American-Chinese Artist Allen Ling Talks About ‘Closer’ With Flipsyde’s Dave Lopez: ‘Wrote The Song For…’

Having commenced his formal music career as recently as 2023, the accomplished American-Chinese artist Allen Ling has rapidly made his mark on the music scene with the acclaimed ‘Heartbreak Trilogy.’ His earlier single, Remember, soared to the top spot on both the World Indie Music and European Indie Music Charts. Teaming up with Flipsyde’s Dave Lopez, and benefiting from the production expertise of Guns N Roses’ Brain Bryan Mantia and Melissa Reese, complemented by Chris Dugan’s technical acumen at Green Day Studios, Allen promises a musical masterpiece. Closer, his latest release, was launched worldwide on March 5, 2024.

Elevating the complete experience with its cinematic feel and retro undertones, Closer isn’t just a musical endeavor but also comes with two music videos, helmed by the renowned young icon Aramis Knight, known for his work on Ms. Marvel. Aside from his musical pursuits, this late-blooming singer-songwriter has had a varied career as a physical therapist, collaborating with notable entities such as Pixar Animation Studios, Steve Jobs, and the teams behind popular OTT series and TV shows.

Ahead of his maiden Asia tour, Allen Ling sat for an interview with News18 Showsha, where he discussed the various aspects of his career as a musician, his new song and his Asia tour.

Here are the excerpts:

Allen, with a background as diverse as a physical therapist and working with notable figures and organisations, what inspired you to transition into the music industry in 2023?

I would have to say I was encouraged greatly by Dave Lopez, who is my champion when it comes to giving me the confidence as well as the guidance to develop into a performing artist. We had already written music together and produced other bands for the last few years. Dave urged me to focus on my music even more and prepare myself for live performances. He introduced me to Malvika Nanda of The Big Beat India as the person to promote me internationally as a new artist.

How do your experiences outside of music influence your approach to songwriting and performing?

I have been evolving as a creative person for the last decade plus in graphic novels and comic books, and have been writing my music for over three decades. I’ve run my own physical therapy business with dozens of employees for the same length of time. It’s all about people and making them happier, and it was important to share my stories by incorporating music to communicate the emotional content of my stories. I also wanted to make sure that everything I share is relatable yet personal to me.

Your ‘Heartbreak Trilogy’ quickly propelled you to the top of the music charts. Can you share the inspiration behind this series and how it reflects your personal or musical evolution?

I had an intense and traumatic breakup with a very intelligent, attractive woman. It left me confused and despondent. Writing songs about what happened was the only thing that began the healing and acceptance process. I was deeply wounded in the sense that I had not had a breakup that was initiated by somebody else in quite a while. To make matters much worse the temptations of following her social media made it much harder to move on.

The lyrics for all three songs came from a very deep emotional place. I’ve certainly written poetic songs when I was much younger, but now it’s much easier to write them. I think being a fully formed adult with life experience, having a different educational background in medicine, and running multiple businesses lent to the ease of word-smithing.

The pain that was generated by that heartbreak made me create music, as well as comic book art to help distract and heal me. I did not jump into another relationship for about a year. Even though I eventually had someone new and wonderful in my life, that still really didn’t take away all of the pain. I had to continue making music video versions of my songs. I never planned to release them for consumption. Other filmmaker friends said I should enter them into film festivals and before I knew it, we had won over 100 awards internationally for best music video as well as other categories such as cinematography and editing, not to mention Best Song. We won a lot of film festivals in India as well.

Each song in the trilogy has its unique vibe and story. How did you approach the storytelling aspect across these tracks?

The first two songs ‘Straight into the Ocean’ and ‘A Name in Your Book’ were written on the island of Kauai at the same time. My girlfriend who broke up with me was supposed to have traveled with me to Kauai. I did not cancel her ticket and had hoped she would change her mind and meet me at the airport before I left. That never happened. A few years later, I wrote ‘Remember’ when I thought I finally made peace with the situation. The first two songs were created when I was in the most pain and had no closure. ‘Remember’ was simply to acknowledge that I had moved on, but remembered the relationship and the gift of love, and the chapter of life she had given me.

