Exclusive: Lydia Lee Drops Debut Single “Blue,” Talks Fears, Inspirations, And Going Viral

Lydia Lee has at last made her official debut:

Roughly 16 months have passed since Lydia Lee, a Korean high school student at the time, took the internet by storm in September 2015 with her rendition of Adele’s “Hello,” which reached 8 million views on YouTube in days. By the end of 2015, the video was at an astounding 19.6 million views.

She was then invited to sing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, after which she officially began her music career in the United States, participating in Ellen DeGeneres’s Ellentube Cover Project as well as performing on various international stages.

After much preparation, Lydia dropped her double single “Blue” with the b-side “Paralyze Me” on January 31, 2017, ready to take on the world with stunning music of her own to match her stunning voice.

Meet Lydia Lee:

Lydia Lee SMHS_Showcase2

Photo by Suan Lee

Who is your musical inspiration?

I get inspiration from many different musicians such as Chet Baker, Bill Evans, King Krule, Lianne La Havas, Ady Suleiman, Billie Holiday, and so much more. Chet Baker gives me the chills every time I listen to him either play the trumpet or sing. It is as if he is taking in deep breaths of sorrow. I admire artists who are very natural when they do music (when they perform). But I have to say Damien Rice is by far one of my biggest inspirations; he brings his austere and agnostic philosophy to his performance. He inspires me to define what it means to be a sing-songwriter.

When did you decide to pursue music as your career?

There wasn’t a specific time period nor a situation that made me decide to pursue music as my career. It all came very naturally.

Music is something I’ve been doing since my childhood. I feel like I was exposed a lot to musical environments whether it was my intention or not. First, I started off playing the piano (which was my mom’s intention), then the violin. This was something that I really enjoyed doing. I loved how I could express myself through music. Then I started singing in a choir which made me sing everyday; now it’s my special career.

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Photo by Suan Lee

What was your reaction to your Adele cover going viral? And what was your family’s reaction?

I totally did not see it coming at all! I was awestruck by the amount of attention it got, which was so phenomenal. My family and my friends were as surprised as me. It felt like I won the last golden ticket to a chocolate factory! That’s how lucky I was!

How did you decide what kind of song you wanted to debut with in the US? Are there other genres you’d like to do in the future?

I had a writing camp with amazing writers and producers in Atlanta and in London. And the songs for my debut single album were written in Atlanta. I worked with five charming musicians and it gave me new perspective as we worked through everything. The whole process was like a chemical reaction. Every time we came up with different music, and ‘Blue’ was everyone’s favorite. Jazz is one of my favorite genres, and I would definitely try out some jazz in the future.

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Photo by Suan Lee

If you weren’t a singer, what would you want to pursue as a career and why?

Art would be my first choice since I’ve always been interested in it. Fine arts, films, photography, visual arts, design, and so on. On the other hand, someday I want to be a linguist. I feel like English and Korean were naturally given to me growing up. They didn’t give me hard times. I’ve been learning French these days. It’s not easy at all, but I find it very fascinating. I am discovering its culture and origin in a linguistic perspective. Learning languages gives me a wide spectrum of the world. I wish I could pursue a career in discovering wonders of art and languages.

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Photo by Suan Lee

What made you choose the US market instead of Korea?

First of all, I have lots of respect for the K-pop market. I believe not only amazing artists, but also great producers and A&R teams are leading the scene. However, my background is more familiar to U.S. and UK markets than the Korean market. Since childhood, I spent most of my time abroad: in New Zealand, China, and Thailand. Naturally, I was exposed to various cultures with international education. (English used to be my first language back then. Now I am very mixed with Korean.) I always thought I could bear more emotions better in English and in a western music style. That’s why ended up working with American and British artists and all of my songs are written in English.

Have you experienced any difficulty or obstacles as a Korean breaking into the U.S. market?

Well, I can’t say I have. Luckily, I met the right person at the right time. First, people in the world showed incredible interest in my ‘Hello’ cover, and it brought me to The Ellen DeGeneres show. Second, in the process of making my songs, I had big support from co-writers from Atlanta and London. Without their help, I don’t think I could have come this far. Finally, now I am releasing my original songs and very excited to start my journey.

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Photo by Suan Lee

What’s your biggest or weirdest fear?

My biggest fear is the thought of losing all the fun and beauty inside music and being caught up by the pressure to be successful. And I have trypophobia.

What kind of music/TV shows do you listen to/watch in your free time?

The most time consuming thing that I do in my free time is watching YouTube. Usually, I watch live sessions. YouTubers keep me entertained.

Do you have a favorite K-pop group/idol or K-drama? Who/what turns you into a total fangirl?

BIGBANG obviously is one of the biggest, beloved K-pop groups. The power they give through their performances turns me into a TOTAL FANGIRL!

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Photo by Suan Lee

What are some things you love, besides music?

As I mentioned it before, art in general. Mainly films though. Discovering old school films are one of my greatest satisfactions.

What is one thing that you’d like the international audience to know about you?

‘Blue’ (my new song).

When I was invited to sing Adele’s ‘Hello’ on the Ellen Show, I was a shy teenager wearing my high school uniform. Now with my new song, ‘Blue,’ I want to introduce ‘Lydia Lee’ to the audience, a more mature, young artist who really wants to share her stories through her music.

 What’s your ultimate career goal?

To be a renowned artist and to be someone’s biggest inspiration.

Lydia Lee has come very much into her own in a short period of time, no longer the shy, nervous high school student we saw on Ellen. When you hear her talk about the music-making process or her long list of musical inspirations, including artists like Chet Baker, Damien Rice, and Lianne La Havas, it’s obvious that Lydia Lee’s passion for music and the arts runs deep; she’s here to stay. With established musicians and talented producers to light the way, here, at the beginning of her journey, Lydia Lee is sure-footed, vocally confident in both depth and range, and curious, and we can’t wait to see what she has in store for us.

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