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Transcript: HER With Amena Brown Episode 25: Crafting A Song with Jennifer Chung

Amena: [00:00:09] Hey everybody. Oh my gosh. We're about to go into the first episode of season three. But before we do that I wanted to just take a minute and say thank you to all of you who've been listening to the first couple of seasons of this podcast for all of your great ratings and wonderful reviews for all of your DMs and emails and messages and comments on social media. How you've been engaging with these episodes how you've been engaging with the women that I've had the honor to interview here just thank you, thank you, thank you. Please keep it up. Thank you so much. Also if you're new here. Yes. This is about to be Season 3. But there are two seasons before this that you can check out and catch up on at any time you want. 

Amena: [00:00:58] The reason why I started this podcast is something that's really important in the rest of my life. I love empowering women. I love elevating the stories of women. I love celebrating the stories of women and the leadership of women as well and in particular women of color, and so being able to do that on this podcast has been one of my favorite favorite things. And we're not done this season. There are some really great insightful, informative episodes coming up. I can't wait for you to check them out and engage with them. And if you have not had a chance I would love for you to rate this podcast, review this podcast, share this podcast. Every time you do that, you are helping other people to find out about it. You are helping the stories and voices and leaders here get a chance to be exposed to people that need this information, that need these stories to know they're not alone. To know that they can feel seen and heard and understood. So here we go. Welcome to season three of HER With Amena Brown. Our theme is create. 

Music: [00:02:01] Change a thousand times. You will a thousand more. No matter who you are. You'll always have a home. Blood boils in the pot of contempt. It gets hard to forget all the things that were said. It drives us all to the edge. Break down, knees are bent. Dark clouds over head. 

Amena: [00:02:31] Y'all. That voice that you just heard is my guest today and I'm so excited to have singer-songwriter Jennifer Chung who also is the co-founder of Watts Media and also among other things is a social media strategist. Welcome to the HER with Amena Brown podcast, Jennifer Chung. 

Amena: [00:02:56] [clapping] Woo. This is me, Jennifer. [sound of applause] 

Jennifer: [00:02:56] Thank you so much for having me again. [laughter]. 

Amena: [00:02:57] I always clap because I just you know. There's was going to actually be some like applause in here but I clap because when we're recording you get a chance to also experience that I'm trying to clap for you. 

Jennifer: [00:03:14] Thank you. 

Amena: [00:03:15] Y'all. I'm so excited to have Jennifer on the podcast and any of you that have been following my other podcast that I did for my book, the limited edition podcast I did for How To Fix A Broken Record. You may be familiar with Jennifer Chung already from that and some of you may just be familiar with Jennifer Chung because she's amazing and you've already been listening to her music but I'm so excited that you are joining me on the podcast today, Jennifer, we have so much to talk about. 

Amena: [00:03:41] So, if you haven't listened to it you should go back and listen to How To Fix A Broken Record Podcast Episode Five: Lessons In Adulting. You would get a chance to hear some different things about Jennifer there because we talked a little bit about your music but we're gonna get a bit more in-depth because the season 3 theme for the podcast is create. And Jennifer was actually at my house, we were working on another project. She and her husband and me and my husband, we were all at the house, like kind of partly working and partly like, "catch me up on these things" and "tell me what was going on about that," you know. And I was like oh gosh I got to have Jennifer on the podcast. So I'm so glad you're here. 

Amena: [00:04:20] And I was trying to remember, Jennifer, how did we actually meet each other. Do you remember that? 

Jennifer: [00:04:27] I feel like it had to have been through John. Hundred percent. I don't know if it was because we went to an event that you both were throwing, maybe we—I feel like you're so kind that you probably had found out that John had met someone. You probably reached out just being your kind self. 

Jennifer: [00:04:48] And I remember you inviting me to do a show that usually you hosted but you weren't going to be there. But you had graciously invited me to be a part of it. I feel like that might have been the first time I pseudo-met you. 

Amena: [00:05:05] I think that might be right. And I was very sad. This was when my husband and I were still hosting our open mike at Urban Grind and I wanted you to feature so bad. And then it turned out the day that I had asked you, I was gonna have to go out of town and I was like Oh [sad sound]. 

Jennifer: [00:05:20] That was such a good experience and honestly it was probably one of the first shows I did it in Atlanta. So I really appreciate you even giving me a chance to show some people in Atlanta what I do. 

Amena: [00:05:31] I will tell you though, because since I wasn't there that night, I didn't get to hear you sing live that night. But the first time that I can remember hearing you sing live was at Five To Nine here in Atlanta, when you and your husband John, who I have known all this time under his artist name, Joules and some friends of yours did this show called The Flip Side. And Matt and I, I forget where we were going that night. We had like another thing we had to go to and then we were trying to like hurry up and leave that to like make your show. And we got there and that place was packed. I was like, it was so packed. There wasn't even like enough room for us to get inside the venue. We were like looking at y'all performing from like outside and sort of like the entry way of the building. And that was the first time that I ever heard you sing live and my life has been changed. My life has been changed. 

Jennifer: [00:06:24] Thank you. Honestly it's, it's been a huge adventure and it's really cool that you also got to see John and I create events just like you and your husband do. Obviously a lot of our community has to do with a lot of Asian-Americans and it's something that we're still trying to break through in this city. 

