Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Hemans Erilia! Together we discussed studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, her brand of cinematic pop, love, her upcoming single “Mirror Mirror”, and so much more!

1.Mustard is grateful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?

Hi Mustard, thanks for having me here! I am doing great today and I hope you are too!

2. Mustard wonders what your relationship with music was growing up?

Music has always been a part of my life, it’s everywhere around me. I grew up watching Hi-5, I was part of a theatre company, and I wrote my first song when I was 7. So, I think music became a very defining part of my life growing up, and I’m the way I am now only because of my early exposure to it. 

3. You are currently a student at Sydney Conservatorium of Music. What are you studying? How has your experience been so far?

I am currently in my last year of my Bachelor of Music degree, and it’s terrifying to think about it every time. I specialise in Contemporary Music, where I learn to write, produce and perform my own work. I also minored in Creative Industries, where I basically learnt how to write the music that you hear in films, shows and games.

It’s a wonderful environment to be in for someone starting out in the industry. You get to meet all kinds of people and you learn so much from them. I love the opportunity to be exposed to all different kinds of music, techniques, equipment and spaces; you might end up creating music that you never even thought you could make!

4. Additionally; you are a performer, writer, and producer. Which came first?

Probably a performer. Growing up Asian, it’s almost a given that you’ll learn to play the piano and another instrument – usually the violin. So I started playing piano when I was 4, picked up the violin and joined the choir when I was 6. I actually started writing music because I was never the best performer in school, and no one would ever pick me to be the lead performer. So out of spite, I decided to make my own music so that I will have to be the lead performer in it hahah. But as I wrote more, I grew to love it, and I just never stopped. 

5. What is your creative process?

I always start with a feeling and a narrative that’s been stuck in my mind for a while. As soon as I feel like there’s a story to be told, I start writing the lyrics, because good lyrics are usually what draws me to a song. When I felt like I got the words down, the melody and what the music should sound like just comes to me.

6. Who (or what) influences you?

Sometimes I get inspired by a conversation I have with a friend, and sometimes I get inspired by a random thought I get from daydreaming. Or I’ll read something online and think, “that’s interesting, how can I make that into a song?”

But in terms of artists, my main influences are Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift and NIKI. I love the way they tell a story, and I love the way they craft their melodies and harmonies. As someone who grew up in both Hong Kong and Sydney, I get a lot of Asian and Western influences. So I am also influenced by Canto artists like Kary Ng and Joey Yung, or film composers like Joe Hisaishi.

7. You describe your music as cinematic pop. Could you share more about your brand of pop?

I struggled to find a way to describe my music for so long. I called it cinematic pop because I draw my influences from pop music and film soundtracks, and I love when the music sounds dramatic and is packed with texture. It’s my dream to have my music played in a TV show or as a part of a film soundtrack, so I think cinematic pop is a befitting name for my type of music.

8. What kind of cinematic experience best fits your music?

I would like to think it’s some kind of coming-of-age film or a rom-com fantasy film, because my music is meant to be dreamy and romantic, but also dramatic and intense.  

9. 2021 saw the release of your single “Make This Christmas.” How did the Christmas holiday inspire this single?

The main reason I wrote this song was because I love Christmas. I am definitely the person that starts listening to Christmas songs as soon as December rolls in. And my dream is to have my own version of Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas”, and when people hear my song, they immediately go “Oh god, it’s that time of the year again.”

But this song is also inspired because I hear so many Christmas songs about wanting their crush to finally love them, or to finally spend it with them. And coming out of my previous relationship where my ex absolutely hated Christmas, I just wanted to write a feel-good song for all the Christmas lovers out there, telling them “You don’t need a lover for Christmas! And who cares if they don’t like Christmas? You do! Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s too early to start singing to Mariah.”

10. Mustard wonders if you have a favorite Christmas activity?

I love visiting all the houses that has Christmas lights and decorations put up, especially the ones who go out of their way to make Christmas in the boiling heat of Sydney feel more festive. It warms my heart when I see a whole street of decorations because it really reminds me that Christmas brings people together, and it’s such a lovely notion.

11. You followed it up with “Love Me This Way.” What was the inspiration behind this single?

“Love Me This Way” was my debut single, and it was originally meant to be a song about the pressure I felt from the expectations people around me have. I had worked myself into a spiral thinking that I would never be enough for anyone and that I could never amount to anything. But I had an epiphany one day, that the person with the biggest expectations of myself was me, and I was putting on these unnecessary pressures onto myself. So “Love Me This Way” was a way for me to have a conversation with myself, where I ask if I really deserve to have these unrealistic expectations set on me.

12. Last month you released “Lover’s Dream.” Is this single set within the same universe of “Love Me This Way?”

I love this idea that they are in the same universe! I think it is set in the same universe, because both songs document my journey of navigating through life, and I’m still learning how to love myself better. So in a way, “Lover’s Dream” is a continuation of “Love Me This Way” because I haven’t quite figure it out yet. 

13. Love is a common theme throughout your music. How do you define love? What role does love play in your life?

I don’t think I have the answer to what love is, and that’s why I write about it so much. I think many people spend their life trying to define love, and writing music is my way of navigating it, of trying to understand it. But I know love is all around me, and the different types of love I’ve experienced made me who I am today. I would like to think it teaches me a little more about myself each time I experience a type of love.

14. What can fans expect from your upcoming single “Mirror Mirror?”

“Mirror Mirror” is my favourite track that I have written so far. It’s fun, it’s upbeat, and it’s like my anthem for self-love. It’s the shift in my EP, where I turn my focus from seeking validation from toxic boys, to focusing on myself instead. The song is again a fusion of Western and Asian tonality, because it’s a play on Snow White’s story, and has strong K-pop and anime sounds. I can’t wait for it to be out in the world!

15. The fairy-tale is real. You can wish for anything from a magic mirror. What do you wish for?

A stable music career… just kidding haha. That would be awesome, but if I had a magic mirror, I would wish for the ability to correctly communicate what’s on my mind out into the world. So I’ll never be stuck finding the right words for a song, or the perfect words for an argument.  

16. Can readers pre-save “Mirror Mirror?”

Yes they can! You can either follow me on my socials and use the link in my bio. Or… click this!  

17. What is next for Hemans Erilia?

There’s a music video coming out for “Mirror Mirror” soon after the release of the song! My debut EP is coming out later this year with three other songs along with “Lover’s Dream” and “Mirror Mirror”, so make sure to stay tune for that! I also have a couple more songs up my sleeves to be released after this EP, and a few more live shows planned, so that’s exciting!

18. Do you have any upcoming shows?

I have a show with Breaking Sound at the Oxford Art Factory on the 20th July, where I’ll be playing with a full band for the first time! I am also currently planning something special for the launch of my debut EP later this year, so follow me to stay tune!

19. Where can readers listen to your music?

You can listen to my music on all streaming platforms under the name Hemans Erilia! So that is Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and whatever your favourite platform is!

You can also come watch me play live on my 20th July show with Breaking Sound, or follow me on my socials to see when and where I’ll be playing some tunes next! Hope to see you there 🙂


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