Jae Jin is not your typical musician. A Baltimore resident for almost 11 years now, he recently transitioned from healthcare management into a civic and social organization doing work in the inner city focusing on providing human services and social work for individuals with barriers. After graduating from Johns Hopkins with a degree in public health, Jae decided to forego an MD/MBA program and instead dove into social work and community engagement. On the side, he sings and plays guitar and piano, a talent that got him a credited primary role on one episode of Netflix’s House of Cards. You can check him out at http://jaejinmusic.com, for any booking requests contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Can you talk a little about what’s led you towards this path? Can you give us a little background? What do you do besides music?
I’m perfectly content not being a doctor/lawyer or making big bucks. I’ve tried working long hours for a higher pay. And instead of doing that, I decided that I would do what makes me happiest and to also pursue my passions in writing and music. I suppose it’s every Asian mom’s worst nightmare to decided to forego an MD/MBA program and instead take a low paying job in social work. It also doesn’t really make me a “good catch” on paper with the ladies but hey, I like to think that I’m pretty much dating music instead…
How did you fall in love with singing and music?
I fell in love with music the moment I was capable of hearing, and it’s been an onward process where I’m still falling in love every day and will do so till the day I die. As an artist/musician, I’m not only a creator but also a consumer. I consume the world I live in and through the people I am surrounded by. I do this because it’s a perspective thing. I don’t look at music as a means to make big bucks, or to be famous or something. This means long hours oftentimes spent in solitude working at getting better at writing, at playing instruments, and just studying all sorts of music. You need to be willing to meet people where they are at and connect with all types. It means connecting with the barista at my coffee shop or even through the stories I hear about the brokenness that exists in my City through the work I do. It wrecks me every day but in its proper perspective, you gain insight and an appreciation for people and the world. It’s about hope.
Who could you list as your major influences?
Musically, my influences span across a wide array of genres and time. If you want to make great music, you need to be able to do that. Back in the day I would only listen to specific genres and artists that I liked, but you realize you need to find the silver lining in every single form of music whether you like it or not. That’s the beauty of art. Aside from music, my faith has everything to do with why I choose to give up the world and its empty promises. It’s the things that you cannot buy or hold in your hands that truly give you peace and joy.
You’ve been making music for years. What makes this year so special?
I wouldn’t say I’ve been making music for years. I’d say I’ve been attempting to sing songs and play notes. Over the past year, I’ve had some things happen in my life that have gotten me to the point where I’m boldly going to take steps to share my original music for the first time and to do a lot more with music. These days I’ve been practicing so many hours on piano and guitar, and will literally write songs upon songs and throw away pretty much 99% of it. I know I need to put the work in to get to a point where, once inspiration hits, I’ll be able to create something beautiful. I’m also keeping an open mind and continuing to connect with all sorts of people. That’s pretty much how all of my opportunities have come about. Through people.
What does your family think of your venture and focus on music?
The one thing I am certain of is that my parents love me. Because of that, I believe parents are very risk-averse. They kind of know that I love music but I keep what I do with music from them. It really does kill me to not be able to share all that I’m doing with music because I love them, but they just don’t understand and it’s a bit foreign to them to be able to do something like music for a living. They also know that the music industry has its negative sides. And that concern is perfectly fair. The way I see it, I’m going to continue to work hard, stay passionate, and be happy in my day to day life. And in the end, I know my parents love me and are happy if I’m happy. And yeah… I’m happy!
What’s the hardest thing about working in music? And the best thing?
Well easily the hardest thing is that if you are actually committing to grinding hard and cultivating something related to music, it’s going to take many, many hours. It means your music and art isn’t simply a hobby or a pastime, but a lifestyle and a business. You need to work at it hard each and every day beyond a simple 9-5 mould because you understand that true success arrives in years (and possibly more) rather than in months or weeks. The other challenge is the superficiality of doing something like music. I’m glad that I’m a lot older and I’m deciding to make something of this, because I’m not going to be sidetracked by the attention or small steps. I’m not really interested in living a party lifestyle or popping bottles in the clubs. I would much rather meet a milestone, and then start working toward the next thing. Of course this doesn’t mean I’m not having any fun. I am a people person and need to be around people. It’s just I’d rather find more chill avenues to connect with people over good libations. Again, to each his own.
Recently, you had a cameo in the Emmy award winning Netflix show House of Cards. How did that happen?
Like everything in life, when you surround yourself with good people and continue to work hard, sometimes luck finds you. I know that the show was holding auditions but I really wasn’t interested in that. I actually ended up having an actor buddy of mine out in LA (who has been pushing me to do music for many years) set up a private meeting where I got to sing for the producers. The next thing you know, a few weeks after that I’m heading to the shoot in a credited, primary role. The experience was an amazingly wonderful one. I got to meet some amazing individuals, some of whom were so nice to me. The day the Season 2 was released, I had show creator and writer Beau Willimon reach out to me to thank me. I got a chance to meet and talk to him and he’s seriously got an amazing story. Go check the link for some background on the guy. And he’s humble enough to take the time to reach out to someone like me. I’m really grateful to him, Kevin Spacey, and the casting directors for their roles in getting me on the episode. I’m really thankful to have had such an awesome opportunity to have a tiny part of a great show.
What’s next for you, career-wise and music-wise? What can we expect in 2014?
2014 is going to be a great year! Just last weekend, I had a show in DC where I performed all of my own originals for the very first time ever. Personally it was a big step and this year, I’m starting to get booked for many more opportunities and shows so I’m hoping this is just the very beginning. I don’t really want to let too much out of the bag, but there are some pretty great things currently in talks and I’m really just enjoying the journey.
Is there any advice you’d give to someone pursuing music or considering careers?
Your twenties are an important time to struggle to find yourself. It has taken me nearly all of my twenties to figure out how to be real with myself, to not worry about what anyone else is doing, to not worry about expectations others have of you, and most importantly to be happy and do rewarding work. The formula I’ve come to find is that the more you live outwardly and for others, the happier you are. And if anyone wants to talk about it or ask me anything, please feel free to link up with me on Facebook or Twitter! I interact with everyone, so it won’t be a blind follow.
Fascinasians, one of Generasian’s biggest supporters, recently did an interview with an artist we featured just a few weeks ago on Music Monday, who was also featured in an episode of Season 2 of House of Cards. Jae Jin is yet another example of Asian American artists moving forward. Show him some love on his page!