NewTracks New Artist: Y Plus

NewTracks New Artist: Y Plus

Recording as Y Plus, Yaojia Chen is an indie/electronica artist living in Auckland who has already released two full EPs in 2022. The second one, ‘Terminal 22‘, shares the common feelings of being overwhelmed and confused as a youth in their early 20s, encouraging those listening to take a step back and cut themselves some slack. NZ On Air Music has included her poignant new single You Didn’t Call On My Birthday on their NewTracks compilation this July. 

What’s your full name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

I’m Yaojia Chen. Originally coming from China, I moved to Auckland when I was 14, and my main instrument is keys, yet I also play some guitar and drums.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

I started learning classical piano at the age of five, then I did IGCSE Music at high school and eventually graduated with a bachelor’s degree specialised in pop music at the University of Auckland.

Any other projects we might know you from?

You may have heard me as the featured artist on Ariki’s track Stone Cold’, I also released my first EP called ‘The Missing Piece’ earlier this year.

What’s the background story of how Y Plus came to be? Is anyone else involved?

I’m an independent artist/producer. I am in charge of everything related to Y Plus; from music production, and music video making to marketing and promotion. I ask friends for advice but no one else is directly involved, I don’t have a label or a manager.

How did you come up with the catchy name?

About my artist name, ‘Y’ comes from my real name Yaojia, and ‘Jia’ has the same pronunciation as ‘plus’ in Mandarin. I want my brand to be simple and be easily remembered by both native and non-native English speakers. I believe ‘Y Plus’ is a representative name of me that’s simple enough to be remembered.

How has your music evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

I started by writing a lot of pop ballads, but now I’m open to all genres. I would describe my sound as indie pop/indie electronic.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date? 

The animated music video of Stone Cold has over 4k views on YouTube. There’s more music and video content you can anticipate from Y Plus.

What makes You Didn’t Call On My Birthday stand out for you as a single?

The title. It portrays a scene that I think a lot of people can connect to.

Is there a personal story behind You Didn’t Call On My Birthday?

I was hoping to see someone at a gig because I know they were coming, but they didn’t come and say hi. And that day was my birthday…

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

My favourite part is the music break where I tried a few interesting production tricks. I wrote, recorded and produced the single by myself at my home studio. I like to work in an environment that I’m comfortable with, and these days you don’t really need fancy gear to record. I know exactly how to get those nice and crispy vocals on my Rode NT1 microphone.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

This song is included in my EP Terminal 22’. The idea behind the title is that I’m turning 22 this year and I feel like I am sitting in the airport without knowing my destination. So I created this EP to tell the listeners that it’s common to feel overwhelmed and confused in your early 20s. Even when we couldn’t help being stressed, I hope this EP can let us take a step back and allow ourselves some slacks. And this song, You Didn’t Call On My Birthday, particularly addresses the disappointment we all face at some point in our 20s.

How do you generally work out what would make a good single?

I work out what song would make a good single by considering whether this song suits my brand and whether it is my usual sound, and which song gets the most attention from people who don’t know me personally.

Who else is in the Y Plus team?

I produced this song on my own, and then sent it out to my mastering engineer. I didn’t hire anyone else. Then I planned the music video and asked my partner to help me film it. I ran a couple of ads to get a taste of self-promotion and pitched this song to a couple of playlists including NZOA’s NewTracks.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

I’m working on a new album and a few cover songs. Spoiler alert, you should definitely pay attention if you are an introvert like me.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

Lévyne, Chris Bates, Ariki

Got any advice for others whose songs haven’t gained NZOA funding or been included on NewTracks?

Try three more times!

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

A Youtube channel called We Make Pop Music, and Synth Hacker has great tutorials for sound design.

Any last words?

Go check out my newest EP ‘Terminal 22 if you like You Didn’t Call On My Birthday’!

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