To Boston and Back: On Homecomings, Creative Growth, and Lyanne Low’s Debut Single
Review by Lim Jack Kin

Lyanne Low is many things. A video producer, a stage manager, a beauty YouTuber and self-described “food person”. But, she says, “My first really intense passion that I decided to pursue was music.”

It was that passion that brought her to Berklee and, with some ups and downs, carried her through four years at the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world, where Lyanne managed to thrive in an intensely selective, competitive environment that nonetheless encouraged a transformative growth in her music.

Growth is a vague concept with creative work, nebulous and hard to pin down. There isn’t an anatomical measure of how an artist’s practice develops, no cutting down the tree to count the rings inside or marking your height against the wall over the years. All that said, Lyanne still has an intriguing first effort that makes for a good yardstick: an EP released in 2016 before she left Malaysia for Boston, titled “Until Again”.

“Until Again started as a school project. Not mine,” Lyanne explains. While she was studying in a foundation program at the International College of Music in Kuala Lumpur, she received “a very interesting offer” from Darshan Shah, a degree student, to collaborate on a 4-song EP as part of his final-year project. She felt her vocal abilities weren’t quite up to the task at the time, so she took on a more directorial role, writing the songs, developing the EP’s story, and providing instruction to the 4 featured vocalists who took on each song. Lyanne still takes main credit on “Until Again”, signaling her control over the work’s storytelling and lyrics.

Arranged and produced by Darshan—who specialises as a cinematic composer—it has a slightly “movie musical” feel to it, with straightforward orchestral instrumentation and a narrative that’s very personal to Lyanne’s life. With track titles like “What Could Be”, “I Will Leave'', and “Sands of Time'', it certainly aligns with a lot of her feelings around leaving Malaysia for Boston, forming a snapshot of Lyanne’s early musical potential.

If I were writing this in 2016, that’s where we’d end the story: with a hopeful young musician releasing a nostalgic parting song before setting off to distant lands. But it’s 2021, and Lyanne came back to Malaysia in November last year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and with a host of new experiences from her time at Berklee.

She got into stage management, coordinating the production of large-scale theatre musicals and concerts. She met her partner and musical collaborator, Alan “Speedy” Peralta, as well as a diverse range of peers and lecturers. And, quietly, Lyanne began developing her craft and working on a repertoire that includes her debut single, “Go With The Flow”.

“I was barely [releasing music],” she says. At the time, she was juggling stage management roles and songwriting classes, including an advanced-level, invite-only class that placed a heavy pressure on her. “I was still interested in writing, but at the time I was in a place of like, trying to hone my craft and adding to my toolkit. I still felt under-equipped and wanted to keep absorbing first and figure it out later, but I think doing that turned songwriting into just… classes. Like I was just trying to get through my classes, get through my major, so I did pull back from my passion for a while.”

Within that dormancy, a few old struggles manifested. “I didn’t understand why I was invited to those [advanced] classes. In comparison to my peers I felt like they were doing a lot better. And a big struggle was that I felt I didn’t have the vocal chops to deliver my songs, which was frustrating. I felt I was decent at songwriting, but it never sounded as good as other people. Even if I felt their song wasn’t that great,” she added.

That’s not to say she didn’t grow, however. “Being in the US, and being around all these people from all around the world, that gave me so many new perspectives. It took me a while to figure out my identity, but once I did, I started to get a lot more confident and not as afraid to make mistakes.”

With that confidence, Lyanne continued to work on her music, even as she slowed down on publishing it. During a brief stint back home in 2018, she performed an early version of an original song—”Go With The Flow”—at The Bee. The band accompanying her plays a smooth, jazz-funk backing to her upbeat and steady vocal work, and here we begin to see a glimpse of self-assuredness Lyanne has developed in her time abroad.

In late 2020, Lyanne came back to Malaysia. While vlogging her quarantine experience from a hotel room, another type of gestation was taking place: she was working with her partner, Alan, to produce a studio version of “Go With The Flow” and get it ready for a major release. Finally, out of quarantine, at home, and having found a new job as an assistant video producer, in January this year she posted an announcement video on her YouTube Channel, and a week later, her debut single dropped.

In its final version, “Go With The Flow” is a track perfectly suitable for these times. With lyrics about diving headfirst into whatever situation you find yourself in, it’s an upbeat, punchy song to accompany us through another round of isolation, and an unexpectedly encouraging message for a difficult and dangerous time. Peralta’s production work—completely different from the instrumentation that accompanied her live performance—provides layered editing and a manic, almost chaotic drum element that contrasts beautifully with Lyanne’s crisp, smooth vocal delivery, fully backed by the confidence of a singer who is fully in-tune with her identity and abilities.

Considering these times, I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to fully go with the flow, but Lyanne’s new single is a welcoming breath of fresh air and a hopeful attempt to carve out a little bit of joy when we can.

As for the artist herself, what’s next? Thankfully, despite her new job and content-creator life, there’s more to come. “I have actually been [working on] a new album. More of an EP. It’s been in the works for a really really long time.” And while we wait for another notch to be marked on the wall, we know that Lyanne Low will be working hard, pursuing her myriad passions, and going with the flow, no matter where life takes her.

“Go With The Flow” is available for listening on Spotify.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the author's own and do not reflect those of CENDANA. CENDANA reserves the right to be excluded from any liabilities, losses, damages, defaults, and/or intellectual property infringements caused by the views and opinions expressed by the author in this article at all times, during or after publication, whether on this website or any other platforms hosted by CENDANA or if said opinions/views are republished on third party platforms.

Lim Jack Kin is a participant of the CENDANA - ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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