Interview: Jade Diary

Photo: Caitlin Worthington
Cheryl Lim, the sole force behind Australian project, Jade Diary, has garnered plenty of fans in her reasonably short career (including The Sonic Reverie!) and with an album on the rise, as well as two well received EP’s in her catalogue, she had a little chat with me about the inspirations of her current EP, her roots in music and where she stands on the increasingly-sexualised music industry.

What has the reception to the EP been like so far?
It’s been great! The Sonic Reverie did an amazing review. I am touched by how many people love the songs. And if they tell me that it’s on repeat on their iPods or car, even better!
Why did you choose to cover Martika’s track ‘Love Thy Will Be Done’?
I am a big fan of that song and Prince just writes the most beautiful songs for girls to sing. The beauty in the song is not just the hypnotic and gorgeous melody but also its profound lyrics and simplicity. I love the fact that it sounds like a prayer. Not many songs are written in that way.
What did you learn from your last EP, the near-flawless ‘Landscape of Dreams’ that you applied to your current release?
You are too kind Simon! Over the years it has been a journey of discovering my inner voice as an artist. Landscape of Dreams has a great clean pop sound and I am extremely happy with how it turned out. The songs have also touched a lot of people. Over the years I have grown to realise that I resonate most with a very acoustic, intimate, feminine, vintage, ‘dusty-record’ and organic sound. I approached my producer David Skeet because I knew from his previous recordings, that he could give me exactly the feel I wanted for it. The songs in this new EP are a bit more varied in the range of emotions and themes they cover: heartbreak, unrequited love, forgiveness, peace, loneliness. My album which is coming out in September will be even more diverse and exciting!
Through crowdfunding, you’ve picked up a lot of support from around the country, how does it feel to have someone thousands of miles away enjoying your music?
It shows how powerful music is and how wonderful the Internet is as a tool for sharing music. It’s a great feeling to know that someone who lives far away in a different culture can relate to the same emotions you experience. We’re not so different after all.

‘Jade Diary’ was previously a band-project and is now solo; what are the benefits of going solo and what do you miss about being a band?
Being solo means that I do not have to worry as much with consulting the band when I make decisions. This is nice and gives me much more authority! Also, I do not have to worry about style issues as much – if I like a certain style for a song or image, then it’s entirely up to me. I don’t miss a great deal except it can be difficult relying on myself to make all the decisions sometimes! I’m not a very decisive person! Haha.
What was the inspiration for ‘A Thousand Days’?
I was struggling with forgiving someone in my life and during that time, I was also moved by the story of Corrie Ten Boom. She and her family were in a Nazi Concentration Camp and survived. Many years later, she met one of the Nazi soldiers whom she recognised as one of the cruellest soldiers at the camp. He extended his hand to shake hers (as he did not recognise her), and initially she froze but God enabled her to fully forgive this man, and she shook his hand. The song, ‘A Thousand Days’, was inspired by these two stories: mine and Corrie Ten Boom’s.
Photo: Caitlin Worthington
Your lyrics are very honest and poignant; do you ever feel exposed when putting your work out into the open?
Yes, I do at times feel ‘exposed’ when I share my songs. Sometimes I worry that people know all of my secrets! Haha. But that’s what I have to do as an artist. People relate to believability and honesty and I have to write from the heart even if it’s not pretty and even if it may expose my weaknesses.

Do you use songwriting as a type of catharsis?
It can be at times be cathartic. It is great to put all your thoughts down about someone, or a topic, on paper. You feel like you’ve put it out there in the open – good or bad, and it helps you move on a little bit. I think writing a song can help clarify what you really think and how you really feel about something or someone. It’s funny that sometimes I don’t set about to write about a topic or a person, but it gently creeps into the song. It’s almost as if your subconscious is pushing things that you have been suppressing out into the open when you write.  

