Interview: Jam out to Elise Go’s fusion of old and new school music
As crazy and hectic as 2020 was (and still is), that didn’t stop Los Angeles-based Chinese American singer-songwriter Elise Go from manifesting positivity and GOALS during what many would see as a dark time. Her journey into music started from a very young age when her mom first took her to a “mommy & me” music class, singing songs and being exposed to different instruments at the very tender age of three. From there, Go began piano lessons and was classically trained into her formative years in high school. For many Asian American kids, learning the piano and going to Chinese after-school programs are where most of our musical journeys end, but this wasn’t the case for Go.
Go’s repertoire only expanded into theatrical arts where she started taking vocal lessons and joined her school’s choir program. She credits her “big breaking epiphany” when she first heard the stripped piano version of “What Dreams Are Made Of” from The Lizzie McGuire Movie (honestly, who WASN’T inspired by that scene?). She sought out the sheet music, learned it, and the rest is history. Go then wrote her first song at age 13, finding a new creative outlet to express herself in. She credits her mom for a lot of where she is today, saying, “I feel like it’s a rare thing, as a young Asian American person, to have full support for a passion especially in the arts… so it was amazing that my mom was very so encouraging of me.”
Go also overcame bouts of difficulty: from hopping multiple schools across the country to participating in a long and grueling singing competitions in Taiwan, she realized that music wasn’t going to be an easy path. She continues: “but from that, I grew this fire in my belly that motivated me to strive to do my best”. After fan-girling about how The Lizzie McGuire Movie was and still is THE iconic movie of our generation (✨this IS what dreams are made of✨), I sat down with Elise Go and gained some insight on her situation during COVID, her music inspirations, and what’s next for her.
How would you describe your music and who inspires you?
I would say my music draws from fusing the “new” school and “old” school production where Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind and Fire meet Charlie Puth and Ariana Grande.
This year, 2020, has been a wild ride suffice to say. How has COVID affected you during this time, how have you been, and how can fans help you out?
This year has definitely been hard at the beginning since live shows were being cancelled. But I’m happy and proud to say that besides being able to release three tracks already this year (with more to come!) I now have a manager (SHOUT OUT TO @bertalexander) and have signed a sync deal (@terrorbirdmedia). Bert has been a huge help in brainstorming marketing strategy, art direction, photographing promo shots, the whole shazam. You can help me out by streaming, streaming, STREAMING my music on whatever music platform you use. Add me to your playlist!
This year already, you’ve released two tracks. The first being “Good Company” a song that made me want to get up immediately to dance and then the second track being “Talk2U”, can you tell me a little bit more about the meaning behind these two tracks and what are you telling people especially during this time?
I wrote “Good Company” when I first moved to LA while navigating a new community, pursuing music, as well as trying to exist here. I found myself at this party and it just hit me: I didn’t know how to talk to people. I longed to be surrounded by friends who were true and genuine…that was the base of the song. A huge shoutout to my talented friends / horn section for Good Company: Ethan Santos ( Trombone, @classicalpurist), Kyle Zimmerman (Sax, @kylezimmermanmusic), and Scott Bell (Trumpet), @2slice__).
“TALK2U” was my personal interpretation of navigating the dating scene in LA. Especially now with online dating, it’s so easy to just have these surface level conversations with no real follow through. I wrote this song about genuinely wanting to get to know someone, and create a CONNECTION. The production in this track pays homage to 90s and 00s R&B. I was so happy to feature my good friend and talented artist, Jacobi (@jacobimusic), who lent his soulful vocals to this track.
Have you been inspired by other Asian Americans who are finally making headway in this industry? What Asian artists do you think people should keep their eye on now?
Some Asian artists who I listen to and are influenced by are:
- Khalil Fong, a Hong Kong American singer, songwriter, producer whose style reminds me of Musiq Soulchild (swooooon!) I love his fusion of soul and Asian music influences.
- Rina Sawayama is a really hip and cool British-Japanese artist. I love what she stands for, and how she makes powerful statements through her music about navigating the western world as a person of Asian descent.
- Lee Hom Wang – He’s one of my biggest influences and a pioneer for Asian American musicians everywhere. I had the honor of singing with him and co-directing his show at Boston Symphony Hall during my time at Berklee College of Music. This is a person I’ve looked up to since I was little and for me to open for him and sing with him, was the experience of a lifetime. When he made the song “Descendants Of The Dragon” or “龍的傳人,” it talked about “black hair, black eyes, yellow skin, we’re always going to be descendants of the dragon”; that’s us. How it celebrates us as Asian Americans, or more specifically for him, it was a triumphant salute to Chinese Americans. He also created his own sound where he mixed old school sounds with traditional Chinese instruments such as the erhu and combined it with new school R&B to make this flawless genre. He is such a trailblazing modern C-Pop artist. He also inspires me by the way he speaks about his personal experience of Asian diaspora: he was a child of immigrants who worked hard to secure a better life for him. His music is so inspirational and really highlights the crux of what I believe Asian American music can be and should be.
Who do you hope to work with in the future / your dream collaboration?
My absolute dream collaboration is Charlie Puth. I think his musicality, production style, and usage of jazz vernacular in pop music could really complement my artistry. I’m also a huge fan of Ariana Grande and Jacob Collier. My REACH GOAL collaborations would be with Stevie Wonder or David Foster.
Are there any upcoming projects that people should be looking forward to for the rest of 2020 /2021?
I released my latest track on October 2 entitled “Lonelier With You”. It’s now reached over 5K streams on Spotify! I also have a really exciting project coming out at the end of October so stay tuned for that. If you’d like to get to know more about me and my artistry, feel free to follow me on social media!
Where can people find you on social media?
You can find me on all social media platforms @nihaoelise! I’m most active on Instagram: feel free to DM me and I can’t wait to connect with you all. Also, please check out my website: https://www.elisegomusic.com/
Are there any last words you want to say to your peers and fans?
Before I released “Good Company”, I was excited, but more nervous about what the response would be. Moving to LA was a huge jump for me, and navigating that was quite overwhelming. However, the reception I received was nothing short of amazing. I feel so loved and supported and felt like I’ve grown since then. Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s experience. I believe in my music and I am so lucky to have the support of my mom and my friends. Having them in my corner means the world to me, so I just want to say thank you to them! I can’t wait to share more of my artistry with you all.
This interview was conducted in late September 2020 by Lexy Pang via Skype. Since our interview, Elise Go has released her latest project Scorpio Sessions EP. Stream it here.