Four incredibly talented musicians won the second season of the Life’s Good Music Project for a chance to work with Charlie Puth. From their own beginnings as musicians to how the project has inspired them, they spoke to me about how they got here and what is next for them.
Back at the end of May, LG Electronics ran its 2021 Life’s Good Music Project. Over 1,600 young musicians auditioned for the opportunity to collaborate with acclaimed singer, songwriter and producer Charlie Puth on making an original song for LG.
The direction was simple; create a song centred on LG’s positive philosophy that ‘Life’s Good’. Having been personally selected by Charlie, the four winners were announced at the end of July – Sade Whittier of Long Island City, NY, USA, Dani Kim of Seoul, South Korea, Stacey Ryan of Vaudreuil-Dorion, MTL, Canada, and Stacy Capers of Mebane, NC, USA.
With the song due out on the 3rd of September, I was incredibly lucky to be able to ask the four winners some questions regarding the project and their own process behind their work, as well as their struggles and how they always bounce back.
Working with Charlie must have been an exciting and motivating project to tackle, how does it compare to the way you normally work?
Dani Kim: Collaborating with a famous artist like Charlie was a first for me, so I was curious to see how it would go. I feel that he has a really good sense of the overall balance of music. Going in, Charlie had a very clear idea of how everyone’s voices would harmonize, and how to match the best tone and rhythm with a certain part of the song. His production incorporates all of the winners’ unique musical styles, and it brings out the bright and hopeful mood of the Life’s Good Music Project. I was amazed by the sheer speed and skill of his musical arrangement, synthesizing every single instrument to go with the song’s mood in such a short time.
‘I’ve wanted to become a singer since I was five years old. Singing was my joy all the time.’
Sade Whittier: Knowing where (or to whom) this project was going definitely made me more nervous than ever. The fact that Charlie would eventually take my flute tracks and mix them definitely lit a fire under me! Like… It’s really real. It might’ve been a dramatic thing for me to do but I definitely was thinking ‘is this good?’ ‘omg what if this is off a little, because that man definitely has some fire perfect pitch skills-’ and the common ‘wow Sade, he’s about to listen to this girl get it together’. So this definitely had a little more pressure than a normal session with my own work, but it’s the good kind of pressure! The kind that makes you a better musician.
Stacy Capers: This was such an unforgettable experience! In comparison to my usual work, this was the first time I’ve ever collaborated in the songwriting process. It really challenged my creativity and music skill because I was expanding on someone else’s (Charlie) musical idea. I truly enjoyed it, and I hope to do more collaborative work in the future with other artists.
Stacey Ryan: I’m very used to working on my own because I really upped my songwriting and creating during quarantine, when COVID first started. Charlie has always been someone I looked up to musically, and having one of my first big collaboration projects be with him is really an honour!
The past year has been a huge adjustment for musicians, has your creative process changed at all?
Dani: A lot has changed. With all performances and events gone, there was no stage to show myself as a musical player. Plus, finding a representative to schedule my gigs was an added difficulty since I’m at a relatively late age to audition at agencies. For a while, I chose to continue my career not as a player, but as a supporter. I was a vocal coach supporting aspiring K-POP talents. It was the only way I could stay close to music at that point. Thankfully, YouTube and Instagram served as my creative channels and I was able to keep working on my own music.
Sade: Definitely. I had the chance to improve my skills with wind instruments, piano, guitar and most importantly my songwriting and production skills. Usually, I would be using my time to find jam sessions and spend all day in a studio working on my music. NYC got hit pretty hard with closures at the beginning of the pandemic so going out and playing wasn’t possible. It even got to the point that I could not have my senior recital at my university because I was a horn player, and since we couldn’t wear masks when playing, we could not hold our event in the building. (It wasn’t until later in the year that companies came out with masking devices for horn instruments, but this isn’t too great for someone hosting a recorded recital.) So, I spent most of the year creating alone and learning how to hone in on my sound and make something that I can be proud of. Music has helped me in life, and I would want to make music that others will enjoy listening to as well. That is my dream (and another reason I was so nervous to work with Charlie). He was a Jazz student like me, and created music that makes so many people (including myself) happy! Being that the pandemic had limited social interactions musically, I’m so glad this campaign had given me the chance to meet the other winners (from across the globe!) and Charlie Puth.