Amena: [00:06:43] Yeah I really I really appreciated that about The Flip Side, just the the push to celebrate Asian-American creatives, Asian-American artists like I just I loved. I loved everything. It was like every artist I saw I was like writing down all the names like, wants to book this person, wants to work with them. 

Amena: [00:07:03] So I start every podcast episode with getting an origin story from my guest and I just, I love not only the way that you perform. I've joked with Jennifer in the past. She did this cover of Khalid's Location and to me, that's like your song. Like when I finally heard him sing, it I was like, "What's he doing singing Jennifer's song?" 

Jennifer: [00:07:28] I still have to do a cover of it and upload it online. I literally only performed it at that one show. I never did it again. 

Amena: [00:07:33] I really need that in my life. So I really need you to get that on a video. But since we're talking about create, I was really interested to hear more from you as a fantastic performer and also as someone who, you can, you can cover other artist's songs are you also write your own songs. Do you remember the first song you ever wrote? Were you writing songs as a child or did that come to you later in life? 

Jennifer: [00:07:58] I remember when I was a kid, I would literally write my own songs. Like let's say my mom yelled at me and I got in trouble. I would start singing like my life was a musical and my mom would be so upset that I was singing. But she wasn't that good at English so she probably just thought I was singing some random song. But for me I was singing like so dramatically, as if this is like a ballad piece of musical where I was like, "woe is me." And just making up words. And I think from then on that encouraged me to go to music whenever I'm feeling an extreme of a certain emotion. 

Amena: [00:08:35] What is it. What is what is it like to write a song? Like how how do your songs start or begin? I feel so crazy asking this question because. 

Jennifer: [00:08:44] No, no. I mean honestly I. OK. So I technically was learning piano but I really didn't learn it that well. I think my piano teacher and I just really hung out and she encouraged my singing a lot. So when I start writing songs it starts with words. What I'm feeling. I put it into musical notes and I record it through voice memo. 

Jennifer: [00:09:07] And then from there many of my songs were written it from beginning to end and then I'll sing it to an accompanist or I'll sing it to a producer and they'll make a beat around it. But I also hear music in my head so I like, hum the melody that's supposed to compliment my vocal melody and there are also times, very few times, where I hold the guitar and I start strumming and then write a song through that way. But there are a couple songs on my first album that I wrote with guitar first but usually it's the lyrics first. 

Amena: [00:09:43] Wow. Like I I'm very fascinated by the songwriting process because even though I also write you know something that's lyrical as a poet, it's just so different then like the structure of songwriting and the type of like economy with your words that you have to have in order to express like an emotion. But in this hook or in the way the verse or the bridge is structured. 

Amena: [00:10:11] So tell my listeners a little bit more about how you ended up like sharing your work through social media, through YouTube. 

Amena: [00:10:23] Like when I think back about Jennifer and I'm like oh my gosh like you were sharing your work on this platform at a time that there weren't even a lot of people at that time you know sharing their work that way. So talk to me about how you go from here's this little girl you know singing these songs she's in trouble to kind of finding this audience for these songs that you had written. 

Jennifer: [00:10:49] Yeah I would say when I started putting videos on YouTube I wasn't sharing any of my original work. It was just me sharing that I loved certain songs that people were coming out with and I wanted to show to others how I sounded singing them and it was kind of like the Wild West. You didn't know what YouTube was except that people were uploading stuff. 

Jennifer: [00:11:12] So I just decided to and I think it was all in God's timing that I uploaded when I did and I was able to build a community like slowly but surely. And as an artist I think that was such a blessing because when I did come out with my first song, I already had an audience that was engaged. But it was definitely scary to upload my first original song. Because then that's what going to set the pace of what people have. 

Jennifer: [00:11:41] People may have expectations of what that's going to be like especially with the song choices that I had made but I think it was a blessing to start off so early and just letting my music go because I've met so many artists now that are so talented and they have such great music but they literally hide it and they hoard it because they think it's not ready or it's not perfect and I always let them know I don't release these songs because I think they're perfect. I release these songs because I know it's time and I think that comes with time. And knowing that what I release now maybe years from now I'll be like "Why did I release that? What was I thinking?" But at least I let it go and I can give myself and my listeners an opportunity to realize that I've grown from that moment. 

Amena: [00:12:31] That's one of the things I really love about about your music and about you as a person. Having engaged with you like personally and in professional environments. But I love that about your brand as an artist to you. You're very authen- authentic and genuine. And 

Jennifer: [00:12:50] Glad you think that. 

Amena: [00:12:51] That's that's a huge thing to me because I think especially being someone who had this like career trajectory that kind of started out on a social media platform I think there can be this temptation to sort of have to succumb to whatever whatever air quotes anybody is supposed to look like or be like or whatever. And I love even about following you on social media that you're like, "hey guys, this is me. This is me like being myself. This is who I am. This is me learning to love who I am, you know, learning to love how I am, learning to accept myself just the way I am." And I put out on social media to see if people had any questions they wanted to ask you and this was a really good question I wanted to get your thoughts on. Tanisha asked from Facebook. She wanted to know: can you share more about the lessons you learned as a creative after the photoshop incident you had with the recent magazine cover that you were on? Can you tell us more about that? 

