Nineteen-year-old Ashlynn Malia has been writing songs for most of her youth, some of which was spent doing a three-year stint as a singer and dancer with the Kidz Bop troupe.
What she’s doing now is no child’s play: With today’s release of her new single, “Open,” Malia (full name: Ashlynn Malia Chong) announces that her debut EP, “Rather Be Alone,” will be out later in 2021. Made over the past two years with producers Andrew Weitz and Koby Berman, the EP reveals a singer finding her own voice. And on “Open,” her vocals are nuanced, ebbing and flowing in a spacious, filmic arrangement as she lyrically pulls the curtain back on some relatable insecurities.
Malia, who debuted with the single “Desperate” almost two years ago and has progressed from there, has grown her profile over the years with a trove of acoustic covers she posts online, as well as her dancing and choreography work. (She did the choreography on Emily Kinney’s latest video, and here she is dancing to “Driver’s License”).
She briefly chatted about the new single and launching this stage of her career:
Can you tell us a bit about “Open?”
Ashlynn Malia: I wrote this song when one of my friends took too long to text me back. I always say that songwriting is my time to be a drama queen, since I’m pretty chill and non-confrontational in real life. But I guess that night, that small thing just sent me spiraling, and every other insecurity I had about that relationship came to the surface and filled the temporary silence on the other line. ‘Open’ is a song ultimately about fear. Fear of opening up and letting somebody else into your world, and then fear of the consequences that could rise after: judgement, rejection and abandonment. I’ve spent so long convincing myself that if I let someone get too close to me, the real me (not the me I think they want me to be), then they will lose interest, and it will hurt a lot more to let my truest self face that rejection instead of the metaphorical mask I wear.
I wrote “Open” using a chord progression that had been tossed to the side during a writing session I’d had earlier that day. My writing process usually starts with just me and one instrument, and then I take it to my producers and we build from there.
Tell us about the making of the EP …
Ashlynn Malia: We played around, experimented a lot, and didn’t take ourselves too seriously during the process. A ton of the sounds you hear on this EP are original. The first snare in “Desperate” is a heavily processed recording of me biting a carrot. The pulse in “Alone” is the ticking of a giant clock that we found in Koby’s studio. I think we all genuinely enjoyed working together and finding our collective sound. Looking back at the start of this project, we’ve all evolved so much since. We poured our time, energy, hearts and souls into this body of work and it’s extremely personal and special.
How has living in L.A. contributed to your musical influences?
Ashlynn Malia: I’ve been living in L.A. since I was a kid, so growing up surrounded by a ton of artists– and not just the mainstream ones that people see on TV and hear on the radio– opened me up to a multitude of styles and genres, and I’m really grateful for that. I witness several different types of greatness on the daily from my peers and mentors, and from complete strangers, so I feel like my limitations are always being challenged and my horizons are constantly opening up.
How did you get your start at such an early age?
Ashlynn Malia: I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, honestly. I think I sang before I could talk. My family also ran a music school when I was a kid, so I spent a lot of time there learning instruments and taking lessons, etc. When I was about 9, I started acting and doing background work as a way to start saving for college and from there I was introduced to the entertainment industry and fell in love with it. I got into dance a couple years later and ended up booking a tour for a kids music group when I was 12. I spent three consecutive years on the road singing and dancing and performing and never looked back.
||| Stream: “Open”
||| Also: Stream “Desperate”