Stacy. C: Before the pandemic, I had moved to Atlanta, GA to network and start performing music gigs. Unfortunately, since many performance venues closed due to COVID, it forced me and many other musicians to focus a lot more on writing and working in the studio. I have since moved from the ATL area; however, it is my goal to start performing now since opportunities are now available again.
Stacey. R: I found myself writing so many songs because I went through some tough things during COVID and lockdown, and I was able to meet and make so many friendships and connections through social media that will stick with me for life and help me take my career to where I want it to be.
Do you find more inspiration through personal introspection or through observation of the world and other people?
Dani: With songwriting, I’d always begin with a certain chosen topic or an imagined scene and end up writing about myself. I would say that’s the best method for me. In the end, focusing on who I am as a person allows me to resonate with others as well. I have a habit of writing down my feelings, and my notes are one of the biggest sources of my creative inspiration. The lyrics that I submitted to the Life’s Good Music Project began from one of my notes. Likewise, singing for me is a process that involves personal introspection as well. The genres and songs that I choose to perform largely depend on my mood at the time. I’m not an expressive person in most situations, so portraying my stories and emotions through music is a particularly fun and interesting process.
Sade: Hmm. I’ll have to say observation of the world and other people. Many personal beliefs and feelings of mine stem from how I see the world around me. I have a better time observing the mannerisms of people around me and the environment as a whole. Also, being from New York City, I have no choice but to be observant. This question is interesting as well because the other winners had mentioned the fact that I was observant while we were in LA for the first time (haha). I like to know the ‘what’ ‘why’ and ‘how’ when it comes to the world and other people. I’m always watching, listening, and learning.
‘Music and my mom made me who I am.’
Stacy. C: I tend to be more introspective when it comes to my musical inspiration. If you were to listen to any of my original songs, often it is about something that has personally happened to me. Music is my source of therapy, so I will often write about my personal emotions and experiences.
Stacey. R: I guess a little bit of both. I often try to put myself in someone else’s shoes to be able to write about things I’ve never experienced before, but I also love when I feel something so strongly that I’m able to convert it into a piece of music.
Has winning this competition and working with Charlie given you inspiration for your future music?
Dani: Until now, I wasn’t confident enough in my skills to truly call myself a musician. But I learned from Charlie and the winners that there are no right or wrong answers in terms of music. Charlie’s words gave me great inspiration and courage. He said anyone, with or without a high level of knowledge and education, can make good music. I will forever be proud that Charlie recognized my musical potential and that my voice reached a global audience. The project gave me new confidence in my music, and for that I am so glad. I hope that more listeners will get to know my music through the project.
Sade: Of course! After working on music alone in a studio for hours, it feels like you’re coming outside for the first time in years when you have to work with people again. There was a video on the LG Instagram of Charlie personally picking the winners, and I still feel like I can’t believe he picked me. I post a lot of covers and music to my Instagram, and sometimes I have no idea if anyone will see it. So receiving the notification that Charlie noticed and wanted to use my flute for the Life’s Good song made me feel like I was doing something right.
Stacy. C: Most definitely. The wildest thing about this competition is it was released during a time when I was at my lowest. I was starting to feel really discouraged about music, then my dad called me one night and said, ‘I can tell you haven’t been yourself. Stay motivated and keep doing what you love (which is music).’ He then said to maybe see if there were any singing competitions in the area to put myself out there. Coincidentally, LG’s promotional post for this competition popped up on my Instagram feed. It felt like fate, so I said…why not. Then to my surprise, I WON! This opportunity and even the message itself of the competition has inspired me so much to continue chasing my dream.
Stacey. R: So much! As soon as I left LA, I already wanted to be back to work with the people I met. The level of production that I experienced during this whole process made me REALLY want to do it again as soon as possible. And of course, I would love to work with Charlie again sometime!