Jennifer: [00:13:48] Yeah. So the question is like what I learned, right? 

Amena: [00:13:50] Yeah. 

Amena: [00:13:52] Well, first I learned how much it still affects me when people ridicule me about my about my appearance whether it was intentional or not. But also it was a reminder of how deeply ingrained a certain beauty standards are especially in my Korean American community. Not even Korean American. It's like my Korean culture. There are certain standards that people have to live by, not just women but men too. And you know South Korea is known to be one of the capital countries that promote plastic surgery and I'm proud to say that I haven't gone any gotten any you know plastic surgery done because it was my choice and I totally empower anyone who feels like they want to do that for themselves. 

Jennifer: [00:14:44] But so many times people feel pressured to do that. I've had conversations with friends who felt pressured that they had to do it in order to be accepted. But reality is there are so many things that people think that you have to do to be accepted. But it's an endless it's an endless cycle. You're always going to want to like nip and tuck this or change that. And going from that I practiced grace though to the people who were behind that magazine because I know they meant it well they meant to serve me well and they thought that this would make me happier or make me more accepted by their demographic. But I had to let them know that it wasn't OK because the original reason why I decided to do that magazine interview was because they wanted me to encourage the youngsters. That's the word they said. The youngsters that are up and coming. And I did not want to say. I didn't. No. I did not want the audience to believe that them photoshopping me was something that I wanted. And so I made it clear to the publishers and I had tallies posted on Instagram and to let my followers know in case there's some people who ran into the article like in the Bay Area. Because that's not what I'm about. I really do have goals to stay as honest as I can and one of my best compliments that I feel like I get from being on YouTube and people meeting me in person is that oh my gosh you're the same. Like just as I thought you'd be online and in person. And I might have my bad days but for the most part I feel like I'm genuinely being myself and yeah. I have like since I had posted that I hadn't posted anything on Instagram and I'm just giving it space for people to really read that. And in case they run into the magazine. But I've also learned that the community is so supportive and I've gotten so much love and I think it resonated with a lot of people too. Because I'm just being honest. I didn't think that I could just get away with my face being completely altered. And you know thinking like oh that's fine. That's how I should look. It's like no, no. That's not how I look and that's not who I am. So it was a huge growing experience and how it's always going to be a battle for the rest of my life to choose to love myself and to hopefully empower others to choose to love themselves too. 

Amena: [00:17:04] I love that, Jennifer, because I. I read the post myself and I was just like yes. It's like put to words that things you know that so many people feel whether you know whatever it is that in our different cultural backgrounds or according to whatever that you know standard of beauty is like we need that encouragement we need to be reminded that you're not just OK you are beautiful and worth it as you are and that that's our work is to you know accept who it is we are you know and of course like you said each person is going to decide what's empowering to them. You know in that journey, right? Like nobody can decide that for each person but it's beautiful to start that journey for yourself of this is who I am. You know this is how I love me, you know. 

Amena: [00:18:02] OK I want to talk a little bit more about writing songs. This is a curious question that I have so some of these questions are just my like nerdy stuff that I want to know from you but I know that you've had experiences co-writing songs with other people and I would love for you to share a little bit more about what that process is like. As a poet, it's hard for me to imagine co-writing a poem with someone. So I'm always curious when I have friends who are songwriters and also write with others. Describe what that process is like and how's the give and take between you and maybe the other writer or other writers. 

Jennifer: [00:18:40] Sure. I think that everyone works very differently. But for me personally when it has come to working with collaborators who like, for example, in December I have written for another artist and it wasn't for my project. So I let it be very open. The producer had created the melody and I asked the artist, "what's the story that you want to share?" And from that I use the melodies to like let the words come out of me. And back to where I was able to start creating the foundational base of the lyrics and where that was headed. I tend to write choruses first actually and then from there I have to pull out verses. But it's definitely give and take and being open to what other people have to say. Personally I think I work better if I don't I don't have someone telling me how to write the lyrics. I think I am a lyricist by heart and I'm interested in seeing what it's gonna be like if I write with another writer-writer because I think it'll be good practice for me. Because as of now I'm like, "No no these are my words. These are the words that are going to be so solidified." And if you listen to my songs you'll notice that I tend to rhyme a lot. So in a way I feel like it has it's like poetic rhyming scheme to it but I think because vocally it flows through me and singing wise it just comes naturally to me. 

Amena: [00:20:11] I want to ask also about these songs. This is like a very exciting part of the podcast for me. 

Amena: [00:20:22] Before we get into that part I want to ask a question from Instagram. Naynay wants to know how do you maintain vocal health as a singer? This is a great question. So do you have a routine, a regimen? Are there things you would recommend to other listeners who may also be singers? 

Jennifer: [00:20:42] Sure. Ever since I was young I knew that I wanted to sing for Disney one day. I don't know if that's going to happen yet but it's still on my bucket list. 

[00:20:51] And you know the princesses in the musicals they sound very clean and don't count too coarse. So ever since I was younger I told myself I'm never gonna smoke and I haven't ever smoked a cigarette. And it just doesn't appeal to me because I don't want to lose the vocal quality that I have right now. Even though I listen to someone like Adele or Alicia Keys and wish I had that husky tone. It's just not part of my my vocal regimen. 

