CHYL Shares Her Journey and How Female Friendship Aided in Her Success as an EDM Artist
Chinese-Canadian LA based EDM artist Rachel Shi or CHYL(pronounced “chill”) just released her new song “Bestie”-an energetic collaboration with DJ Amber Na. CHYL has created, written and produced multiple singles throughout 2021 including “Boom Boom”, “All That Bass” and “Tokyo Affair”. Her songs range from influences of house and dance to hip hop and hyperpop. She frequently collaborated with other LA DJs and EDM artists-especially other female artists. Her new tracks feature empowering messages about female independence and friendship to get club enthusiasts thinking deeply while dancing their hearts out.
Q. What made you want to go into the music industry? Is there anyone notable who’s helped you along the way?
A. I actually studied finance in college. I majored in financial economics and then I went straight into banking on Wall Street after college that’s kind of the normal thing to do when you study finance in college. I did 2 years of banking, 4 years of finance. I worked at Morgan Stanley in New York for two years. It was a very soul-crushing and exhausting 2 years. I soon realized this isn’t what I want to be doing for the rest of my life sitting in front of a computer and crunching numbers, it wasn’t fulfilling. I realized that I really liked to listen to electronic music. I’ve been listening to electronic music since high school and college. I follow EDM culture very closely and go to a lot of shows in New York and I’m always listening to it. Every morning when I wake up I listen to EDM in the shower, or while working out, on the way to work, on the way back from work and I thought like, wow I’m very interested in electronic music.
Q. What made you want to go into EDM and dance music specifically?
A. What really triggered me was when Avicii passed away in 2018. I was still in banking at that point but when he passed away I was like oh my god my idol just passed away. I never got to see him live, unfortunately. It really made me think like, what am I doing here? Life is so short. You really have to pursue what you love doing. Avicii’s death made me realize I wanted to do something similar to what he did. He was spreading a lot of energy and joy and giving people memories around the world of his music. I started Dj-ing and I really liked it but it wasn’t enough so I started learning production. I watched a lot of Youtube tutorials and started producing my own and I realized that this is what I wanted to be doing. I wanted to make music that brings energy and connects with people around the world. I decided to quit my job after 2 years to pursue music production. I moved to LA to attend this music production program called Icon Collective. A lot of famous DJs went there. I went there for a year and graduated last April. Since then I’ve just been putting out music and collaborating with other artists.
Q. What is it like collaborating with other artists?
A. For my song “Barbie” I collaborated with Melissa Brooks who is technically a hyperpop vocalist so she typically doesn’t work in electronic music. It was her first time working on a traditional EDM track and that was really interesting. I write the instrumental out first and then I kind of hum over the instrumental to get a rhythm going for the vocals. I sent her the instrumental and then she’d think up some lyrics. We were always talking about what worked and what didn’t and what themes we wanted to explore. Melissa is a very pretty blonde girl with a lot of energy so that’s where the Barbie idea came from. We wanted to be like badass Barbie dolls. You know, being very pretty but also very independent. The cover art is actually two girls riding in like a fancy car-it’s a very girl-power anthem. I wanted to celebrate female empowerment in the EDM world because usually it’s a male producer and if there’s a female vocalist she’s talking about falling in love or going to the club or something like that. We wanted to break away from the cliche and insert my own feminine voice to the EDM world.
Q. Do you want your songs to be seen as dance/party songs, or is there a deeper meaning behind them you want audiences to pick up on?
A. I’d say it’s 80% party song like get the energy going and then 20% noticing the lyrics and the core meaning which is girls being independent and female empowerment. My songs are in the bass house genre. A lot of them have rap vocals and then some are sung vocals. I want people to feel the energy first and dance it out and then listen to the lyrics and realize there’s a deeper meaning sometimes. My music is definitely different from more feelsy or emotional producers like future bass or melodic bass or even Marshmallow songs. I want people to feel the bass line and get their heart pumping before they connect on a deeper level.
Q. Can you talk about what it’s like being a woman in a male-dominated industry? What hardships have you faced? How do your songs empower women?
A. Being a female artist in electronic music specifically has good and bad to it. There are very few female producers out there who make their own tracks; a lot of them are ghost-produced. I’d love to see more female producers stepping into the spotlight in the EDM world. Sometimes it’s kind of like a fratty culture and I think of myself as a little bit of a tomboy so I kind of can gets into that culture but I also see how it can be an obstacle for female producers. There are so many male producers and they’re a little cliquey. I try my best to connect with other female producers and DJs. I reach out to a lot of them and a lot are very friendly and receptive. Some are stand-offish of course, but I think that’s because of the competition. I really wish that a lot of female artists could help each other out because we all have the same goal and mindset. That’s why I created “Barbie” and “Bestie” to emphasize female friendship and empowerment. I talked about the negative aspect but there is also positivity because there aren’t a lot of female producers so it’s kind of easy to stand out. I think I saw something that was like only 3% of the music production industry is female including producers and mixing engineers so it’s good and bad there’s definitely ways to stand out as a female music producer. I really hope to see more in the future.
Q. What do you wanna say to people who find EDM to be shallow or just party music?
A. Each genre is so different but I can definitely see why people think that. The lyrics can be a little cliche at times so if you’re just focusing completely on the lyrics it might not be completely satisfying. Like it may not be as deep as Kanye West or other deep, emotional rap songs. I think though, that people who like to listen to EDM really appreciate the production aspect of it. There are so many different ways to produce a song. I think kind of like hip hop production is kind of limited to a certain drum line or bass line or these vocals but EDM is a whole new universe. You can have so many different kinds of synthesizers and so many different kinds of sound design, different drums, bass, and vocals. The combinations are endless and you can really show your personality through your music. I would say to those people, listen deeper from the production side of it. You can tell that a lot of work goes into the production.
Q. Are there other genres of music you like? Would you experiment with other genres in your music one day?
A. For sure. I recently went to a hyperpop concert with Melissa Brooks who hosted the party. It was so wild and after 10 minutes of being a little confused, I started having a great time. I really started to understand what hyperpop is really about and what the appeal is behind it. I started listening to hyperpop a little more this year and I’d love to collaborate with more hyperpop artists. It’s very electronic-influenced and I love getting into music like that that meshes different influences.
Q. What advice do you have for aspiring EDM artists?
A. I would say keep studying, keep learning and keep listening to different songs. When you get stuck on one song, take a step back and listen to the artists you really like. Also, don’t be afraid to take a break or even listen to different genres and different artists. It’s very good to reference songs, I reference songs all the time in my music. Some people think that’s amateur but I think it’s a really good method when you’re arranging your tracks. When you have something in comparison it makes it a little easier to finish your own project. You have a structure to compare to so I highly recommend referencing. I have to emphasize again that taking breaks is so important. It’s ok to not work on music every single day. As long as the interest is there I’m sure there will be good songs coming out of the production.