How do you deal with the criticism thrown your way?
I don’t deal with criticism very well. In fact, I recently had criticism come to me. I was initially hurt by it and still am actually. But I had to take a few steps back and filter out what was true about the criticism for my own personal growth, and what was untrue and I found that what that person said was actually mostly untrue. They were attacking my personal style as an artist and seeing my unique characteristics as flaws. It’s interesting that as I mature, I am realising that some of the ‘flaws’ in my artistic presentation that are sometimes pointed out by people can actually become unique aspects and part of my personal style. Not to say that all criticism is unfounded – I do try to take on board constructive feedback which will help me grow and become better even though my sensitive side just does not want to listen! But think about the artists you love – do you remember them for their perfection? Often we find ourselves most attracted or drawn to those who are flawed and are not afraid to expose their vulnerabilities.
Photo: Caitlin Worthington
Who inspired you to begin a career in music? 
This is a very hard question because I don’t think there is just one person. I would say from an early age my Dad would play old Carpenters’ records and I remember Karen Carpenter’s voice loud and clear coming through his record player speakers. It was such a warm and beautiful voice. Maybe the seeds were already planted in my mind at that early age.

Which artists are you currently enjoying listening to?
I love Florence + The Machine. Also love Kimbra, Nerina Pallot. I was listening to Lana del Rey for a little bit too. Often I go back to my old favourites like Sarah McLachlan, Belinda Carlisle, Suzanne Vega, The Carpenters, Jewel.

What has been the best advice you have been given in regard to your music?
That would have come from my producer David Skeet haha. He said, “No one ever became successful by trying to please everyone.” We all want to be ‘liked’ but in all honesty, there are a group of people in the world who will never ‘like’ you even if you did everything that they asked you to do. It is not worth changing who you are just to please everyone.

How do you define success? What would ‘Jade Diary’ have to achieve to become successful in your eyes? 
I would love to be profound and wise by saying something like, ‘success is touching a person with your music’. Haha. But the truth is, I think success includes many little steps. In a lot of ways I am already successful, but I would like to be even more successful. The main measure would be how many people are touched by the music. But it would be nice to also see a return financially and reach a much wider number of people in the world through my music. I would love to have enough money to continually feed my art. It is not easy trying to do all the ambitious things that I try to do when there isn’t much coming in. I would like to be able to comfortably make a great living through music eventually.
Photo: Caitlin Worthington

Let’s talk about the musicians of the moment. What are your opinions on..
Lady GaGa? Lady Gaga is extremely talented as a songwriter, singer and overall performer. Her songs just get stuck in your head and are never forgotten! I take my hat off to her for pulling off these amazing shows that are just very theatrical and impressive. Although, I do not like the way she uses so much of her sexuality to sell her music and some of the messages she sends across to her fans are sometimes not the most healthy.
Justin Bieber? He’s a hardworking young man who is very talented. Well done to him for having so much success. I think people like to use Justin Bieber as a punching bag, but truthfully, his target market is young girls and teenagers, so who cares if he doesn’t appeal to most adults? If I was 12 I’d probably be crazy over him too (maybe)! Haha.
Rihanna? I think Rihanna is talented and very beautiful. She makes really catchy music. But once again I do not think she should flaunt her sexuality and use that to sell records as much as she does. I heard that she was doing a photoshoot in a farmers’ field one day, and the farmer was OK with it. But then she proceeded to take off her clothes, wearing nothing else but a bikini, and the farmer kicked her and her crew off his land because he did not approve of how much skin she was showing! Kudos to the farmer! Haha. I think the reason why young girls are so obssessed with their appearance, and have eating disorders, or want to have plastic surgery, is because society has too narrow a view of what is ‘beautiful’ and sex is used to sell everything from music to burgers! I must admit that I have been a victim to this narrow view of beauty too, and it’s not easy to shake it off because it is so pervasive and has infiltrated my psyche! Something that I have to fight each day.

Thanks Cheryl! The Sonic Reverie loves you!

Jade Diary’s EP ‘Love This Will Be Done’ is available now from her official site and ItunesMake sure you sign up for her mailing list at her official site and grab ‘A Thousand Days’ for free!


Interviewer: Simon McMurdo
Interviewee: Cheryl Lim
Photography: Caitlin Worthington


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