Tu Ha An - Dreamlike & Multicultural Illustration

Creation story: Ju_Lien - The indefinable link between community and music career

This article and interview were produced jointly with Jo, my editor-in-chief.

Creation stories” is a rendez-vous, for each season of the year, I will meet a creator and record his or her story. Creating can either be the main job of our guests, one of their jobs, or just a pure hobby.

With this series of creation stories, I hope to break the clichés that widen the gap between public’s vision of creative professions and reality.

Summer guest: Ju_Lien

This article will be a breath of fresh air for our summer days, as we meet an artist whose universe is completely different from the cuteness we’re used to seeing on this blog.

Ju_Lien is a Swiss musician who creates everything solo. His music are expressive, often dark, mixed with melancholy. 

3 years ago, I met Ju_Lien through Instagram. Enthusiastic, creative and generous, Ju_Lien quickly agreed to compose custom sounds for several of my video projects.

Despite the geographical distance and differences between our worlds, Ju_Lien possesses an exceptional versatility that enables him to create sounds distinct from his usual style. His musical contribution to projects such as the short film Ça ira (Everything will be ok) and his cover of the children’s song The week of the music testify his artistic ingenuity.

Over the past three years, on social networks, especially Instagram, Ju_Lien has gone through an active phase filled with motivating content sharing, followed by a sudden pause, before a more measured return.

Today, Ju_Lien agreed to talk to us about the link with the community we’re creating, the parasocial link that’s hard to pin down.

We’ll also discover the mentality that allows him to pursue his creativity while juggling his music career with a traditional job, without leaving aside his presence on social networks, even with what could be described as a “modest” number of subscribers. Naturally, in this interview, we’ll be exploring the meaning of the term “modest” in detail.

The bubble of a soloist who loves to share

The musician at heart

Tu Ha An (An) : How do you present yourself as an artist?

Ju_Lien: I’m Ju_Lien, singer-songwriter. I do everything solo.

My universe is quite varied. I compose according to the emotions that come to me. One day I might be creating electro, another day rock, or yet another day a ballad.

My aim is to convey something strong and vibrant within me. I have an idea, it comes to me, and I work on it until it sounds the way it does in my head.

Source : Ju_Lien’s Spotify page

An: How long have you been making music professionally?

Ju_Lien: I started putting together my first bands in 2003.

Introvert Ju_Lien or extrovert Ju_Lien?

An: I have the impression that you have an artist’s side that creates in its own bubble and needs to have its own flow. It’s a lot like introverts who gain energy when they’re alone.

But you’re also very good at reaching out to people, contacting them directly by message, and hosting Instagram lives and concerts, which sounds a lot like the way extroverts work…

Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?

Ju_Lien: *laugh* I’d say I see myself as an extrovert, in a shy person’s shoes…

I want to be daring because I tell myself there’s nothing to lose.

It’s true that we put up a lot of barriers in relation to actions and people. Whereas in front of us, it’s just a human being with whom we share, who has feelings and ways to understanding things. So, if I have a message to get across, I present it, and then we talk. I feel like opening up!

There’s also this introverted side, because when I compose, I’m really face to face with myself, with the vibe. And I focus on capturing what’s essential.

Once that’s been captured and put down, it’s the role of Ju_Lien the extrovert to go ahead and blow things up, to share everything to the full!

But frankly, I prefer to be extroverted.

Managing a community as a “small” creator

“My community supports me because we all are similar and we find each other.”

An: These days, numbers are becoming very important on social networks: the number of followers, the number of shares, the number of likes…

We’re in an age where a million subscribers on YouTube has become commonplace. With influencers flourishing on Instagram, we often see accounts with 100,000 subscribers all the way up to 500,000 or even a million.

By social standards, your subscriber count may seem tiny.

But in 2022, with 550 followers, you managed to raise 150€, twice, for two different associations, Rêves Suisses (Swiss Dreams) and the Association de tricot pour prématuré Ville laine (Knitting association for premature babies Ville laine).

How did you build such a committed and close-knit community?

Ju_Lien: At first, I came to Instagram because a friend told me it could be an interesting way of getting my music out there.

I was a bit reluctant because I wasn’t really into the image side. But then I got into it and found that it really helped me make connections.

To answer your question: people kind of joined in as you went along. It’s clear that when you publish a post and promote it so that more people see it in stories, it helps a lot.

I think the people in my community support me because, in a way, we’re similar and we find each other. I’m sincere and authentic, I don’t try to play anything, I just let things out as they come.

As time went by, I was able to build my brand, my logo, and then my merchandising online store. I give people gift vouchers so they can buy clothes and goodies from my store. It’s also my way of thanking them.

But I didn’t necessarily think about how to grow my brand.

I just got on Instagram and posted what I felt like. Then I took a break. Then I came back.

And now, I live more with the music, I do more Instagram live when I’m composing, so that there’s an exchange, in fact. That’s what I like.

Sources: Left: Ju_Lien’s Instagram account; center: the artist’s €150 donation to the Rêves Suisse association, thanks to the participation of his community; right: Ju_Lien’s Spreadshirt store.