Jennifer: [00:21:22] And also I've heard, I was told that whispering actually not good for you. So I don't whisper very often. And even if I'm like yelling or shouting at the top of my lungs whether it's at a basketball game or whatever I always support myself with my diaphragm and I don't, if I lost my voice the night before, I did something wrong. And when I'm practicing singing, if I feel any pain, I stop because it shouldn't hurt. That means I'm placing things incorrectly. And also it's good to stay away from dairy on days before performances and personally for me I don't actually like to eat before I sing. And that could be like all day. So if I have a performance line on we have a long set, I actually fast the whole time and to drink water and pee just because I don't want to burp. Yeah. 

Amena: [00:22:19] I need to take some notes, honey. I normally I don't eat before performances. 

Jennifer: [00:22:25] Yeah. 

Amena: [00:22:26] I have to I have to eat, unless it's within like a two three hour threshold. Like whatever food I'm going to eat, I need to eat before that time and then I can't eat more. But that's actually just for nerves. Just like. 

Amena: [00:22:41] Speaking of YouTube, I've always been like you know before there was YouTube it's like you're just afraid I'm gonna throw up on stage. That's what I was afraid of. But then when YouTube came along, I was like I really can't have somebody capturing footage of me throwing up on stage now. So I just have to. 

Jennifer: [00:22:55] Oh, no, it's not a look. 

Amena: [00:22:57] You have to stick with it have to stick with it. And I learned after getting laryngitis the first time as a performer that whispering is bad for your voice. I had no idea. I was at some event and the singers were like, "Yeah. You're gonna need to stop whispering if your voice is gone. You either needed to stop talking or talk on your regular voice. The whispering is actually making it worse for you." I had no idea about that. 

Jennifer: [00:23:23] Yeah. And you know, if there's a moment that you're able to just not speak. Maybe there's some like vocal rest. Every once in a while. 

Amena: [00:23:34] You know that's hard for me. You know you as you were saying it, I was like yeah that's true, have to give me a chance to contemplate my life and things and then I was like wow. 

Jennifer: [00:23:47] Like carry around like a post it note to everyone so like, show people like, I'm on vocal rest today. Feel free to text me. 

Amena: [00:23:55] That would be so hard for me. You know how much I love talking. That would be just like oh gosh. I mean, a couple of times, which I really need to have a better vocal regimen myself because now that I've been performing so long sometimes the end result of me getting a cold is laryngitis. Now like if my voice gets really tired so I really do need to try this voice rest thing but I just love talking so much. At the times I've had laryngitis and I couldn't talk like everything inside of you was like, "oh I have so much to say to everybody.". 

Jennifer: [00:24:29] Oh I understand. I understand. 

Jennifer: [00:24:32] Well as long as we keep supporting the way that we talk with our diaphragm. And also it's nothing bad to like strengthen your head voice. So sometimes, if you want to just talk up here and instead of talking down here, you're just like lift it up over here and talk to people like you're a Disney princess. 

Amena: [00:24:49] I didn't even know about a head voice. I'm getting educated. I'm getting educated. 

Amena: [00:24:52] Let me let me ask you this also because I know that not every singer writes songs and then not all songwriters are super great singers. You know, there are some people who are really great songwriters but then their songs sort of end up with people that have you know the really great voice. Why do you think songwriting is so important? It's like we have an idea in our mind of why singing itself is important. You know for all of the emotional connection that we have to our music to our memories and those different things but we don't often think about you know who is writing some of the songs that we really love. Why is the songwriting so important? 

Jennifer: [00:25:36] Man, songwriting is it's such a gift to be able to share what you feel. I mean you know you're like literally sharing your feelings and your thoughts and people receive them. And it's one thing when people are like, "oh it sounds nice" but it's another thing when someone like, "it feels nice." And I think that's why even if there's a vocalists who don't write if they can sing it as if they did. That's how you know that they're a performer and they're able to engage in the music and deliver it in a way that it's meant to be. Songwriting for me is so important because I know like as I get older my voice isn't going to be the same. Right. Like when I'm at the age, hopefully 80 years old, I might not be able to sing the way that I do now but I can still continue to write and I hope that I'll continue to write for other people too. And it's a gift right now to be able to sing and to be able to perform live. 

Jennifer: [00:26:40] But I'm sure that that will get exhausting too as I get older-older but I hope to be inspired by life and write for other artists and use my gift, not just to continue my own platform. 

Amena: [00:26:58] I love that and I love as an artist having all of these layers of what you do that can really last you through these different seasons of time and I even think about Maxwell and his first album that he put out. I think he was twenty three years old and he said his goal was to make music at twenty three years old, that if he were in his 60s or 70s that he would feel no shame singing it. 

Jennifer: [00:27:26] Yeah. 

Amena: [00:27:26] And that was such a great thought because there are some things that you know, maybe when I was 22 or 23, oh gosh, if I went back and looked at those some of those poems I was writing, I'd be like oh no you know, what I did, right. 

Amena: [00:27:40] But you know there are some things that as a songwriter I feel like because music can have this very timeless kind of quality. You know there are these things that you can put out into the world that somebody 30 years from now, you know, maybe listening to and still resonate with which is one of the things I really love about music. 