‘Remember’ achieved significant success across various indie music charts. To what do you attribute the international appeal of your music?

Recovering from heartbreak is such a universal theme, and of course, we had lush production values thanks to Reto Peter and Dave Lopez. Dave’s soulful guitars and I have been told my expressive vocals and powerful lyrics were a powerful draw. I didn’t hold back on anything when I wrote the lyrics and sang in the studio. The music video accompanying the song was unfortunately compromised when we lost ⅓ of the camera footage. We had to pivot quickly to flashbacks from the other earlier music videos to make it work.

With influences and chart presence alongside bands like Foo Fighters and Metallica, how do you carve your unique identity while also resonating with fans of such established bands?

When I write songs, I do not pay attention to what other artists and other creators are doing, and how they execute their productions; I’m only paying attention to the song that I’m writing and what I am feeling at the moment. That said, I do love how some songs make me feel, and I am very sure that subconsciously I am thinking about some of the songs that I have heard that make me feel the same way as the song I am writing.

Your new single ‘Closer’ features collaborations with renowned artists and producers. Can you tell us about the creative and recording process behind this song?

I began writing ‘Closer’ back in 2012 when I had separated from my wife. I felt alone and I wanted to reach out to another dear friend of mine to see if somehow I could convince her to get us both out of the friend zone into a deeper relationship. I decided that perhaps a song like ‘Closer’, a timeless classical-based love ballad, would somehow convey my romantic notions in a way that she would be won over by me. She did ballet but was also a mover and shaker in the internet start-up world. I had to do something big to impress her.

I enlisted the help of my production team of Melissa Reese and Brian ‘Brain’ Mantia, both very accomplished and experienced musicians who have played or are currently playing with Axel Rose of Guns N’Roses. Engineered by Chris Dugan (of Green Day) and Carem Costanzo (of GunsN’Roses), we had a four-string quartet, live session players for guitar, drums, keyboards, and bass. It was a colossal production, and when I presented this to my friend, she proclaimed how nice it sounded, but that was all. It was dead on arrival as far as any hopes of it going any further.

Almost 10 years later, Dave Lopez and Reto Peter, a Grammy-winning producer, remixed and produced the newer version with Dave playing lush 12-string guitars and a clean guitar solo so as not to drown out the strings and vocals. I redid the vocals as my voice had changed in the last decade.

With ‘Closer’ being released with not just one, but two music videos, can you share the concept and vision behind each video?

I worked with Aramis Knight (an actor friend from ‘Into The Badlands’ and ‘Miss Marvel’) as he was delving into being more of a producer versus an actor. We both wanted a mini-movie that was also a music video, but in the end, Aramis had a much better concept of turning the music video into a comedy parody of the production of the ‘Closer’ music video.

How was working with Aramis Knight on the production of these videos, and how did his vision align with yours?

It was hilarious and fun! The only thing I contributed to the vision was wearing my tuxedo, the presence of ballerinas, and having that spoof at the end where I said I didn’t like the ending. Aramis and director Daniel Catton did everything else. I was also an executive producer, but Aramis kept the production costs down to almost ½ of what it could have cost.

The collaboration with Dave Lopez, Brain Mantia, Melissa Reese, and Chris Dugan is quite impressive. How do these collaborations influence the sound and direction of your music?

If you do anything, do it well. That means investing in top-notch skilled people who believe in your music and care about you as a person, and if not, care about their own reputations. Dave and I are now doing our own productions with a small cadre of accomplished musicians, having full confidence in our abilities.

With the music industry being as competitive as it is, what strategies have you employed to ensure your music not only reaches but resonates with a wide audience?

