Singer-songwriter Alyn is one of Bangkok’s best new artists
As American President Theodore Roosevelt wrote to a friend, in the context of geopolitics, “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” Yet, oddly, that phrase comes to mind when I consider musician James Alyn Wee. In person Wee, who goes by the stage name Alyn, is an introspective man of few words. But get him behind a mic and the artist comes into his own with a voice that won’t be denied. But don’t just take my word for it; check out his versions of The 1975 song “Somebody Else” and Kodaline’s “High Hopes” online, as well as his original singles, like “Till the End of Time” and “Lighter”, among others.
Then, of course, there are his Thai hits. He’s been named by many a music blog as one of the more promising talents on the Thai music scene. Alyn’s YouTube channel is peppered with gushing comments like “I’m addicted to your voice”, and given their similarly sculpted curl-centric hairdos, plausible comparisons to Matt Healy, lead singer of The 1975—a band Alyn loves and frequently covers. And the Thai native who is all of 23 years old right now is only getting started.
We meet early on a breezy morning at his condo on Sukhumvit because, as he politely mentions, he’s got classes later. Alyn is currently finishing his degree at Bangkok University and is set to graduate in 2018, the coincidental year that will also see him release his debut album, which is a compilation of original music—six songs in Thai, and six in English. His new album promises to be more upbeat than his previous output and may feature other artists including Thai pop singer Cnan Natthaporn.
At our meeting Alyn is dressed in black, with his trademark oval spectacles casually perched on his lean face, and despite seeming to have just awoken he’s poised in his presence. I recall that he used to be a model, having been scouted by an agency in his teens. Alyn also acted in and produced original music for a Thai TV musical comedy when he was 18 years old. But he exhibits none of the brash swagger that one would associate with someone discovered young. Instead he approaches each question with great humility and seriousness, steering clear of even a semblance of self-promotion.
His earliest influence, he says, is his father who’s also a musician. Inspired, Alyn taught himself to play the guitar at 13 years old, singing with his family, which progressed to him forming a band in high school and taking on the role of lead vocalist and songwriter at the age of 15. Curiously he never underwent formal vocal training or music lessons, preferring to be self-taught, which is remarkable given his ability to maintain a distinctive texture to his voice and make tricky songs from seasoned chart-topping singers like Zayn Malik and Ed Sheeran, his own.
“I always felt that if someone else told me what to do and how to play, my art would lose its authenticity,” he explains. “So I relied on YouTube videos for the basics, and then advice from my dad and other musicians that I worked with.”
The determination to retain artistic control also led him to create his own music label, Links Music (together with his family), to build his unique brand and put out music as an independent artist without feeling pressured to be beholden to other people’s demands or timetables.
Like some of his peers, he relies on YouTube to distribute his music, and it has won him a diverse fanbase—both Thai and non-Thai. He attributes the initial buzz to his appearances on the popular BILLbilly01 YouTube channel, partnering with Billy Chuchat, who will produce some of Alyn’s upcoming songs. If their past collaborations are anything to go by, this new album could be just the “big stick” to propel his burgeoning career into stardom.
Rock for Rohingya
Thai rock star Hugo is hosting a benefit concert in support of Rohingya refugees on December 19th, from 7pm till 11pm at Thammasat University. Proceeds will go to help the charity Children on the Edge and provide urgent supplies, access to clean food and water, and safe environments for at-risk children. Performing artists include Nga Caravan, Hugo, and Mai Siplor. At B200, the tickets are a steal and you’ll be supporting a great cause!
By Rianka Mohan