Jennifer: [00:27:58] Like how beautiful is that that someone can connect to it years from now. Or connect to it even maybe like maybe there are certain songs where you first listen to it, you're really not into it, but like you keep hearing it. And then there's a moment where it clicked like the words just clicked to you. 

Amena: [00:28:15] Yeah. Yeah. That's like some songs you have to grow into as well. 

Jennifer: [00:28:20] Yeah. Yes. Experiences. 

Amena: [00:28:24] You're like, "Oh I see why." Like there was some music my mom loved, you know, when I was growing up like my mom loved Frankie Beverly and Maze when I was growing up. She just listened to the tape until you know until it broke almost. And I was just dying of boredom. Like please rescue me from Frankie Beverly and Maze. And for some reason I got into like my late 20s and I was like, "Frankie Beverly and Maze are amazing. This is some of the best music anybody ever made." 

Amena: [00:28:55] Like I don't know if it's like your palate has to change or broaden maybe as you get older or if it's just some resistance we have sometimes just to what we deem our parents music to be. And then we get older and we understand a little bit more about life. 

Jennifer: [00:29:12] Yeah. 

Amena: [00:29:12] You know? 

Jennifer: [00:29:14] Yeah. 

Amena: [00:29:15] Okay. I want to talk about your songs and this is like a new thing that I've never done on the podcast before, Jennifer. So I'm so excited that I'm trying this with you and it's gonna be great because it's basically me getting a chance to share with the listeners just a little bit of what your music sounds like. So I want to talk through a couple of the songs from your latest mini album After All. So if you're listening right now, it's OK if you want to just pause this and just go download After All right now. Just. That's fine. 

Jennifer: [00:29:47] Check it out! 

Amena: [00:29:47] I welcome you to do that and then you can come back and we'll talk through these things but I want to specifically go through two of these songs and just play a couple of clips from these. And Jennifer, I want to tell you what I love about these songs and then I would love to hear your story of kind of what's behind this song. 

Jennifer: [00:30:04] Yeah. 

Amena: [00:30:04] Like how did the songs get written. What's been your experience now, not only after having recorded this music, but also performing it live for an audience. So from After All what we want to listen to first is the song Take It One Day At A Time. Let's listen to this clip. 

Music: [00:30:20] You've got to hold on. Don't put aside what you're feeling. There is a process of healing. You will be more than alright. Take it one day at a time. 

Amena: [00:30:51] Y'all. Are you in your feelings? Because I feel like you should be in your feelings. Like if you're listening to Take It One Day At A Time, you should be in your feelings. So let me tell you something, Jennifer, that I don't know, even though we are friends in real life outside of the podcast, I don't know that I ever shared this with you. So the beginning of 2018 was a really really hard time for me and just for us, for my husband and I personally and professionally. And I had created a couple of years ago this playlist on Apple Music called Healing Tunes. And every now and then I would just like if I listened to a song that kind of was really soothing to my soul I would just like chunk it into that playlist. So it's like hours of music now. And I listen to this song Take It One Day At A Time, at a time that I was very sad very full of grief very depressed. And I added it to my Healing Tunes playlist and I still listen to it during times that I need to be reminded to take that space and it was so beautifully written and it had so much space in it. You know like to me the way you sang it and the way you approached even like the gentleness with which you sang some of the parts of the song. It is really one of my favorite songs of yours. Tell us more. How did this song get written? 

Jennifer: [00:32:22] Well I would say that growing up I've definitely been exposed to my mother battling depression. And she's a single mom and I think it slowly became a part of my life as I grew up to an adult as well. And the only way that I can say that I was able to survive is first and foremost God's grace over my life. And I literally could not move forward unless I was taking it a day at a time. And I'm such a planner and I have all these things lik,e okay, I need to do this, I need to do that, in order for me to get there. But sometimes you literally just have to take today for what it is. And you know now my husband and I are going on to six years of marriage and we've learned so much about ourselves and my husband battles through a dark place as well. And it was really my letter to him. 

Jennifer: [00:33:24] And when I say those first words like, "I know it hurts, you don't want to get out of bed, much rather lay there instead, but you face what you fear at the thought that no one is near." Because you think that you're alone in this and you think that no one will understand and no one will completely understand. But you have to keep going. And. I think that's where he and I are intrinsically a little different. Where I'm the type of person to kind of keep moving forward and maybe to the point where I don't want to face it. But he sits there and he lets it soak in. And I think that's something that I could learn from too because I've always been this type of person that's like gotta keep going gotta keep going. 

Jennifer: [00:34:12] But there's beauty in being able to take it a day at a time and taking that moment and being able to just be proud of what today was and not fear what tomorrow is. 

Amena: [00:34:28] And I think that's one of the things that makes songwriting so important is you were able to you're able to put words to something that you know even as I was experiencing that very low depressed place. I was almost at the point you know and for somebody that works in words, that was very hard. I was at a point where I really didn't even have like the language to express you know how I was feeling and that that's the beauty of the gift that you have and the gift that so many great songwriters have is this ability to capture what human beings are feeling even though you might have the gift to articulate what we're feeling and the other person listens to your music and didn't have the words to say, "oh that's what I need to do. You know I need to take it one day at a time. I need to pace myself." It was just so gentle and moving and healing. And I'm I'm really glad that you wrote it. And so glad that you're sharing you with the world. Have you performed this song anyplace and what's been the experience now? Not just having written it but also like sharing it in an audience. 

