Lay Zhang and Amber Liu Discuss MetaMoon Festival, Music, and More

The inaugural MetaMoon Music Festival will take place in New York on November 26th, featuring East Asian acts from all over the world. The music festival will also mark the first time many of the star-studded lineup performs in the US. Ahead of the show, APA spoke with headlining acts Lay Zhang and Amber Liu about MetaMoon, Asian representation in the U.S., and more.

MetaMoon is the first festival of its kind here in the U.S., featuring Chinese artists specifically. In an age where K-pop is at the top of its game, both Lay and Amber agree that Chinese artists and music just need a little push to rise more in the West. They also think it’s only a matter of time for Chinese artists are on the world stage. Amber shares, “When I was in K-pop, it was when it was first getting more into the Western market. Definitely could be other factors, but I think it comes with time.”

As for the festival itself, both Lay and Amber says that they’ve been preparing hard for it. Having just released his latest album, West, Lay promises fans will see his performance for the title track, “Veil,” as well as other skills he’s been working on, including “vocals and krumping.” Although Amber won’t be performing any new songs from her in-progress EP, fans can expect never-before-seen performances. “New songs off the upcoming album aren’t quite ready yet, but I’ll be performing some songs I’ve released before for the first time. I’ve only ever sung them in the studio, so adding on a full live band, it’s a whole different vibe. [My band and I have] all just been friends and work on our different projects, and now we’re all together, which is really cool.”

Lay and Amber also expressed their excitement for their upcoming trips to New York. “I can’t wait to see the stage,” shared Lay. “I’ve heard Barclays Center is amazing, and is very big, so I hope my performance doesn’t make people disappointed.” For Amber, she’s most looking forward to being on stage again. “It’s the first MetaMoon Festival and I’m part of the lineup, so it is a little bit of pressure. Just to represent my community and be part of a concert, to perform and just vibe with people, it’s always such a fun time. Being on stage, I don’t care about anything else but me performing and the fans, and that energy change. It’s a great escape, and it’s a beautiful thing.”

As MetaMoon strives to bridge Asia and the U.S. in terms of pop culture, both artists have hopes for what the future will look like for Asian artists in the West. “I hope Asian artists can be appreciated worldwide. I hope there are platforms that support their music and give them a chance to shine, as there are so many beautiful images and cultures in the world,” shared Lay. “Because I was born in China, I learned a lot of things and music from there, Korea, and the U.S., so I hope to mix and make something new. Each opportunity is a blessing.” Known for his desire to bridge the East and West, Lay created this goal for himself simply because of what music means to him. “Music is powerful and can bring people together across cultures and language barriers.” Similarly, Amber is eager to see where the current momentum will take representation. “I’m so happy to see a lot more Asian-centric events and festivals popping up. Back in the day, anime was something that people picked on me for, and now it’s just kind of accepted.”

Both Lay and Amber have mentored on competition shows in China, where young hopefuls fight for the top spots to earn their debut. With both having so much experience in the music industry, the two singers did their best on the shows to guidance. For Amber, the most important thing is always the mindset. “Keep going and stay curious. Music and being in the arts is one thing, but I think being in the industry is a whole other thing to tackle,” she said. “A lot of people know the industry isn’t kind, but you also should be kind to yourself, and always remember why you started to do things, why you love what you love, and remember that sometimes it’s okay to take a nap.” As the CEO of his own company, Chromosome Entertainment Group, Lay’s hope is to train more global artists. “I want to make more opportunities to come to the world and bring our country and our music to share.”

Personally working on writing their own music, Lay and Amber dive into their creative processes and what their music means to me. As Lay’s grown over the years, his music and approach has also evolved. “I love music even more now. I used to think a dope melody was the most important thing, but now, I think the most important thing is if you can connect with the music.” Mentioning his latest release, “Veil,” Lay shared that the song took two years to complete. “Somehow it had a fun vibe and it’s easy to dance to, so it was a lot of fun to make. After two years, I finally got the time to release it.” For Amber, her creative process is simply not having a process. “I will say, most of my inspiration does come from the shower,” she shared with a laugh. “The inspiration can come at any moment. Definitely the commonality is me running to find my phone and trying to record it, but when I’m in the studio, sometimes I can be totally prepared, and others it’s just total writer’s block. So it could be freestyling on the mic, just singing gibberish, or repeating a word over and over again, and these happy mistakes come sometimes. It can be five minutes, it can be five months, or some songs have taken years.”

Elaborating even further, Amber acknowledged how much she puts herself into her music. “Growing up I felt alone and misunderstood, but it’s very therapeutic, putting it into my writing. When fans say that to me, like ‘thank you for writing that song that’s gotten me through things,’ it just kind of goes full circle. It’s why I do music – I just want to help people.” Sharing more on her album that’s in the works, she mentions how much she feels like she’s matured. “I am growing up a lot. [My upcoming album] is getting more nitty gritty, and I’m finally finding the words to say about certain things. It’s a lot of colorfulness, but there are a lot of heavier topics. [My releases thus far] have kind of been framed as “X-Y-Z,” like there was a progression.” With her music representing a timeline of her own growth, she chose “Easier” as the song that best represents the Amber of today. “It’s very much how I’ve been feeling the past couple years, about perseverance. It’s like, is there a point in persevering sometimes? Because sometimes it is okay to stop.”

Regarding future endeavors, Lay is currently on his Grand Line 2: Infinite Lands world tour. He had one stop in the U.S. in San Francisco, but unfortunately does not yet have any plans for other stateside shows. Amber originally had shows in Los Angeles planned for this year, but, with her album delay, she decided to postpone her shows as well. “It was hard to make the decision to postpone the shows, but I’m taking it as a positive that I’m able to work on the album a lot more. It’s probably some of my best work, and I’m really excited I was able to work with so many cool producers and with some really cool friends. I’m just excited to put that out and a tour next year will definitely be happening.”

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