Speaking of your music, who are your biggest inspirations? What artists do you love/respect?
Dani: Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, and the Korean band Jaurim. These artists taught me how blissful it can be to sing onstage. When I see them perform, I feel free-spirited and happy as if I were onstage. I hope I can give the same feeling to people watching my performance someday, as my ultimate aim as a musician is to spread a positive influence. And of course, Charlie Puth! I was inspired by how he records his music on the Voice Notes app. It’s partly because of his influence that I started to write things down more often.
Sade: Is it cheesy if I say Charlie Puth? Because it’s true. He’s a total music nerd and I think that’s awesome. As for other artists I love, I’ll start with Timbaland, Lauryn Hill, Metro Boomin, Green Day, Erykah Badu, Jaden Smith, Chris Brown, H.E.R and Hubert Laws. The list is so much longer, but these are the first few names I thought of. All of these artists/bands have nothing but confidence when it comes to what they do, and I love and respect that. I would love to work with them one day. I’m going to need Charlie’s fan army to tell him I got his back with flute/sax when he starts touring again!
Stacy. C: My biggest musical inspirations would be Jacob Collier, H.E.R., John Mayer, and Daniel Caesar. The artist that I absolutely love and adore the most would definitely be Jacob Collier. If I could write a song with him one day, my life would be completely fulfilled.
Stacey. R: I’m currently studying jazz interpretation in University, so most of my biggest influences stem from jazz and similar genres (Al Jarreau, Ella Fitzgerald, Cyrille Aimée, Billy Joel, etc.). Another one of my favourite genres is folk and people like Carole King, Iron & Wine, Passenger, James Taylor and more have made me fall in love with folk and given me another means to express my lyrics.
What element of Charlie’s music do you personally enjoy and what is your favourite song of his?
Dani: I’m personally a fan of Charlie’s falsetto and bassline writing. It’s amazing how he can come up with such trendy and clean-cut melodies. Charlie’s music never feels outdated, it doesn’t feel like something you’ve heard before. I’ve always believed that his talent is genius, which shows in his intelligent, skilled approach to music. I love a lot of Charlie’s work so it’s difficult to pick one song, but my recent favorites would be ‘Suffer’, ‘Mother’and ‘Done for Me’.
Sade: It’s a tie between ‘Attention’ and ‘Girlfriend’. ‘Attention’ is a fun song to improvise over and jam to because of the killing bass line. ‘Girlfriend’ is my favorite too because I can tell Charlie likes juicy harmonies. The first verse over the chords gives me ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ vibes by Ariana Grande with Prince energy in the chorus. A lot of Charlie’s music is fun to sing and jam to, so I’m not surprised that the ‘Life’s Good’ song came out the way it did. I still listened to it after it was mixed! I’m sure everyone will love it too once it’s released.
Stacy. C: One thing I really love about Charlie’s music is that he has such a great sense of melody. I think that’s why all of his songs are so catchy and memorable because he’s so skilled in writing effective melodies. I would say my favorite song would be ‘Suffer’; that track is very underrated in my opinion.
Stacey. R: I love his approach to mixing funk and jazz with pop. He pleases such a large audience because he picks elements from a bunch of different genres and melds them so seamlessly to create a sound that is proper to him and that’s definitely a big reason why I love his music. My favourite song by him has to be ‘Boy’!
What was a formative experience for you with music? Was there a certain album or concert?
Dani: Amy Winehouse’s album ‘Frank’ and Alicia Keys’ Songs In ‘Minor’. There are so many wonderful albums to choose from, but these two in particular had a major influence on my tone and style. Whenever I listen to these albums, I think back to the time when I first began to pursue a career as a performer. The musical event which inspired me the most was the Seoul Jazz Festival. My love for music and yearning for the stage just grew bigger every time I went as an audience. Once the pandemic’s over and the festival drops again, I’ll be the first in line to get in. I hope that day comes soon.
Sade: My mom bought me an old Casio when I was little. I would have so much fun having mini concerts in the house for her and playing back songs I liked to listen to. I remember listening to Green Day a lot growing up too, and they’re actually still my favorite band to this day.