Jennifer: [00:35:38] Yeah I've sung it a couple of times. I sang it at my mini album release in Atlanta and I sang it at my mini album release in L.A. 

Jennifer: [00:35:47] And first of all it's kind of a hard song to sing so I get annoyed at myself for writing it. Because I have to be mentally and physically prepared to sing it. But it's also really depressing song. OK maybe I sang it three times. But. It's. It's. It's a song that really brings things out of people. So I have to think about whether or not I want to put people there and if it's the right space to do it. Like imagine if I was doing this like lit party, where like music's poppin and people are drinkin, like with incense going on just like all these lights and then I'm like out there with Take It One Day At A Time. I just don't think it's like the right place. But it is. It's like my little magic power if I want to release it. Because I know at least one person might come up to me and share with me a story. And I also have to be ready for that. 

Amena: [00:36:45] Yeah right right. I love that. But let's let's talk about my favorite song. This is my all time favorite Jennifer Chung song. If you are ever at a Jennifer Chung show and I'm there and she does this song is it's me it me yellin from the crowd, "that's my song." OK so my favorite Jennifer Chung song is Broke, which is also featured on her latest mini album After All. Let us take a listen to a little bit of Broke. 

Music: [00:37:19] You had integrity, I wasn't just for fun. Made sure that I was yours. Got married in four months. We still out here, now it's four years. I'm saying. We were broke. Well. We're still broke but never broken. Flashy things can get distracting, from what's happening. Without 'em, we're still happy. It doesn't even matter that we're broke. Well. We're still broke but never broken. Flashy things can get distracting, from what's happening. Without 'em, we're still happy. It doesn't even matter that we're broke. 

Amena: [00:38:05] Y'all, if you didn't body roll while you were listening to that, I don't know what to do. Like I don't know what you're doing with your life like listening to Broke is a perfect body roll opportunity. So if you missed out on it, you need to just go back and just buy the whole album and you need to listen to Broke again and body roll to it. Oh my gosh Jennifer YOU KNOW THIS IS MY SONG. YOU KNOW THIS IS MY SONG. 

Amena: [00:38:27] And you know, Jennifer and John and Matt and I have something in common in that both of us work in our businesses with our spouses. So when I first listened to the whole album, Jennifer, and I got to this song I was like, "This is us too." You know like I knew this was you like telling your story but I was like this is this is us too you know like when you're in business together you make it through the times that you know the gigs came in. The clients pay and there's money and you make it through the times that you're like somebody please send us a check because. 

Jennifer: [00:39:08] Yes. 

Amena: [00:39:09] So tell me more about the inspiration behind Broke and what's it like to get a chance to perform that song with your husband. 

Jennifer: [00:39:19] Oh man. I mean it's a story of our life. Like when we when we decide to commit to each other we literally told each other, "Hey you're broke. I'm broke. Let's just be broke together." And then we could build together. And I think that's why when we wrote the song when we say like we were broke. Well we're still broke. It's like this uphill climb of like trying to build something. And for sure God has delivered and continues to do so. But it's also us letting people know like you don't have everything figured out. But we continue to choose to figure it out together. And I hope that it encourages people like you don't have to have everything to have everything. You can figure it out together. You can build together. And I also thought it was a really good like juxtaposition like having this like contemporary like hip song melody that's very resonating right now with contemporary music. But to say like as a rapper said that you don't have all the chains, you know. So when John is able to rap through it and I'm singing through it. Like you sing it proudly because it keeps us grounded and keeps us relatable and we can continue to move toward something. 

Amena: [00:40:44] You know that's my song. I love the song so much and I just think there is a lot of power in being able to talk about being broke too because I know like I've been in some settings you know particularly like professionally where I'm like looking around you know and I'm like, OK I know we broke but like these other people are here. Maybe they don't seem like they're broke and you know. Now like I have a part of my set where I just talk about brokenness real quick and you know there are some people in the room who are like, I have no idea what you're talking about but most people in the room are like yes yes yes either been there or are currently there. And it's just this moment where like you get to share in that with people. Like everybody is not going to have it together all the time. People have bills and don't necessarily have the money to take care of those bills like that's a part of the human experience for a lot of people you know. 

Jennifer: [00:41:38] And that's a thing. Like how cool is it that we were able to you know create a song where people can proudly say that they're broke. 

Amena: [00:41:49] I'm broke and I'm proud. Yes. 

Jennifer: [00:41:51] Yes like it's okay. We're not broken though. Like how cool is it that we have the opportunity to work hard towards something and if we're happy while we're broke. Like we'll definitely be happy when we're not. 

Amena: [00:42:05] Right. Because it's not it's not. You know what. You know it's cliche to say but it's true. Like it's not the amount of money a person has that makes them happy. Like that's not where the center of your joy or your peace is going to come from. And I also thought Broke is just a beautiful it's a beautiful love story to tell. That's not like, you know, it's like you. There are certain different ways a love song can be written you know and maybe it's written from the angle of like the guy has all this money and he's like I want to buy you rings girl. I want to take you to do this or that. Or it's like some like Bonnie and Clyde 0 3 type situation you know it's like here we are with all our name brand whatever things like. I just appreciate it. It's like we can be in love and walk through our lives together and partner together and put our little nickels together. 

