July 25, 2024

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Henry Lau on MetaMoon Music Festival 2024, New Album: 20 Questions

Henry Lau on MetaMoon Music Festival 2024, New Album: 20 Questions

Expanding into a two-day event to uplift Asian and AAPI artists, culture and connection, the 2024 MetaMoon Music Festival hits New York this fall with Henry Lau and Eric Nam as headliners, Billboard can exclusively reveal.

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Taking place at the Brooklyn Paramount on Sept. 27-28, the fest brings Lau and Nam together with rising stars Emei and SUNKIS, as well as unique educational opportunities in partnership with the Roc Nation School of Music, Sports & Entertainment at Long Island University. The one-day student conference, “The Summit: Rise of Asian Artists and their Global Fandom,” takes place on Friday, Sept. 27, with panel discussions and masterclasses by industry professionals to foster dialogue on Asian representation in the music industry as well as networking opportunities.

“The ethos of MetaMoon is to amplify Asian/AAPI talent on stage by giving underrepresented artists a consistent platform to perform in front of their fans in the U.S.,” Grace Chen, founder of MetaMoon Music Festival, tells Billboard. “Just as importantly, we want to empower Asian/AAPI voices behind the scenes, in the rooms where decisions are made and agendas are set. Our collaboration with the Roc Nation School of Music, Sports & Entertainment equips students and the next generation of music executives with the access and insight, and hopefully inspiration, to show up and get involved.”

Produced in collaboration with Live Nation, the pre-sale for the MetaMoon concert tickets begins on May 22 and goes on general sale via Ticketmaster on May 24. Registration for the Roc Nation School x MetaMoon Summit opens on Sept. 4.

Ahead of MetaMoon Music Festival 2024, Billboard sat down with headliner Henry Lau for 20 Questions to discuss his involvement in the show for his first-ever headlining slot in a U.S. festival, latest music developments and more.

1. Where are you in the world right now, and what’s the setting like?

Right now, I’m traveling around everywhere so I tell my friends I’m like a stewardess. I’m currently in Korea. In a few weeks I’ll be going to, I don’t know, Paris. I was just in Thailand last week. It’s all over the world. But right now, I’m here in my studio/office/gym — there’s a whole entire gym area here.

2. You’re coming to the 2024 MetaMoon Music Festival for your first time headlining a U.S. festival. What can we expect?

This is the first time I can really show my stage and sing as much as I want for my fans who know that all my shows have a very unique stage. Because I don’t just go up and sing, there’s a lot of instruments and then there’s a lot of live recording, looping, I like to take a lot of props on stage and record them into songs. I’m really excited that people in America can see that from me for the first time. And, of course, mixing in classical music.

3. Is there any new music we’ll hear at MetaMoon?

I actually haven’t told anybody about this yet, but right around that time, I’ll probably be releasing a new single. I’ve already teased this with my fans very personally, but it’s a song called “Always Been You.”

4. You’ve teased your full-length album for a while now. What’s the status?

I have put the album on hold. I’ve already apologized personally to all my fans. But it is completed. It’s just that I have so many projects right now that when I release it, I have to—and my fans would appreciate it—promote it properly. I’m just waiting for the right timing; I just don’t know when that will be exactly.

5. You’ve spoken about representation in Hollywood in the past, and MetaMoon celebrates and highlights AAPI artists and culture. What’s the significance to you of being part of such an event?

I don’t really think of it. I’m there to perform music, right? There are no borders to music so I think I’m just so happy that I could perform in the States and and it could be a cross-cultural festival. That’s my opinion. For me, it’s music first — I’m not thinking that this represents anything like that.

6. You are so multifaceted in all your music inspirations, the languages you speak and sing in, or how you release music. What is your approach when you’re creating the music itself?

For every song, it’s totally different. The one really big element of my songs is not just the audio, but I think about how I will perform this onstage. For example, one of my latest singles was called “Moonlight.” I made that song and then had a different version where I used a loop station process performing on stage. And for the songs I’ll be performing at the festival this time, you will be able to see all of that. That’s one way I approach a lot of the songs. When you have too much going on in an audio track, it’s just too crazy, so I like to leave it for the performance. When you actually listen to my songs, those are probably the most basic versions.