That’s a complex answer and I can only tell you our strategies which are unique and take capitalization. We use a social media team for multiple platforms to build awareness, then I have an excellent agent Malvika Nanda, and her team at The Big Beat India who help me tell my story as well as that of my music through tons of interviews and press initiations, tours, and radio interviews via Zoom or in studio, live performances, listening sessions, and then lots of email interviews with online or print magazines and newspapers. We also submit our songs to a digital radio organisation for worldwide distribution. We’re very fortunate to have our first release ‘Remember’ hit # 1 on two charts for 1-2 weeks, and ‘Closer’ is actually moving up not just the indie charts but the Digital Radio Tracker Global Top 200 Airplay charts. We are now in the company of Talor Swift, Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa, Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, and Billie Eilish.

Since I am independent or self-funded, I have decided to tour outside the USA first. Indonesia and hopefully Singapore are next, then I plan to return to India to perhaps participate in their Comic Cons, then perform during the time I am there again.

As you’re about to CONCLUDE your maiden tour of Asia which started with India, what are your expectations and feelings about performing live in Asia?

I have no stage fright due to my training and rehearsals with Dave. My background as a businessman and healthcare provider for many decades also gives me the depth and experience to realise that this isn’t a life and death situation on stage, things that are unexpected do happen, and that coping with an issue while it is happening can be performed with grace and dignity.

I am fortunate to have such lovely civilised audiences in India, where people aren’t throwing objects to harm you for sport. Unfortunately, my country’s audiences are not well-behaved at all many times, and most “haters” seem to emanate this unacceptable behavior in the USA.

Can fans expect any collaborations or surprises during your tour in India?

We have already played a small tribute to Flipsyde at each India performance in Delhi with help from an India-based prodigy Troydon Netto, as Dave Lopez was with us on this leg of the tour. He can rap and sing and play guitar and has all the Flipsyde songs memorised. We had two local Delhi-based musicians Nikhil Rufus Raj (Bass Guitar) and Anshul Lall (Drums) sit in on our live performances and they were sublime.

With a career that’s spanned from being a physical therapist to working with Pixar and Steve Jobs, how do these experiences shape your identity as an artist?

Working at Pixar helped me become a better business owner and person. I realized that it’s important to have a great supportive working environment and to treat all employees with compassion and dignity. Although it is rumoured that Steve Jobs was a very mean person, all my interactions with him were quite civilized and meaningful. He even gave me some tips on how to manage employees better and was kind and attentive to my daughter when she attended the “Monsters, Inc.” wrap party with me.

As a new performing independent artist, It is important to treat all the team members and support crew with generosity and clear communication. It is also important to know where to draw the line and have reasonable boundaries. I have run successful business ventures for years and therefore unlike most music artists have great respect for the team of administrators and organizers of tours and promotions successful.

Your journey is particularly inspiring for those looking to break into the music industry later in life. What advice would you give to those dreaming of a career in music regardless of their age or current profession?

Get extremely reputable and serious help when you delve into the entertainment industry. Make sure you have set aside enough capital to be able to fund the promotion campaign as well as promotional tours. Do not expect to be discovered anymore. You have to carry the financial load by yourself which means you either have to find someone or some entity to loan you the money to do the business end of music or make the money to do it (i.e. get a job and/or use your savings). Be prepared to spend a million if you want to make a million, so they say.

With the music industry constantly evolving, what are your hopes for the future of your music career?

I’d like to have a long succession of hit songs, produced well and performed well, and eventually earn a Grammy of some sort. I am not as concerned about getting rich with my music career, but more about sustaining my creativity and making new collaborations with other musicians.

I’d like to make sure that the music career does not interfere with my personal goals which are to stay mentally and physically healthy so I can: take care of my aging mother; maintain my romantic relationship; make time to nurture my friendships; keep my physical therapy business reputable and profitable; continue developing and editing my comic book creations; and make sure the properties that I live in and own are well cared for.

Lastly, where can your fans follow you and stay updated on your upcoming projects and tours?

I have a website constantly updated. Fans can also follow all developments on my Facebook Page, Instagram, TikTok – @allenlingmusic and website as well as all streaming platforms.

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