Barely nine years old, Linying added two new original poems to her repertoire. Her mother says the Singaporean native was composing since age two, but Linying doesn’t believe her. Still, evidence of her poetic prowess is in full view on two, Microsoft Word Art-ridden A4 pages in the form of expertly-structured, devastating obituaries to her deceased pet hamsters. “One fine Thursday morning / My poor Furry died / Because the wheel dropped on her / Tears flooded as I cried”. Years on, the subject matter has shifted, but the singer’s process remains mostly the same: for every offering, Linying cracks open her heart to pour its contents onto the page.
Her latest is no exception – Linying’s debut album and the first body of work since the success of her premiere EP, Paris 12, which elicited praise from industry tastemakers Billboard and BBC Radio 1. While Paris 12 pieced together the realities of heartbreak, There Could Be Wreckage Here predicts and prepares for pain, balladically unraveling the undercurrent of turmoil within romantic bliss. It’s a rarely-tackled concept in the pop landscape, but one that felt instinctive to Linying. After all, introspection is the genesis of all of her work.
“I enjoy thinking about the emotional content in music much more than I enjoy thinking about the science of it,” she explains. “That way, because I don't assign too much thought to it, evolving sonically feels more instinctive and a little more magical too.”
Linying remembers her early exposure to music as being generally encouraged, while remaining anchored in realism. She was a pianist from infancy, exhibiting some talent when she played songs she’d heard on the radio by ear for her family’s entertainment, but who was ultimately no real prodigy, having received her fair share of rejections from gifted music programs. Her “laziness” with sight-reading led her to memorise every exam piano piece by ear — something that both impressed and exasperated her teachers. “You could be unstoppable if you only had the discipline,” a teacher once told her.
It was only in her study of history at university that she realised she had never been a bad student, just a disinterested one. As her academic pursuits deepened her understanding of humanity, so did her creative pursuits flourish – she began honing her love for both words and music into one, and soon, writing songs became a cathartic way for her to illuminate and articulate her feelings to herself.
As the sonic articulation of 20-something melancholy, Paris 12 secured surprising high-profile cosigns from the likes of Troye Sivan and Perez Hilton. It earned a spot on Spotify’s Global Viral 50 chart with its unlikely lead single “Sticky Leaves”, a ballad about God and disillusionment, which received its premiere on Billboard and was subsequently featured on HBO’s Industry and Netflix’s Terrace House.
Mostly, the accolades affirmed that Linying had tapped into an audience who felt “seen” by her lyricism. It’s particularly satisfying for Linying to feel understood by her listeners, particularly because her foremost inspirations — The Carpenters (Linying is in the top two percent of listeners worldwide), or Bon Iver, to whom she has been compared by NPR’s Bob Boilen — offer her the same sense of understanding. In crafting There Could Be Wreckage Here in collaboration with London-based producer duo Myriot, Linying admits to lyrically anatomising each word in an attempt to articulate her experience in love with as much accuracy as possible. It was almost a relief for Linying to work with artist and activist, MILCK, on the single “Shhh,” whose creative approach was more spontaneous.
“Her process helped me distill what I was feeling in the space of an hour, without overthinking and worrying about things like accuracy or continuity,” Linying says, adding that, for the first time in her life, she was able to write a song about pure joy on this album with “Good Behaviour”, a co-write with Melbourne-based producer Tentendo. “Moments of happiness are so rare that when we have them, we just want to be in them — not explain them — but I feel so lucky and proud that I was at some point in my life so happy that I couldn’t help but let it all spill over. Now I finally have a song that immortalises this precious feeling.”
While Linying may credit her navel-gazing as the inspiration for her output, it’s her filmic sound, and octave-spanning vocals, that have ensured a stratospheric rise. Ultimately, she is a cinephile’s artist: devising lyrics designed to be read, and re-read, accompanied by the kind of compositions that withstand the test of time.
“When I really think about what anyone wants success for anyway, it always goes back to feeling fulfilled, feeling validated, whatever you need to do to lead a life you’re good with. For me it entails being able to do the one thing that allows for the connection I always crave to have with people and still makes me feel the most myself: write music.”
– Beatrice Hazelhurst