Up-and-coming singer-songwriter Cheryl Chow, aka Cehryl (you read that right: C-E-H-R-Y-L), recently released her debut 13-track album in June, Slow Motion. Cehryl was born and raised in Hong Kong, and studied in England and the United States. Her international background has shaped her interests and inspirations for her music, ranging from London rapper MIA and Hong Kong film director Wong Kar-wai to her first CD, which was Avril Lavigne.
#legend is honoured to premiere the music video for the song "Satellite" from Slow Motion below. The incredibly talented Cehryl sat down with us to give us a little insight into the song and video, as well as tell us about her music career and how she got to where she is today.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong, and for the last two years of high school, I went to England. For college, I went to Boston to study music for three years. After that, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue music – a lot of the music industry is there and there is a big community of creative types.
It's split; I have that classic conundrum. When I'm back in Hong Kong, I feel out of place since I haven't actually lived here properly for the past seven years and so much has changed. But then of course, when I'm in the US, I just feel like a foreigner. There are a lot of things that my friends in the US don't know about that are a really big part of my background.
When I was really young, I always played the piano and I would try to imitate what I heard on TV. I really got into music when I heard Avril Lavigne – she was my first CD ever. I became really obsessed with her and really liked the idea that she was one of the only females at the time that was so badass, wrote her own music and was at the forefront of her industry. I picked up the guitar because of her and ever since, I have just been trying to write more music. Then I went to college for music.
My major was music production and engineering, so when I first moved to LA, I did a bunch of audio engineering gigs as a recording engineer for other artists – which was really miserable actually. But it paid the rent.
It was just something about being in a room and having to follow a specific etiquette. When you're the audio engineer, you aren't supposed to comment on anything creatively – not that I wanted to, but essentially a good engineer should just sit quietly in the room with the artist and whoever is creating the music and do what they are told, as an extension of the computer. It's kind of boring, but it was still nice to be around music and eavesdrop on people's ideas.
I’d say Frank Ocean, Alicia Keys and Rosalía, who is a flamenco pop singer from Barcelona; she's really cool and big right now. I also love MIA and Lauryn Hill, and I used to really like John Mayer and Avril Lavigne.
Mostly friends send me music, but Spotify has also been a big game-changer in how I consume music. When I was younger, I used to always go on YouTube to find a lot of new music and get really excited, but now I mainly use Spotify. The playlists and features that allow you to find new related songs are great.
I have been listening to a lot of Rosalía and MIA. Have you seen MIA’s documentary [2018's Matangi/Maya/M.I.A]? She's a rapper from South London but her dad is essentially a terrorist in Sri Lanka. She has a really interesting backstory of how she immigrated to the UK and a lot of her music is about being an immigrant. She also wanted to make documentaries and be a filmmaker, so she is really creative.
I definitely listen to other people's music for inspiration, and I get really inspired by movies and visual things. I watch movies and imagine the mood of the movie in my head, and write based on that. That's more common than trying to evoke something from another song.
In terms of genre, I am definitely a singer-songwriter with R&B and indie-pop influences. I love all music really, such as jazz. I really look up to artists like Amy Winehouse; she was really obsessed with jazz and reggae, but she made really accessible pop music.
"Satellite" is from the album I put out in early June. I made the video with my friend Ran from high school, who was also raised in Hong Kong and moved to LA, which is when we started collaborating. We weren't really close growing up, but he lived 10 blocks down from me in LA. Since we lived near each other, we started doing a lot of creative collaborations together, and would go out to take photos and do other creative stuff. The song is about trying to be there for someone who has depression, whether it's a friend or family member, and it's essentially a plea to ask them to look at the brighter side of things. It's saying that whatever side you see, I'm your satellite and I'm there for you.
It's directed by my friend Ran. We have a lot of common obsessions – we both love Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai, who directed both of our favourite films – so a lot of the visuals in the music video are an ode to his directing.
I’m cheating, since I'm saying two things here, but other than being financially stable with just my music, it's for my music to reach as many people as possible. No matter the demographic, I want my music to be enjoyed by everyone.