to cover up myself, because I don't wish to be sexualised. Another reason is that privacy means a lot to me and I need my own space. I want make friends who approach me not because of my music. I want to live like a cat and don’t feel like being recognised as a singer.

2019 is coming to an end. What was the most memorable thing that happened for you this year?

The most memorable thing in 2019 is having the chance to show my music to the world. Again, I’m so lucky to meet my producer Tower who made all of this happen.

What are some of your upcoming music plans?

I’m going to drop a few more songs and my debut album, assumedly in spring next year. I’ve done several collaborations so far and I’m looking forward to my new babies.

Lastly, what would you say is the biggest goal you have for your music?  

Music is a kind of medicine. I hope I can heal all the broken souls with my music and be a musician that encourages people to be true to themselves.