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KhmerLife Exclusive: Interview with Vinlisa

Vinlisa The Cambodian-American young artist challenges herself by revealing pieces of her private life while also establishing her presence as another figure for the music industry. Her EP’s title Beyond iTunes encapsulates the artist’s development as a female young adult while also creating a mark on diversifying what defines an artist in the entertainment. Her progression of sounds reveals the development of a young female routing her thoughts and emotions around the experiences of family struggles, infatuation, autonomy, and heartbreak. 

Vanlisa – EP Beyond

Introduce yourself:

My name is Vinlisa Khoeum, and I am a 20-year old R&B artist and songwriter currently attending school and creating music in New Orleans, Louisiana. I am a first-generation daughter of two badass Cambodian parents, trying to make the most out of my opportunities in America. 

How did you come up with your artist name?

My artist name is simply my first name. I decided to use Vinlisa since I find that it is unique to me because of the effort my parents put to create it. They blended their American names “Kevin” and “Phally” to create my name- “Vin” coming from my dad’s name while “Ly” from my mom’s name becomes “li.” The “sa” part comes from me being their daughter, and my two younger brothers have “son” at the ending of their first names

Tell us about the city you are from?

Although I am currently located in New Orleans for school and work purposes, I am originally from Buras, Louisiana. This is a very small town located in the southernmost tip of the state. There are not too many resources in Buras, but the people in that community and the neighboring towns are so resilient. The experience of growing up there for 7 years of my life has been humbling. 

What first got you into music

The support of Coach Kador and my highschool volleyball team pushed me into music. I remember the bus rides home they would ask me to sing for them, and I always enjoyed the feeling of everyone being tuned in and hyping me up. From there, I started posting song covers on my Youtube and eventually got into making my own music. 

Who inspired you to make music?

My dad inspired me to make music. He has always loved singing and has a beautiful voice. I remember watching him sing karaoke with his friends and just being mesmerized. However, he always put his family and work before anything else so singing was simply what he did every once and then. Therefore, I feel like I need to make the most out of the gift he has given me by striving to be a great singer and songwriter.

How would you describe the music that you typically create?

I like to describe the music I create generally as Contemporary R&B as there is a crossover in sounds from urban music yet still a soulful element that remains. Otherwise, my sound is still developing as I am still in the experimental phase of what sounds I like. I am currently enjoying the process of challenging myself by trying out different styles of music while also sticking to what fits my brand. 

What is your creative process like?

My creative process usually begins with me picking a beat track and writing to the piece. I often start with the catchiest melody I can create and if I like it enough, I will start with that as my first verse and try to find a more catchy melody to create as my actual hook. Sometimes, I will pull lines I have written when it occurred to me, usually during long car drives. I usually then revisit the song after I hear it when I record it and see if I like how it sounds like it did in my head.

Why did you decide to become a songwriter?

I find that as an artist, I should be performing songs that are from my own experiences as it would be more meaningful. Therefore, I write all of my own music. The recording sessions and live shows then become more personal in my opinion. 

Which song you have written is your favorite and why?

My favorite song I have written is “Beyond.” The reason why is because of how challenging it was for me to write the piece. I rewrote different versions of the song until I finally got the version I wanted. Additionally, the recording session was much different than I was used to yet fun as I was recording under a blanket. After constant feedback from my recording engineer and friend, the song came together and it was absolutely beautiful, especially when the string sections tie in at the end. The overall experience of creating the song was unique. 

Who would you most like to collaborate with?

I would like to collaborate with Kehlani the most. I swear she goes crazy on any track since her voice is compatible with anything and with anyone. I also have a huge crush on her and would absolutely die if I ever had the opportunity to be on a record with her.

If you could go open a show for any artist who would it be?

I would love to open for Jhené Aiko one day. She is a phenomenal artist, songwriter, and performer. She is simply a magical person and she never ceases to amaze me with her art.

Where have you performed?

So far I have only performed in the New Orleans area. I have performed at well-established venues such as the House of Blues, Tipitinas, Cafe Istanbul as well as smaller, intimate settings such as the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse and the Labyrinth.

What is your favorite city?

My favorite city is no doubt Stockton. The reason why is because most of my closest relatives are located there. Most of my memorable childhood experiences were in Stockton either hanging out with my cousins or spending time at my grandparents’ place. My family moved out there after Hurricane Katrina and stayed for about 5 years until I moved back to Louisiana again. 

Do you have any upcoming shows? 

As of now, I do not have any upcoming shows available. I am hoping COVID-19 becomes a little more forgiving as the future comes. 

How do you feel the Internet has impacted your music?

The internet has been a great help in marketing myself and my music to digital users globally. It has definitely gotten me connected with individuals I most likely would have never met without the internet. The internet is a great tool in helping me market my art and a great source of information for any questions I have regarding my creative pursuit.

What is your favorite song to perform?

My favorite song to perform so far is “Wavelength” because of its versatility in live performances. In a big venue, the song would serve as the high-energy track in the setlist. Meanwhile, when I perform the song in a more intimate setting, the lyrics of the song are allowed to shine more giving a vulnerable essence to the track.

Which famous musicians do you admire?

I admire a lot of strong, female musicians because they represent what I want to be. I would list them out but there are honestly too many of them, especially nowadays in the music business. I absolutely love the amount of badassery I witness from female musicians breaking boundaries and showing us what women can do.

What do you enjoy most about being a musician?

I enjoy the aspect of finding what I do as an enjoyable activity rather than work. It is a field where I love what I do more than how much I make, which is saying a lot because I absolutely love money. Additionally, I enjoy collaborating with different types of creatives as a musician from working with a producer to finalizing my work with a mixing engineer. I get to meet amazing people who love music as much as I do. 

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

The best advice I have been given is from my dad and my best friend, where both have told me the same idea of constantly making myself present through my music by remaining consistent. I keep this advice to heart and always try to think of what the next move should be after I released a track or performed at a live show. I completely agree that consistency is the key to success.

What’s next for you?

In the short-term, I will be writing songs to tracks I have been given by some producers. Additionally, I plan on learning to produce my own tracks as well by purchasing Logic Pro X and a new Macbook. In the long-term, I plan on taking my work over to Los Angeles and establishing myself in one of the greatest music hubs after I graduate from college in May 2021. 

What is the best Khmer restaurant in your city?

My mom’s kitchen. I swear she makes the best ka’thiew. Besides that, there is not a strong Cambodian community in Louisiana, especially where I am located. Therefore, there are not any established Cambodian businesses. 

What is one message you would give to your fans?

My fans mean the absolute world to me. I am still amazed at the idea that there are people who I have not yet met that know me through my music. This brings me back to the beauty of the internet and the availability of music through digital streaming platforms. My fans inspire me to keep pushing and establishing what some may find a hobby into a career. I thank my fans from the bottom of my heart and hope to make you all proud soon enough. 

Do you want to give anybody a shout out?

I would like to give a special thanks to my parents and brothers. My parents’ faith in me means the world, especially with the untraditional career path I have chosen. Additionally, I want to thank my brothers as they constantly hype me up and admire the music I create. I also want to thank my friends for always attending my live shows and being the first to share my music whenever it releases. Lastly, I want to thank my team from my manager, producer, mixing engineer, and cover artist. I am thankful to have people who see potential in me and help create my vision with me.

How can fans get in touch with you?

Feel free to contact me via social media. I am more active on Instagram than Facebook and Twitter. If you want to send an email, feel free to contact vinlisa.mgmt@gmail.com.

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