Singer-Songwriter XTIE Invites Everyone into Her Cosmic Pop World

When singer-songwriter-producer XTIE was growing up, she had few Asian women producers and songwriters to look up to. Although there were impactful songstresses such as Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift that XTIE admired, none of the above were celebrities who looked like her. While building her own presence in the music industry now, the Hong Kong native hopes to make her mark and become that beacon of hope and representation for future generations. With her unique music and concept, XTIE invites listeners to hop on her spaceship and fly towards warmth and happiness. Shortly after the release of her debut EP, APOLLO-23, APA spoke with the captain herself, discussing her goals, journey, music-making process, and more.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, the singer never originally intended to pursue music, despite her lifelong interest. Instead, she went to school as a social science major and found a job that could financially support her family and herself. During her last year in college, however, XTIE was given the opportunity to study abroad in Glasgow, Scotland, and that’s where she found her calling. “I just joined different producer camps and popped into different studios to see how producers worked, and that’s when I realized there were a lot of things to learn.” Even after deciding to pursue music, the singer still played it safe. “I realized if I want to pursue music, I needed some money, so I’ve been working full time with a day job in the field of art management for like six years. Earlier this year, I finally resigned and fully committed myself to music, and I feel really proud.” Thinking back on the road to where she is now, XTIE believes she isn’t just a singer. “I’m a creative entrepreneur.”

Now, three years into her career, XTIE has just released her debut EP, APOLLO-23. Previously, she had only released singles, but she always had the desire to create an EP. It wasn’t until she released the track, “Spaceship,” that she really felt like she had a goal in mind and a story to tell through an album. She built a metaphor around her whimsical self-proclaimed cosmic pop sound. “I’ve been building a spaceship for three years now as a new artist.” The EP title references the name of her spaceship, which is inspired by Greek mythology and her desire to bring warmth to her audiences. “I want my music to be a part of the sunlight of people’s lives with this small piece. When people listen to my songs, I hope they can at least have a little escape from the day-to-day grind and absurdity happening around the world.” With her spaceship launching this year, this EP also serves as an invitation. “It’s like bringing listeners onto my own journey.”

Earlier this year, XTIE performed for her first live audience when she embarked on a short showcase tour in Europe, and that experience is what really solidified her decision to release her EP this year. “Because I started [my career] the year COVID started, I had to wait for a year and a half until I could perform live gigs.” During that time, however, the singer-songwriter was still hard at work, figuring out her artistic identity and signature sound. “This year, I feel like I have enough [in my] repertoire and a clearer picture of how it feels to be onstage, so 2023 is a great year to summarize my three-year journey as an artist. I feel like it’s just good timing.”

Developing her signature sound during the pandemic, XTIE shared that the concept of cosmic pop is more than just the music. “Before my first single, I was very detrimental to myself — I’m a Virgo,” she started in a self-explanatory tone. “I’m a perfectionist, and I was very harsh to myself at that time. I was like, ‘Why do I need to release music? There are lots of better artists out there. Why me?’ But, I know that wasn’t healthy. I know I’m not the only artist out there, but I just want to tell MY own story. Because of these harsh comments to myself, I wanted to make a signature sound so I didn’t sound like other artists. [With that signature sound], I feel like I have my own identity.” As a result, XTIE believes every single person is unique, and every single artist as well. For her, personally, it just took time to figure out who she is as an artist. Rather than saying her music is inspired by many different genres, she coined the cosmic pop phrase instead, to encompass the lyrics, melodies, and visuals of her music that carry her pride, passion, and determination.

Now having her musical concept down, the next step was writing songs and putting together a cohesive EP. XTIE doesn’t have a set order, working on either instrumentals or lyrics first depending on her mood and when inspiration may strike. With her instrumentals, the singer loves using organic sounds, especially when it comes to using water. “When I hear water, I feel very comforted. In our culture, people view water as a very versatile element. It can be liquid and fluid, it can be unmoving and hard like ice, or it can be wispy and light, like water droplets in the air. Sonically, it also just speaks to me.” Nature aside, everyday life and experiences are also great inspirations in her work. Thinking about a recent experience, XTIE admitted that she’s currently constructing a song that was based on her own fangirl moment. “On my UK tour, I watched Maisie Peters’ concert. I actually only discovered her music this year, and I was so lucky that I went to her concert to see her in Brighton. At that time, I was in a very troubling mood, and I just heard a lot of her songs and gained a lot of lyrical ideas after her concert.” XTIE hopes to release the new work in progress before the year ends, but the timeline is not set in stone. “It really depends on where I am, what I’m doing, and what my mentality is like.”

With each single release, the EP was closer to fruition, and only the finishing touches were left. The last thing to do was determine what order to put the songs in, and what songs to include, to build her story. “The first track is “Flower Town,” my debut single. I wanted to put it at the start because it just records and documents the beginning of the journey. Why do we need to build APOLLO-23? Because we want to have our own flower town.” Next up in the tracklist is “Spaceship,” which truly kicks off the journey. “There are lots of ups and downs. We built the spaceship, but during the journey, we encounter a lot of obstacles, like self doubt.”

Moving along, the next tracks are “Virgo,” “Skin,” and “#FF,” all songs that are about building her identity and lifting her from the sea of self doubt. “#FF” is a song about confidence and independence, and not needing a toxic man because self-love is most important. Meanwhile, “Skin” is an especially meaningful track for XTIE. Written as a love song about her skin, creating the song helped her embrace her eczema and accept her own flaws. This track leads into “麥田看守員” (Field of Gold), the only non-English song in the EP. The Cantonese song is written as a thank you letter to her team and family that have supported her and rooted for her on her musical journey, and offers an important representation of the singer’s roots for her. “My parents don’t speak a lot of English, so this song is a thank you that they can understand.” The last song on the tracklist is “Cloud 9,” which marks the next phase of the journey — officially being ready for take off.

For XTIE, one of the most important parts of her career is becoming someone that young Asian girls can look up to. “I feel like there still wasn’t a lot of conversation about gender representation in music in general in Asia, but when I was in Europe, there were a lot of people and organizations supporting women in music. That’s why I feel like, as an Asian woman producer, which is so underrepresented, I want to be that.” Clarifying that her goal isn’t just to be known for existing in a space where there aren’t many others, she shares her hopes to be the right type of person to admire as well. “It’s not just about gender, it’s about being a kind person, and being a good human to produce music that tells the story that you want to tell.”

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