Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Whitney Tai, visual artist and musician. Together we discussed their love of the arts, their creative process, their 2015 debut album “Metamorphosis”, and so much more! Check it out below!
1. Hello! Mustard thanks you for being here! How are you doing today?
Hey Hey! I am doing great 🙂 Thank you for having me amongst the condiments!
2. Mustard has observed that you’re both a visual artist along with being a musician. When did you begin to notice art? Is there a specific art piece that stuck out amongst the rest that inspired you to want to pursue it?
I have loved to draw and create environments since early childhood. I used to have this gigantor notebook when I was 7 years old that was the size of an iMac screen and I used to sketch fashion looks, write poetry and design typography in it. I noticed art very early, the works of icons like Dali, Degas, Monet and Mucha always spoke to me. I’m drawn to the abstracted and dreamy realities artists can evoke in their individual styles that live somewhere in-between time.
3. If you could choose any architect to create music, who would it be and why? How would their architecture translate to music?
I’ve had a fascination with Santiago Calatrava since college. He was a pioneer in designing gorgeous, sculptural buildings and bridges. The way he blended engineering with art felt like something from a polished sci-fi film. His love of asymmetry is something I love to seek out when observing art because it shows that the designer feels composition so intuitively he can achieve balance and scale without applying “literal” symmetry. I would imagine his music translates into a mountainous outline of drone synthesizer sequences, a creamy string section in a state of pining glissando, pillowy glistening pads creating weightlessness beneath a rotating torpedo of expansive futuristic sounds.
4. What is your creative process? Does your work as an architectural designer intertwine with your songwriting?
I can’t pull these two elements away from one another. My brain thinks, feels, moves in a state of geometry. The shape of words are entangled into the rhythms of melodies. My hots for poetic syntax and architecture allow me to step into a creative web where I’m constantly studying how each phrase, melody and structure exist as part of a larger harmony.
5. Who (or what) inspires you?
I am inspired by the miraculousness of nature and outer space every day of my life but someone who stands out to me was my HS best friend, Angelica. Sadly she passed away not long after we graduated High School. She was a wonderful artist, beautiful singer and wise heart beyond her years. One of those once-in-a-lifetime friends who appears to remind you that energy can and will transcend the physical realm to be interdimensional. After all these years, I still relive the sense of wonder I felt in her presence.
6. You’ve been described as an artist who “defies categorization.” What do you think of your art being an outlier?
I’ve come to terms with being an outlier. When for most of your life you’ve never felt that you fit in, you start to find a strange fascination with it. It’s not to say I haven’t felt an intense degree of suffering as a result of being an outlier but it’s no wonder when societal constructs are a narrow funnel that diminishes the brilliance of human life. This suffering has turned my so-called “otherness” into a womb I feel grateful inside of. It allows my music and art to come from the deepest of places. Learning to love our differences attracts more of those who identify with us. I think the outliers of the earth strive to create a community of healthy and accepting love.
7. In 2015 you made your pop debut with Metamorphosis. What were your initial goals for this album? How did this album lay a foundation for your sound later on?
Metamorphosis had no goals in its conception. The songs had to make themselves and I wrote them over the course of 6 months to help realize childhood and early adult trauma. It was also an awakening period for me, taking the reins of my life, my dreams. My producer Tim Janssens was able to orchestrate the record with the sounds and emotion that matched my vision. As the album progressed I began to see the themes unraveling and I wanted to reach others so they could feel seen in their individual struggles. The musical language of my perseverance had to soar despite every odd I’d ever faced.
8. Five years later you released your award-winning album “Apogee” reinforcing your song from your debut album. Is “Apogee” the culmination of your defined sound or is there more to be told with your story?
When I was a little girl my mother passed away after an intense battle with cancer and I was never really the same after that. I struggled for years to overcome the loss and find the strength to keep pressing on. I promised myself I’d always make the most of every bad situation. When I arrived at Apogee, it was finally a place I could rest my head. I built a new life in a reclaimed body surrounded by souls who allowed me space to open my wings. When I finished the record the name of the album appeared to me in a dream. I dreamt I was floating deep inside a galaxy, the sound of my beating heart exploding into my helmet, the warmth of my breath making an atmosphere inside the glass. I gazed with bliss into the vast quiet and empty of the cosmos with a sense of relief. I was orbiting with peace at terms with all those inner demons. I believe Apogee is just one height of the many growth periods we endure in our lives and it’s only the beginning of my defined sound—I have so much more to say.
9. Free Time” featuring Harry Vato is your latest release. What inspired your recent single? Is “free time” something a lot of humans have?
After this long lockdown I’m sure people realized that we had to use our time differently than ever before. For me, it was a reflection on my inner circle and my personal music goals. I needed to make sure that I was putting people and choices in place that added to the currency of my aura. Free Time is about making our time valuable and allowing others to feel their time is valued without expectations. I created a character and a story which oddly ended up having a tinge of humor about a person who is impatiently waiting for someone they love to “come around” or “get over” their trauma through teaching them patience and grace (even though they hardly come off as patient in the song with their constant whispers in the ear). But human nature is like this, we forget that time is not linear, we hurry up to wait and we try to love people out of their pain but ultimately they must be the ones to walk through the door.
10. What’s next for Whitney Tai?
I’m excited to say I have been working on a new album with my friend, guitarist and producer, Tommy Hatz. We met somewhere in the heat of the lockdown. He had heard my song Starfish and sent me a concept he’d been working on that really fit my vibe. I loved it and wrote on it with him immediately and our studio chemistry was so great we ended up diving into a full record. These songs are charting into a different, cosmic avante-pop territory that I’ve been wanting to explore. Looking forward to getting out to eventually tour Apogee in tandem with this new group of songs.
11. Where can readers listen to your music?
I am on all social media platforms and streaming services. Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Pandora, SoundCloud, Amazon Music and many more. You can also head to www.whitneytaimusic.com to find links and connections to all my platforms! I look forward to having you here with me.