Jennifer: [00:43:01] And honestly when I know like there's a thing where you have to or society make you feel like you have to look like you have everything together. 

Amena: [00:43:09] Yeah. 

Jennifer: [00:43:09] But we've found that people have been so much more gracious and loving towards us because we're honest with what we have and don't have. 

Amena: [00:43:16] Yeah. 

Jennifer: [00:43:17] And still can find joy in that because you know people want to be around happy people. And and it also just reminds us that if we can find. People who relate to us on a real level then we don't have to act like something we're not. 

Amena: [00:43:44] Let me ask you the three questions I ask every guest this season. Question one is what inspires you to create? 

Jennifer: [00:43:55] What inspires me to create. I think what inspires me to create is when I see or hear art that moves me in some way. It triggers me like whether it's like in a hurtful way, a nostaglic way or a feel good way. Those things happen every so often when I'm paying attention. I think there's so much good art around us. 

Jennifer: [00:44:23] But sometimes there's so much that we can't process it all when I can take a moment to really let it soak in and just appreciate it. I get inspired. And I get inspired by people like you who continue to create good work and are good people because that's what makes art worth sharing. When you can share it with other people and just find pure joy in it. 

Amena: [00:44:52] What is one thing you've made that you are really proud of? 

Jennifer: [00:44:56] One thing I made that I'm very proud of. I am I'm really proud of the growth that I've made as a human being and whether that is like who I am continuing to learn to be as a wife, as a dog mother of two rescues, as a friend, as a daughter, and as someone who has whatever little platform that I have to share a message to people. I think I do seek out authenticity and genuineness. And it's hard to do when people get so scared to show people who they really are. 

Jennifer: [00:45:41] I don't think I've completely lost that and I want to continue holding onto that because that'll make me a better artist too. Just to have a clear message on who I am and putting that into fruition in my art. 

Amena: [00:45:56] If you could give another woman as She Did That award, who would it be and why? 

Jennifer: [00:46:03] She Did That! There are so many people that I wouldn't want to just, you get an award, you get an award, you get an award. 

Jennifer: [00:46:15] I would have to give it to my mom. 

Amena: [00:46:17] Yeah. 

Jennifer: [00:46:18] Because you know she didn't raise me in the church. She was hurt by the church. And she tried to fight me about it when I wanted to go to church myself. But before I married Joule she went back to church and now she's single and she goes to church every weekend and has community and now we can talk about God. And she gets to say that she raised two kids on her own, not knowing how to speak the language and we'd take care of ourselves. You know. And she's living in the Bay Area still teaching dance to this day. And she gets to say like she did that. You know? 

Amena: [00:47:03] Momma you did that. 

Jennifer: [00:47:06] She did that. 

Amena: [00:47:07] Jennifer. Tell my people how can they follow you, watch you, buy this music from you. Tell me all the things. 

Jennifer: [00:47:19] Well first and foremost I just want to say thank you for having me on. And you can find me on Instagram. It's JenniferJChung. J-E-N-N-I-F-E-R-J-C-H-U-N-G. And that's my username for Twitter, for Facebook on Spotify and Apple Music and all those platforms. You can find me at Jennifer Chung and I came out with my single V Day for Valentine's Day and it's a song for single people. So if you're if you were riding solo this Valentine's Day, then this song for you. Because this was written to embrace that singlehood, because it is a gift and whatever place you are in life is a gift. So I hope that y'all will keep up with me and come to a show some time and every stream matters and every you know music purchase matters and check out Watts.Media. That's the content agency my husband and I founded. Besides being a rapper, producer, he's also a videographer and photographer. I also help with brand messaging running social media accounts of people and I love it. It's one of my favorite things to do. Because in a world of so much content out there and social media being something that could be used for bad. I believe, Amena for example, someone who uses it for good and I think more people can do that. So we're here to help if you need it. 

Amena: [00:48:46] Y'all, check out everything that's Jennifer Chung. Check out all of it. And if she comes to your city, don't think about it. Just buy the tickets. Just buy 'em. 

Jennifer: [00:48:55] Please! 

Amena: [00:48:55] And come there and see her. Jennifer thank you not only for just joining me on the podcast but for being such a positive force in the world. I'm so glad that your voice and your writing exists. Thank you so so much. 

Jennifer: [00:49:10] Thank you so much. 

Amena: [00:49:34] Her with Amena Brown is produced by D.J. Opdiggy for Soul Graffiti Productions. Don't forget to subscribe, rate, write a review, and share the podcast. Thanks for listening. 

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Transcript: HER With Amena Brown Episode 24: Season 3 Intro—The Mystery Of Creativity

Amena: [00:00:17] So this is my favorite picture of me probably talking in midsentence with my two grandmothers. On the left there with the polka dots, that is my great grandmother, my Grandma Sudie. In the middle is the grandma of all grandmas, the favoritest grandma ever, my Grandma Bert, who is here today. Hey Grandma! 

