Music Interview: LUAN MEI
Hi Luan Mei, tell us about yourself?
Hey ho, I’m Luan Mei, a 22-year-old guitarist, singer, songwriter (sometimes sax player) from Madrid based in Brighton currently. I moved to Brighton when I was 18 to study Songwriting, and here I am, just finished my career! I started playing the guitar on my own when I was around 12 and writing my original stuff with 16 when I discovered that I associated people, moments and feelings to colours, shapes or numbers, what they call synaesthesia. It helps me immensely to express myself by describing feelings like that, as a way of understanding the world and my inner self. I’m obsessed with learning to play new instruments, so I decided to learn sax two years ago, on my own, and the piano, since last winter.
What is your songwriting process?
I think it is a very interesting and funny thing to know how other songwriters write their music, as it is a very personal and unique process. In my case, I normally start with the guitar, chords and progressions linked to the rhythm. When I’m more or less happy with that (‘more or less’ because within the process I’m never 100% satisfied with what I create haha) I start singing improvised melodies on top and trying to come up with a verse, chorus, bridge, bla, bla. Then, I add lyrics which fit into the melodic rhythm. When everything has some kind of sense and shape, I’m able to modify what’s already done.
That’s the difficult part to reach, though, songwriters tend to be a bit messy when it comes to finishing songs. I include myself (I’ve probably got around 300 bits and pieces of unfinished songs on my phone!)
Tell us about your latest release?
‘Yellow’ is a very special tune for me. Yes, it is about love, but not a common one. It’s that kind of delicate love, a connection created through art, poetry and music, through wanting to change the world together and make it a better place to exist. ‘Yellow’ portrays a real love story between two women, two artists who meet for the first time at Madrid’s Pride and they start creating together, linking poets with songs and performing together in Madrid.
Within the story, both women discover a specific kind of freedom they did not experience before, which wraps them into a colourful, summery love bubble creating a very delicate and intense relationship between them. ‘Yellow’ is the colour in which the musician, through her synaesthesia, perceives the poet: bright and warm as the sun.
I consider it is essential to give voice and visibility to LGBTQ+ stories, make them heard as much as we can as well as artists from the community. As a queer artist, the music industry needs to put way more LGBTQ+ and women on the frontline as well as in festivals!
What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?
To feel free to exist as you are, no matter what. I’m tired of people hating others for any reason: race, sexual orientation, gender, identity or ethnicity. At the same time, art is subjective, too, and my audience can interpret my songs in different ways, through their own filters.
Who are your musical influences?
Milky Chance is the closest influence I can think of at the moment. Like, the way the focus so much on the rhythm through the guitar (I’m obsessed with it), the melodies, the mix of acoustic vibes and electronic bits. This is my thing! Parcels inspire me incredibly too, as well as Phum Viphurit, Jeff Buckley and Tash Sultana (those guitars…!)
Who are your non-musical influences?
Besides being a musician, David Bowie’s essence, way of thinking and acting on stage is iconic a very strong influence to me. The LGBTQ+ actress, activist and model Hunter Schafer; the philosopher and political activist Angela Davis and the feminist writers Andrea Dworkin and Simone de Beauvoir.
What’s the best gig that you have ever played?
Most probable was the last gig I did with my band before the pandemic. It was the 1st of March this year at The Prince Albert here in Brighton, first time playing there in my whole life. It was massive. The venue was completely full, we were crazily excited, and the audience was absolutely lovely, constantly dancing to our music and so many people were singing my songs which made me feel extremely happy about what I do.
Daniel, Sam and I were super connected on stage that night, and the three of us were having loads of fun as if that specific moment was infinite. I really didn’t want to get off the stage. It was magical.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?
I’m not going to lie, money helps loads, specially when it’s about paying for advertising yourself as an artist, but at the end, it’s not that essential. There is definitely not enough opportunities and financial support for emerging independent musicians from big music companies/labels. We have to work with social media platforms and try to be ‘everywhere’ online, and this platforms have literally no interest in supporting us!
What advice would you give to other bands/artists starting out?
Do more, think less! With this I mean that, as creators (always talking from my experience), we tend never to finish songs, being too perfectionist or not feeling satisfied during the process and therefore, enter a vicious circle of unfinished creations. We really need to end this and not think about it that much but focus on finishing songs and from there, modify the already finished creation. (I’m applying this to myself so much too haha).
Create, create, create. Play, for real, play in open mics, get gigs around, busk. Print posters, flyers, put them everywhere. You know, the real thing.
What are your hopes for the next two years?
Aliens coming to Earth probably? Haha, joking. Definitely create more music, put it out there, make it physical! I really want to see my stuff on vinyl, CD’s, t-shirts, socks, yes! Gig, gig a lot with my band, gig in London and other cities of the UK, trough Europe, in my hometown Madrid, I want that so much. Many ideas, many dreams, I need to be patient and continue working hard, I’m sure everything will be done, and every dream will be achieved at some point.
FV Music Blog July 2020
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