Blazing her own path has always been a way of life for Jennifer Zhang. The Vancouverite took her DIY passion and turned it into one of Canada’s biggest success stories — JENerationDIY — a YouTube channel with more than 2.5 million subscribers worldwide. Stepping out from behind the camera, Zhang has high hopes for what is to come and how she, as a POC, can inspire those who don’t see themselves on stages and Canadian music charts regularly.
Jen Z recently released her latest single “Falling To Your Knees” and we had the opportunity to chat with her about sharing her voice through music, learning new skills and what’s next.
Kat: Can you share with us the inspiration behind “Falling To Your Knees” and why you felt it was an important message to share now?
Jen Z: Growing up I’ve always felt the pressures of societal standards for what a girl should look like and act, as well as the struggles of fitting in as an Asian Canadian. There were always parts of myself that I would be scared to express or embrace because I would be made fun of for my culture, food, and features. A couple months ago, when the pandemic was picking up, I started getting some racist comments on my videos, and I wrote this song in response. Even though I wrote this song out of frustration in that certain moment, I see it as a culmination of the years of thoughts I’ve wanted to express and me finally standing up for myself, taking back the control. I drew inspiration from “Ex Machina”, one of my favourite films, to visualize this idea in the music video. In the beginning, my every action is controlled by my maker, but as the story goes on, I discover that I’m a robot and that I’ve never had any true control over my life. That’s when I become autonomous and free myself and the other robot from his grasp. I also just really wanted to be a robot so that was another selling point for me.
Kat: What do you hope your fans take away from the track?
Jen Z: I hope they find the empowerment to express themselves and stand up for what they believe in and deserve. I hope they apply this message to their own lives and relate to it in their own way. I also hope they can take away some good quality dance sessions listening to this song.
Kat: At the age of 15, you took your DIY passion and turned it into one of Canada’s biggest success stories — JENerationDIY — a YouTube channel with more than 2.5 million subscribers worldwide. What have you learned from that experience, and how did it (if it did) affect your music and the creation process?
Jen Z: Not many people know that I actually started a singing channel before JENerationDIY. Of course, that channel is now wiped from the internet because it’s completely embarrassing. I’ve always loved music and singing, but at the time I wasn’t quite ready or confident enough to share that with the world. I started YouTube at 15 as a shy, introverted girl, and through making videos and building a community online, I’ve been able to grow so much as a person and gain the confidence I needed to finally create and share my music. I’ve become a lot more comfortable with my voice and writing, so the songs I create now feel a lot more authentic and intentional. I think these past couple years on YouTube have really shown me that I’m allowed to dream big and believe in myself.
Kat: Was there anything intimidating or scary about the process and releasing this track, and if so, how did you overcome those fears or anxieties?
Jen Z: Writing and recording the song was a super fun process for me. Songwriting is one of the only ways I feel comfortable talking about my emotions, so it was pretty cathartic getting to write this track. Since we’re in quarantine, though, I couldn’t go to a studio, so I recorded the song in my room, with a bunch of pillows and blankets stacked up to absorb sound. I loved it. The nerve wracking part for me was actually the music video. It had been a long time since I met new people (just quarantine things) so I was really nervous going on set at first because I was pretty sure I lost all my social skills. On top of that, I’m still an introvert at heart, and I’m used to filming all my YouTube videos by myself in my room. At the end of the day, though, I had a great team of people around me who kept me calm, and I reminded myself that we were going to create a really cool video that I started as just an idea in my head.
Kat: What’s next?
Jen Z: I’m constantly writing and recording new music that will see the light of day very soon! I’m really excited for people to hear what I have coming, but for now, stay tuned.
For more information on JEN Z, visit jenzmusic.com.