Amena: [00:00:42] So when I was about 25 I realized I could only cook three things well: spaghetti, meatloaf, and brownies, which is not a bad thing. But it depends on how well rounded you wanted your meals to be and how many choices you wanted to have. And as a Southern woman it feels shameful that those are the only things that you know how to make. So I went to the expert, I went to my grandma and I said, "Grandma if the way to a man's heart Is through his stomach, I'm not going to get there like this. So you need to get in the kitchen with me and show me how to do something." So I go in the kitchen with her and she shows me how to cook all the things a Southern woman should know. The collard greens and the mac and cheese and the cabbage and the rutabaga. My grandma has no recipes for any of this. You have to get in the kitchen with her. 

Amena: [00:01:30] She has to show you what the batter is supposed to feel like when you're stirring it around and how you know if the cabbage is too salty and how you know if your macaroni is dry or not right. She has to show me all those things but she did and I learned and I got married so shout out to Grandma. 

Amena: [00:01:48] Well later on, now that I'm married my husband and I have our own house. I got my first Kitchen Aid mixer and this is like a huge deal, as you know. It's like now I feel like I'm an official adult that I have this kitchen aid mixer sitting on my countertop. Whether I use it may not matter, just that it's sitting there. I call my grandma and I say "Grandma, I'm turning 35 and I want you to come to my house and teach me the last things that I need to learn from you and your cooking repertoire, which are your cakes.". 

Amena: [00:02:18] My grandma had a tradition that whenever it was your birthday, all of us among the grandkids, you got to choose whatever cake she was gonna make. She can make German chocolate cake. She can make coconut cake. She can make whatever cake it was that you said you wanted and to me there was mystery happening in my grandmother's kitchen. I mean, as a kid, you know I'm going in the refrigerator and I'm seeing like half a gallon of buttermilk and I go in the cabinet and see like two cups of flour and some Vienna sausage. And somehow I went out to play and I came back and there's greens and yams and Turkey and a three layer cake and I don't know how a woman does that with a can of Vienna sausage. I haven't figured out where those Vienna sausages went. To me, my grandma was in the kitchen like clapping her hands with flour and glitter and there's just all this mysterious magic happening in her kitchen, somewhere so I'm like, Grandma come and teach me the things. Show me how to make this cake. 

Amena: [00:03:11] My grandma says "Mena, now, I don't even know if I remember how to make that cake. You know I haven't made a cake in ten years. I'm like, "Grandma, I bet you'll remember. Come to my house and we'll do it." She said, "I gotta tell you something. You know I used to use a cake mix." 

Amena: [00:03:33] Have you ever felt your childhood dreams deflated? That was that moment for me. And she says, "I don't even know if they make the cake mix I used to use anymore. It was called Super mah"...(letters trail off). I'm like, "What what what?! What is she saying?" She says, "Mena, it's called super mah"...(letters trail off). I'm like, "What is that?" I'm trying to understand her North Carolina accent and what this means. And then my brain is going, "what is this vintage special edition cake mix that they don't make any more that my grandma was using to make all the mysterious magic in the kitchen? I got to go to Williams-Sonoma now. I got to go to Cook's Warehouse. I got to order this online. Do I have time?". 

Amena: [00:04:19] She says, "Mena, you spell it S-U-P-E-R M-O-I-S-T." In North Carolina language, Super Moist is what she was saying. (Shows picture of Betty Crocker Super Moist cake mix box.) And if you're wondering, you can go anywhere and find this any place that you would like to get it. So I say to my grandma, "OK we can fix this. We can fix this. I'll find a recipe online that's as close as I can get to your pineapple cake and just come in my kitchen and help me make it from scratch.". 

Amena: [00:05:01] So we get in the kitchen together, we're hips to hips in there with the flour and all the baking powder and the salt. We're talking, we're laughing, and my grandma starts to remember some things. She remembers how you got to poke holes in the cake first after it's done before you put the pineapple filling in the middle so it can seep down into the cake. She's remembering all these things and she tells me, "an older woman told me just stop making the cakes from scratch. Just use the cake mix and make homemade frosting. Nobody will ever know." And clearly no one of us in the family ever knew that this was the mystery behind why the cake was so awesome. 

Amena: [00:05:39] So my grandma and I made a cake that day. (Shows picture of grandma and Amena) That was my birthday. It was a very ugly cake, not because of Grandma, just because I don't know what I'm doing. It tasted good but it was very ugly. I realized my grandma, all those years in her kitchen she was teaching me something about the mystery of being creative. She was teaching me that it doesn't take a lot. You can take what you have and be creative. It doesn't take a new computer it doesn't take all the money that it might seem like someone else has. You can be creative with what you have. And she also was teaching me to never take that magic and that mystery for granted. 

Amena: [00:06:16] Maybe there was cake mix involved but there was still glitter and there was still flour and there was still this mystery that we still can't explain. Whatever It is that brings us all the ideas, right? Whatever that process is we can't explain how creativity actually exists all the time but we should lean into that mystery. It's in the fact that we don't know that makes us be more creative. And lastly we get the honor and privilege as creatives to make something sweet to put love in it so other people can enjoy it. So shout out to grandma and shout out to Betty Crocker's cake mix and shout out to the mystery of not knowing and being creative. Thank you. 

Amena: [00:07:02] HER with Amena Brown is produced by DJ Opdiggy for Sol Graffiti Productions. Don't forget to subscribe, rate, write a review and share the podcast. Thanks for listening. 

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