Big Yen just released his new single “Backflip” off his debut self-titled EP and this groovy single was addictive and infectious. “Backflip” had funky elements composed of smooth-sailing acoustic guitar chords. The bass beneath the vocals added a soulful touch to the production of “Backflip”. “Backflip” had soft reggae elements fused with smooth jazz sounds to create a well-rounded song. Big Yen's lyrics are poetic and detailed, which instantly plays with the imagery of your imagination. The polished instruments in "Backflip" help the song stand.
Big Yen's songwriting sways in multiple directions but it’s what makes him unique. He creates feel-good music that is easily relatable to today's generation of music listeners. Big Yen's music is like a Tribe Called Quest shaking hands with Jerry Garcia. He is an icon in his own lane, and we’re excited to see what’s in store for him next. With a single like “Backflip”, we’re sure he will continue to give us the happiness we seek in good music.
Stream "Backflip" here.
Welcome to BuzzMusic Big Yen. Can you tell us about your upbringing? What inspired your love for music?
I'm stoked to be here! My upbringing was very fortunate because I had two loving and supportive parents; the older I get, the less and less I take this for granted. I grew up mostly in the Atlanta area playing baseball, then getting big into skateboarding, and finally, music caught my attention. My dad always kept a copy of Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come" in the car and I remember it was the highlight of my days getting rides to school when I missed the bus. No joke that's the first music I remember hearing. My mom showed me The Beatles, Jazz, and all the really good stuff too, but I do remember one golden moment. I was at the music store with my dad buying Clarinet reeds (I played in Middle School band), and while waiting to check out, someone was testing a Vox Wah pedal. My heart skipped a beat like a first kiss and I incredulously asked my dad "what is that noise?!" I can't remember his exact words but it was the intro to "Voodoo Child" by Jimi Hendrix and I was mesmerized. From then on I had to pick up a guitar and I fell deeply in love with music all over again.
You're the program director of OHM Radio 96.3. Being surrounded by different music every day, do you take inspiration from other artists and apply them to your own music?
As a co-manager and program director for a local radio station, I have definitely broadened my taste in music and that always ends up seeping into songwriting. In addition, as a recordist and producer, I've had some incredible mentors who taught me, not only how powerful music is, but how fascinating its different tributaries can be. I've learned to love all music, or at least find out why people like it. While working at 96.3 FM and producing with artists at Truphonic Recording studios, its been truly wonderful getting to know my musical community in Charleston, SC, giving other artists a platform to share without corporate-sponsored guidelines, and being open to a myriad of creative processes. There's no one right way to make a song that moves you. "Use your ears and be genuine" is the best advice I have ever received.
Talk to us about your song “What Is Dub". In which ways does this song correlate with your EP “Big Yen”?
So I'll start at the beginning here. A lifetime friend of mine lent me the name Big Yen in a discussion about cool band/artist names. Yen in Chinese means "a lifelong yearning or desire". Through the years I found that MY Big Yen was to make and share music to make people happy! Maybe one day I could inspire some kid in line at the music store buying clarinet reeds. Who knows? All I know is that sharing that feeling of inspiration is a big part of why creatives do what we do. That's essentially my "Big Yen". If you speak Japanese then its "Big Money" and that's cool too but the emphasis is on sharing that big money feeling haha. So "What is Dub" relates to the "Big Yen" EP because it questions a lot of things that we are told. Drink this, vote for that, and how society can sometimes be an unhealthy one: spiritually and physically. What you consume can be your medicine or your poison and the same goes for creating. Are your choices your therapy or your burden? Posing questions and procuring critical thinking are important to me.
What inspired you to write "What Is Dub"? What does this song mean to you?
A Tribe Called Quest and Slightly Stoopid inspired "What is Dub" to be a hip hop verse with dub reggae undertones. It's actually the first song I ever wrote when I was a teen. Late in high school and college and I started thinking about music more and how great artists made me question things. That's why Hip Hop and Punk Rock were so special to me. Punk has a "question everything" mentality and a particular song from ATCQ called "What?" questioned a lot of things in catchy prose that caught my fancy. Operation Ivy was another group that seemed to care less about mass appeal and more about the cognitive impact of their lyrical content. Their songs rocked hard, but also made me think. John Lennon and Bob Marley are some examples of artists who proved that you can use music for a positive change in the world by inspiring critical thinking with a healthy side of compassion. This song "What is Dub" means that music is my medicine and although at times it seems hard to find your way through life, you gotta sing from your soul and keep looking up at the sky. That's a recipe for happiness I've been following lately.
What can we expect to see from Big Yen throughout 2020?
I've been writing a lot of music recently and getting a lot of joy from that outlet more and more every day. Collaborations have been a great learning experience last year and I plan on working with more creative minds this year as well. I'm excited to put out more original music; a full album and tour would be bucket list items for me! In the meantime, I'm learning to love the process and stay grateful. I'm also working at a Truphonic recording studio with several talented artists on a few records that I'm really stoked about sharing with the world. Goosebumps guaranteed! Finally, this year is all about new growth for me. I'm keeping my mind open and my sights high. Can't say much more than that without spilling the beans!