7. if you could travel to any musical era, when and where would you go?

I used to think it would be the ’80s or ’90s because it feels like all the great melodies, the simple melodies, weren’t thought of back then. I used to think that way, but then you see the amazing pop music that comes out today, too — I’m not saying every song. But I think the earlier you go and when a new genre of music is being born, I’d say at the start of any musical era. If it’s the start of classical music, that’d be amazing. 

But right now is a really great time for mixing different genres since there are so many amazing genres out there. And if you’re arguing that a genre has already matured, if you start mixing genres and mixing cultures, then the possibilities are limitless. And I think that’s where my role is now in the music field overall — I think that’s my purpose.

6. MetaMoon is not just about the concert, but there is a summit, panels, and other ways to help build the community and music-industry network. What will you bring to these events?

First of all, I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’ll usually just go up, perform and, you know, say hi. And that’s it. So this is something very, very new and I’m very excited to do it. I have no idea what it’s going to be about but I’m just excited to share what I’ve learnt. Maybe not everything I say will be the most correct, but it’s just my experience. I think I’ve gotten to an age — I’m pretty old now [Laughs] — where there are a lot of aspiring musicians, and I hope that my experiences can help give them a good idea of what to expect and what they need to work on in certain aspects. I’m just very excited to be sharing my story.

9. The Roc Nation School of Music, Sports & Entertainment at LIU is collaborating with MetaMoon for their “The Evolution of Asian Artists and their Global Fandom” summit. You also went to a music school. How significant are these opportunities?

I think the biggest benefit was meeting my peers and fellow musicians. At that time, there weren’t a lot of forums like this. Usually, these days in music school, they have a lot of guest speakers and successful musicians come up and share their stories. And I actually watch those now and look for them on Instagram or YouTube. It’s something that I wish I had when I was younger. I think it’s very, very important because there’s no textbook for music or the music business or guide to let people actually know these are the hard things that you have to deal with…I’ll do my part and I hope it helps because everybody’s story or way to success is very different. So, I think the more you listen, the more you hear these stories, the more you can apply it to yourself.

10. I want to give you your flowers for your place as such a unique musician in pop music. Do you see yourself having a role in shaping or changing perceptions of popular music?

I used to think that I came from a unique background, but I’m coming to realize there are so many more people who are similar to me background-wise. I have a lot of people that come up to me like, “Hey, I also learned piano, I also learned violin,” “I’m living in Canada, but I don’t have anything to do with K-pop, what do I do?” [or] “How did you do that?” Everyone from my hometown is almost identical to me background-wise. I think I have a role to let people know that it is possible. I hadn’t a probability of like 0.01% of this happening to me, but then there were certain steps I took and I think that maybe it’s my role to share that with people.

11. Looking wider, what are your hopes or aspirations in representing kids from your hometown who might want to pursue a similar path?

Right now, I’m just focused on giving all my fans the best music possible, the best stages and the best content. Before COVID, I was planning on a tour and that’s something I still want to do in the near future. And through that, they can see what is possible. But what’s different about America, compared to performing in Asia which I usually do 99% of the time, is I think in the States, they can recognize that I’m more similar to them. So, I think that one main difference when I’m performing or working in the States, it’s like, “Hey, he’s one of us and he’s doing this.” I think similar to Eric [Nam] as well. I’m very happy to let people know that things are possible.

12. You and Eric Nam are both headlining MetaMoon Music Festival together. Are you friends?

At the start of our careers, we were both on different shows and came up together. Sometimes, I would be on shows where he was the MC; I would watch it later and be like, “Whoa, he was there with me.” We basically grew up together and we came up very, very similarly from a similar background.

13. Fans have also watched you grow in your acting career. Do you have a movie that always makes you smile?

To be honest, I don’t watch many movies. I don’t have much time. I watch movies when I feel like I need to be lifted up — movies that show somebody going through a harder time than me or any movie following any genius. What’s that movie with Russell Crowe being a mathematician? A Beautiful Mind. Yes, that’s a beautiful movie. So when I watch movies like that, it’s like, “Ooh, they went through so much; what I’m going through is actually nothing.” 