Stacy. C: The first time I listened through Jacob Collier’s ‘Djesse Vol. 2’ was a life changing moment. I mean…his take on ‘Moon River’, driving in the dark? Talk about an otherworldly experience.
‘[the challenge] was exactly what I needed to inspire me to continue with music’.
Stacey. R: When I was in 10th grade, I signed up for this one week summer program called the Blues Camp. 5 different bands were formed with kids aged 13-17 from all over Quebec. Each band had to interpret a well known Blues song and also compose one. At the end of the week, all the bands performed on the biggest stage at the Montreal Jazz Festival. I remember being on stage and seeing people as far as the eye could see and loving every minute. That was definitely a key moment in my life.
What is something you’d like to improve?
Dani: I’m mostly a performer, so I plan to focus on my singing skills. But I’d also like to spend more time developing my songwriting, getting a better understanding of chords and progression. I’m more accustomed to adding my voice to songs produced by other artists, but my new goal is to sing a song based on my own ideas. I’d like to make positive and straightforward songs, like my submission to the Life’s Good Music Project.
Sade: My confidence. It’s been a long journey and I’m finally at a point where I feel good about what I’m playing and writing. That’s why I loved being a part of this campaign. It brought me out of my comfort zone with singing, and playing in front of a bunch of cameras and a 6 foot tall Charlie Puth. I feel like you can tell a lot about a person’s confidence in the way that they speak, and experiences like this definitely help me improve on that.
Stacy. C: I’d love to improve on my stage presence. I was in a lot of musicals and choir concerts back in my school days; however, when it comes to my own musical journey, I haven’t performed a ton. I would love to get a band together and start doing that.
Stacey. R: I’d like to really get into music production and get into the studio. I keep saying that I want to get a band together to record some of my songs but I never really do it. I want to improve my productivity when it comes to that and really start working harder.
You’ve produced amazing work, not just for the project. You know that every creative needs that balance in life to ensure you’re making the best whilst feeling the best. When you’re feeling unmotivated, overworked, or if you’ve just hit a wall creatively, what do you do to take a step back and recharge?
Dani: I do agree, for an artist it’s crucial to keep balance. The creative process drains a lot of your emotional energy, and what feels fun and exciting at one moment can be extremely stressful in the next. I feel that a song that is made at the expense of the creator doesn’t qualify as a good song. So whenever I find myself in a creative rut, I just take a short break and go outside. It helps to take in a breath of fresh air and move around. When that isn’t a viable option, I watch a movie or TV show with a really complex storyline or read a novel – just doing whatever I can to distance myself from music. It’s like taking a mini-vacation. And then I can jump into work again with renewed energy.
Sade: Remember life’s good. I’m not saying that to be cliché or anything but it’s so true. Self care is important, and knowing that I’m human, I take a mental break whenever I am beginning to feel overwhelmed. Just reminding myself that ‘it’s okay’ makes a world of difference to me because I can see my goals clearly again. During this campaign, I was working 40+ hours a week while maintaining my social media and keeping up with the real goal, my music. I had overnight shifts so I would attend meetings and still make sure I had all of my music and covers done so I could participate in this wonderful opportunity. There were times when I got tired, felt unsure of my work, and so on, but I always remembered that it’ll be okay because I have an ultimate goal. Things definitely get hard, but everything comes and goes. I’m thankful to the LG team for being so kind while I was working on the project. As for hitting a wall creatively, I completely stop in my tracks and remember what I’m writing about and why I’m creating. Sometimes working on something for hours can definitely be tiring on the brain. I have so many voice memos on my phone and I go back to them when my mind is clear so I can finish those songs. Never throw away an idea!
Stacy. C: Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed and in a creative rut, I’m all about self care and scheduling a pampering day all to myself. A mani/pedi, massage, facial, and then a nice warm bubble bath. I’ll then take a nice drive and maybe go to the beach. I do my best songwriting in the car.
