By Jocelle Koh
In the music video for Taiwanese singer-songwriter leafyeh葉穎‘s single “謝謝你總是讓我傷心 Thank you for always making me sad”, the delicate singer-songwriter can be found nestled between beds of vibrant neon flowers planted on a bed of rock overlooking an ocean in turmoil. Against this breathtaking imagery, she wreaths together an atmospheric, melancholy soundscape as she sings of a love that persists despite the pain it causes:
雖然你總是讓我傷心我還是一樣愛你 Even though you always make me sad I still love you all the same
像大海上晃啊晃的倖存者 Like a survivor stranded on the big sea
看見了海豚 Who saw a dolphin
A creative chameleon whose body of work in fact spans all the way back to 2013, her 2022 album “Live Like Me活得像自己的名字” is a milestone that makes a strong statement about her new sound and represents a coming of age and acceptance of self for Leaf.
“I feel that in the past there was a very long period of time where I felt unconfident and at my lowest, so when I was in that period I didn’t like anything about myself including my own name…So going back to the name of this album ‘Live Like Me’, (it) is a wish and expectation for myself, I want to find myself again…”
A singer-songwriter who fuses pop and world music genres strung together with poetic lyrics that allow the most fantastical of landscapes to flourish, Yeh has taken many twists and turns on her journey before landing on this zen, comforting world she has constructed for her listeners.
Previously releasing work under the moniker “Leaf葉子” presenting a more pop-focused sound, and for a period of time being part of indie band The Nightkeepers 守夜人 as their lead singer, these experiences were all pitstops and learning experiences for Leaf.
“When creating albums or live experiences you will meet lots of different people with different personalities and ways of discussing. And I feel that this is not my strong suit, so I need to really use practical experience and meet different people to piece together a jigsaw of how to interact with different types of people. And I’m still learning…one by one I’ll accumulate experiences and mistakes to help me…”
Figuring out this sweet spot of the intersection between World music and Pop music was in fact a very natural decision for Yeh, who has always felt curiosity and wonderment about the different varieties of sounds that existed outside the pop canon.
“I feel that this world has too many other beautiful sounds and it’s a waste not to include them, so I’ve decided to incorporate world instruments into my sound.”
Her 2019 album “Birth & Death 生滅” marked the beginning of this new sound; and bagged her a nomination at the inaugural Taiwan Golden Indie Music Awards under the ‘Best Crossover or World Music Single Award’ for her song ‘Clever 取巧’. But while her previous album was beautiful in its abstract imagery and existential themes, “Live Like Me” is a more intimate exploration of Leaf’s worldview.
“I feel the first album was more discussing matters of the psyche. At that time, because there were some health issues that I couldn’t find an answer to, so I became curious about the occult and supernatural. But in this album I realised all the problems, no matter how many twists and turns they take, all go back to ones’ life. Going back to the person themselves…I think it’s because I’ve been living in the present a lot more, and my creations will naturally follow my life experiences…”
Fostering a palette of vibrant pastels that gently shimmer, Yeh’s latest album is filled with comforting and pure messages delivered carefully by her delicate vocals. Uplifting and vibrant, yet grounded by the use of instruments and sounds from all over the world such as Aboriginal choirs, handpans and a collaboration with a trombonist from Norway, her music brings a magical feeling; one that Leaf constructed to heal both herself and others.
“This album was created to take care of my heart, to heal me…I also often feel lonely. So I made these songs to allow me to be still and to feel less alone.“
While known to be bright, bubbly and sweet, Leaf explained that these songs come from a need to preserve her energy. She shares her thoughts on this in line with her relationship with social media and her listeners.
“Normally I seem like a very talkative person, but I do have some very introverted parts to me. I actually often feel spent of my energy, and need time alone with myself to have conversations and not talk to people. I think the fact that we’re living in an information overload society, this is a little in disagreement with my nature…I think constantly preserving the quiet inside and giving myself alone time, this is how I can get back my energy to communicate with the outside world.”
Always yearning to bring her music to the world in different ways, Leaf has done so through collaborations with overseas musicians, and also by incorporating official English translations for her songs into her music videos. She shared her motivations behind this:
“I’ve realised that if you’re using real emotions to express in your performance, audiences can feel and understand you no matter where they’re from…I just hope that English can allow more people understand what these songs are about and give them a way to understand better. I really hope to also be able to go to many different places to present these songs to more people. I think this is a very world music concept, to create music for the world, or to sing for the world.”
Referring to all her collaborators and even instruments who have participated in her fantastical world as friends who are speaking through her music, Leaf’s unique perspectives on collaboration and creativity render her a unique addition to the Taiwanese and World music scene.
The overarching feeling we get from leaf’s music is a comfort in the fact that we have met someone who is generously vulnerable in expressing her periods of loneliness and insecurity. Spreading her music and her spirit with the world generously and articulately is her superpower; one that few have the ability to extend; and we can only continue to look forward to what else her brilliant mind will continue to come up with. But for now, all we can say is, ‘Thank you for always making us feel less lonely’.