In the Stacks

min.a on Synth Pop, BTS, and Being Herself

June 19, 2020

Photo by Isabel Rudie @flaxphotos

min.a (Michelle Bae), rising senior at NYU Tisch’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, is celebrating the release of her most recent single “Tape It Back Together,” a pop track filled with glittering synths and unapologetic lyrics – at once somber and high-energy. We sat down with her on Zoom as part of our In the Stacks interview series.

Where is home for you, and are you back there now during COVID? How’s it going?

Currently it’s South Korea! My entire family lives here so I feel very lucky to be here. Plus, it’s shown me how efficient and responsive the South Korean government has been to the pandemic (f—k you Trump, you’re useless!)

What have you been listening to lately?

Sawayama by Rina Sawayama, “Susie Save Your Love” and “Sarah Come Home” by Allie X, and Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa. These artists have such distinct and unique sounds so it’s difficult to get tired of their music. It’s especially inspiring listening to Allie X’s music because she’s a female producer! I was also obsessed with When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? by Billie Eilish. I’m a huge fan of Finneas’s production and Billie’s writing. They’re reinventing what mainstream pop is, and they are also a perfect example of the quality of music that can come from a DIY production set up (they recorded that entire album in Finneas’s childhood bedroom!)

When did you first take an interest in music, and when did you decide you wanted to focus on it professionally?

I grew up in a household of musicians (my mom majored in the flute and minored in the piccolo, my grandpa was a violinist) so it was only natural that I followed in their footsteps. I’ve been singing for forever so I can’t remember a specific moment or event that sparked that love for performing, but I have loved performing for as long as I can remember.

Your latest single “Tape It Back Together” seems to have some trap & electronic influences… is this a new direction you want to take overall?

I think I’m just experimenting! I don’t really start a project or song thinking “I want it to sound like this.” For me, setting a goal like that actually makes it harder to make music because I get discouraged if the song takes a different turn. So I let a synth sound take the lead in where a song goes!

What artists have had the greatest impact on you? How do you define your sound?

In terms of artist identity I think BTS and Rina Sawayama have taught me the importance of appreciating and embracing my Asian ethnicity. I’m not ashamed or scared to write lyrics in Korean or embrace my love for Kpop music!

I think my sound is a mix of experimental and electro-pop music. At first I declared my sound with lots of glitchy production and buzzy synths, but at the moment it’s grown into a glittery synth pop sound. At least that’s what I am continuously told :)

Do you have any other creative outlets besides music?

Fashion and makeup! My mom is a style icon so I learned everything from her. I love clothing and the freedom it gives me to announce my visual aesthetic. I try to buy clothes from Depop to help the environment by shopping sustainably.

Do you write & produce your music on your own?

I write, perform, produce, mix, and master all of my own music! At first I took on these roles out of necessity, but with practice I fell in love with every step. I’m kind of a control freak, so having the creative freedom to do whatever I want and translate my vision into a tangible form is an exciting experience that nothing else gives me. 

If you could meet any one artist, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you say to them?

BTS!!! BTS have made me so incredibly proud to be Korean. They proved to Western audiences that a language barrier means very little when it comes to communicating love and appreciation for their fans. They’ve redefined what Kpop means (both in terms of culture and music) and inspired fans to love themselves. I’m constantly inspired by their work ethic. I’d just thank them over and over. I cannot thank them enough for teaching me how to be proud of my identity as a Korean-American artist.

Do you have any advice for artists starting out?

Stop worrying about what other artists around you are doing! People connect with genuine music. If your lyrics reach listeners, they will continue to support you. Also, you are not too good for anyone. Don’t write off people who you think won’t “help you” in your career. And make as much music as possible. Practice makes perfect! Get your 10,000 hours in.

Do you have anything coming out soon or that you want to share with the Tunestack community? :)

I am working on a lot of music! I’m also doing my best to work with as many fellow artists as possible. The inspiration that comes from working with other creatives teaches you new things not only about music but about yourself as well. You learn what you’re good at and what you need to work on because someone else shows you the impact you have on a song.

For now, I’d say look out for a single ;)

We can't wait!

Stream "Tape It Back Together" now on Spotify and Apple Music:

Follow min.a on Spotify, Instagram, and Twitter, and let us know what you think of her latest single by leaving a review on Tunestack!

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