Stacey. R: This past year has left me feeling the most unmotivated that I’ve ever been, musically. I didn’t even want to play or write music at all. This was during a really hard time for me and the thing that really got me through was being with friends and family. For a long time, we couldn’t really see our friends and that really took a toll on me. But when things started getting better, so did I. I got busier being more social, and that made me want to get back into writing and playing.
‘Music has given me experiences that I will never forget.’
What’s the best advice you’ve had?
Dani: ‘You did everything you could. There’s not a single thing you could have done better.’ When I found myself dissatisfied with my work, this was the advice that my mom and best friends gave to me over and over again. From a very young age, I struggled with a high degree of self-criticism that comes from being a perfectionist. I missed out on several opportunities because I was wracked with the thought that I had to be perfect all the time. Failing to meet my own standards came as a crippling discouragement. But I learned from close friends and family that nothing is ever perfect. With that in mind, I always try to remind myself that I gave my best. The thought enables me to go on.
Sade: ‘Don’t care about what anyone thinks, especially if they don’t pay your bills.’ – My Mom.
Stacy. C: I would say the best piece of advice I’ve encountered is, ‘If a problem can be solved, there is nothing to worry about. If it can’t be solved, then worrying is useless’. I have to remind myself about this often, especially during these times when things can seem so hopeless. Instead of worrying about and anticipating the future, we should just take each day as it comes and make the best of the present day. I think that’s what LG’s ‘Life’s Good’ is all about, just appreciating life and all the good it has to offer, and not dwelling on the negative and the unknown.
Stacey. R: To stick up for myself and know my worth. In the music business, it’s so easy to get walked on and under appreciated that I have to remember that I get to decide who I work with and who is a good fit for me. Oh and also, to not sign on any dotted line too fast. Weigh your options, do research and find others who have gone through similar things.
Favourite piece of your own work?
Dani: That would be my cover of H.E.R.’s ‘Best Part’. I was a bit queasy about uploading the cover because no one was interested in my music at the time. To my surprise, a lot of people liked it! I discovered that many listeners are willing to support my voice, and that gave me the strength to continue making music. There’s also a song that I’m working on right now. I’m excited about how the melody line has turned out, and I’m looking forward to revealing the song to the world. It’s the first song that I’ve made entirely on my own, so I’m quite proud.
Sade: I posted a clip from my senior recital titled Take Care of Yourself on my Instagram. It’s an original ‘free’ improv on flute that truly reflected what was in my heart. After playing it, I felt like ‘wow, I need to listen to that again because that said more than I could ever say with words.’ It was the end of my time in college, in the middle of a pandemic so being able to share that meant the world to me. From now on, I want to focus on my goal of writing and producing music. Working with other artists to create a project that people can enjoy is such a great feeling. I want to release more of my pop and R&B work.
Stacy. C: My favorite work of mine would definitely be my most recent single, Talk To You. I feel like I’ve grown more and more into my sound with each release, so this is the one I’m most proud of today. Feel free to check it out on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, and other streaming platforms!
Stacey. R: That’s hard to say. I’m going to be general here but I’ve done a couple folk versions of non-folk songs and I love that I get to discover amazing and heartfelt lyrics on upbeat dance songs, where sometimes the lyrics don’t get listened to as much.
From the fantastic answers to these questions and the brilliant performances they turned in, it’s evident how passionate and resilient these performers are. Behind this project are four musicians who have put in years of hard work and have persevered to get to this point, so it’s only right that they get the recognition they each deserve. I hope they’re proud of the music and I’m genuinely excited when it releases. One day, it’ll be them hosting a music project for LG.
You can find each of their Instagrams below, and LG where you’ll receive the latest on this and other projects like the Life’s Good film just done by director Jackson Tisi. Thanks to LG for giving a younger generation this opportunity to shine and to Charlie Puth for giving back to those he has inspired!
A special thanks to Soyeon Koo at LG-One for going the extra mile to make this possible.
Be sure to follow these on Instagram:
Sade – @iamnobl
Stacy – @stacy_capers
Stacey – @staceyryanmusic
Dani – @bimbabin
Lg – @lg_global
Also, the youtube for LG, where you can see the updates to this and other LG projects.