14. If you don’t mind sharing, what was a hard time you went through recently and how did you overcome it?

There’s everything. Just even preparing for one stage, people see me play a lot of instruments. I record things up on stage, and [with] every little thing I do, I’m the one directing it. I make all my equipment, I make custom instruments for myself, and I do all the mixing for everything that’s recorded. If the stage performance is 30 minutes, I will spend at least five days just doing technical things: dealing with lighting, visual effects, all the LEDs, all the logos, everything. I have a habit of trying to do everything. It gets stressful when you’re dealing with that and under a tight timeline. There’s just a lot of that but what I like to show people are not the hardships.

15. You shared that you recently went to Nashville and met with the members of OneRepublic. What is the importance of traveling for music to you and did anything come from this trip?

I was actually on a journey to explore music and explore myself. This could be a whole separate interview, but in short, it was to find the best way to combine classical violin and pop music. The perfect place for that is actually country music because, if you think about it, violin is in maybe 50% of country music. So I went to the birthplace of country music, explored that, and we actually came up with something amazing. It’s all in that new album, all the new concepts, something the world’s never heard. Concept-wise, it would be “country x K-pop x violin.” That’s the reason why I’m putting off the album and waiting for the correct timing because I believe so much in this project.

16. What’s something you learned in Nashville?

I actually didn’t know, but the fiddle is violin — it’s the same thing, it’s just the way you play it. So, I actually learned how to fiddle. When you pull out a violin in Nashville, everybody plays it, so it was kind of shocking. Hopefully, if we can get one of those songs done before the festival, that would actually be really cool…maybe there’s a chance of me performing…you just gave me an idea.

17. You grew up in a musical family. What do your parents think of what you’re doing today?

Well, in the very beginning, they were against it. Sending your kid off away from home to become a singer doesn’t sound too promising, you know? But I decided to take the risk and I convinced them to let me do it. And I haven’t been doing so bad. Ever since then, they’ve been supportive. I think what’s really important for an artist, or anyone, is that the people around you support you. And I know not everybody has supporting families, bu it’s really important to build the people around you. I was thinking how that’s something really important through this forum that maybe some people who don’t have enough support can meet other people there.

18. Do you have a proudest moment of your career so far?

No, I actually don’t. I’m the type that I ask my company to remove all my trophies and awards that they like to put on display and stuff. I don’t look at those and feel satisfied; I’m not that type. Of course, I’m very thankful but I don’t think about those kinds of things. I just think about what I’m going to be doing tomorrow, what I’m going to be doing next month, when I’m going to perform at the MetaMoon Festival.

19. That’s interesting because you said your first celebrity crush was Christina Aguilera. She’s said she puts away her Grammys and awards when recording. But you said you liked her because she was not only pretty but talented. What draws you to an artist?

I actually totally forgot that I said that, but now that you’re saying it and I’m like, “Yeah, that’s actually true.” First, I think talent is very important and, until very recently, I only looked at talent. What I’m actually finding that I’m drawn to these days is the character of the artist. If you wanted to be just an artist, you should release music and not come onto the screen. But if you decide now to be in the media, to even show your face or let people know who you are, then you have a responsibility of also leading people in a good direction — not doing, you know, stupid shit. One thing that’s really inspiring to me when I see an artist is when they’re 360 [degrees], the whole picture of what they’re doing and what kind of energy they’re bringing to people. I think that’s something that also really draws me into them. Before, when there was less social media, it wouldn’t be that important; you could get by with just having art or your music because there were no platforms to constantly show your personality. 

20. What’s your relationship like with social media as an artist? 

For me, Instagram is just a way of communication between me and my fans. I don’t like to put my entire life up there and I’m very careful with what I want to put up. But I’ve done so many silly things on TV and everything that I have very little to hide from my fans. So, there’s no certain image for me to upkeep or anything — I can put up a picture of me looking horrible and it wouldn’t be so much of a shock to my fans because they’ve already seen everything they have to see of me. I’m more lucky in that aspect, but I’m still not the type to put up my whole life on Instagram. I would say everything I’m doing is all for the fans.

Tickets to MetaMoon Music Festival 2024 are available via Ticketmaster.