One community = one responsibility

An: When you first started out, you were very active on Instagram. You posted several times a day, you did a lot of stories. It’s a practice that is now encouraged by the algorithm and fully applied by many creators.

Then you took a sudden break before coming back.

Would you be willing to share that period with us, and tell us what made you stop, and what reflections you drew from that experience?

Ju_Lien: It was July 2022. I’d released my second album, I was in the process of preparing the third with fifteen tracks already on it, and I’d shot The F__king Sound video.

Basically, I want to help everyone. The problem comes when you start to have a lot of people following you. All of a sudden, there’s a mass of information to capture, understand and share. And that was a lot.

It’s not easy to manage all that, on top of the content to post, and the work.

There were young people, aged between 12 and 15, who wrote to me: “I’m in love with you”, and that’s not possible!

These are signs that I need to keep my distance. And I had my nose so far up my sleeve when I was on Instagram the first time that I didn’t have that safe distance, which led to an overflowing.

I was also thinking a lot about the image. I can see that Ju_Lien has an artist side, and a “product” side too. And each side has its own way of sharing. This break has allowed me to step back and really understand how things work.

Social networks are tools that you have to know how to use. In a way, I wanted people to be interested in my music, no matter how I am.

I feel ultra-responsible for my content: about how I share it and how it’s received.

It’s important to me to share in order to make others feel good. And there were a lot of problems and thoughts running through my head. I just wasn’t ready.

“It’s not necessarily the number I’m looking for!”

An: And when you talk about helping people, do you mean “helping people with your music” or was there something else you were doing at the time?

Ju_Lien: It’s mainly helping out with the music.

After that, it’s just talking to people. Sometimes, with certain people, we call each other, and I’m there to support them.

But when you have five people you listen to, it’s easier than when you have 200.

I’d rather have my number of subscribers and have as much interaction, than have 10,000 subscribers, 100 views and no sharing. It’s not necessarily the numbers I’m looking for, but it’s more the exchange.

An: It’s true that people who start out on social networks are often afraid of getting haters.

But all you have to do is get started and you realize that, at first, you’re going to face silence. You share things that are close to your heart, and there’s no one there to receive it.

Even if from an outsider’s point of view, your number of subscribers may seem small, you’ve still created the On_Fire team! Which is really present, and like a hard core, and that’s remarkable.

Ju_Lien: I’ve got the On_Fire team!  Who are always there. It’s huge! I’m really proud of everything we share.

Parallel lives: “It’s shared in little bubbles, but it all comes together.”

An: As I understand, you lead two parallel lives: your life as an artist, and another more conventional life on the side.

How would you define it: more alimentary or more complementary?

Ju_Lien: On the side, I have a full-time job. But music is my real passion. I need to escape.

When I compose, I forget everything and really concentrate on what I want to convey. My work is just alimentary.

Photo credit: Valérie Surchat

An: You juggle between several roles in the music business, and between alimentary work and artistic work, not forgetting the role of cat owner.

How do you manage the balance between your professional life, including artistic creation and full-time job, and your personal life, between parasocial and real-life relationships?

Ju_Lien: When I’m at work, I’m at work, but I’ve got headphones on all the time and I listen to the compositions I’m doing to see what I could change.

I’m really into music whenever I’ve got free time at work, at lunchtime for example.

After that, when I’m with my friends, I’m with them… It’s shared in little bubbles, but it all comes together.

An: I remember you once said that you didn’t want your colleagues at work to know that you had an artist’s life? Do you still want to keep the two separate?

Ju_Lien: Up until the beginning of this year, I’d been keeping to myself, but I’ve got colleagues who are interested in what I’m doing, so I told them that I had a new album and video coming out soon…

Now I’m more in tune. Even at work, I fully embrace my artistic side.

What if one day Ju_Lien is no longer a soloist?

“Gee, I want to carry on…”

An: Do you ever see yourself delegating?

Are you afraid that delegating will shatter your image as a soloist who does everything on his own?

Ju_Lien: I’ve had band experiences before, and they often stopped because music wasn’t everyone’s number one priority.

I completely understand that everyone has their own priorities, everyone has their own lives.

I found myself saying: “Gee, I want to carry on… “. But it depends too much on others. So I went solo.

In reality, it’s hard. Because on stage, the audience isn’t necessarily into the idea that there’s a guy with a computer, throwing sounds and singing, or playing guitar to tapes. Even me, I’ve never really seen that in concert. It’s true that when it comes to selling, it’s more appealing when you have a band.

After that, frankly, I wouldn’t say no to being surrounded by people.

Sometimes you want to have everything under control because you’re afraid to entrust your baby. But when you find the right people, your anxiety disappears. But you have to find the right people.

Delegating = letting go of the precious link?

An: Would you like to delegate parts of your business that aren’t directly related to music? For example, would you like to delegate communication?

Ju_Lien: Yes, I’d like that! Because it would also allow me to learn, as I have no training in this field…

An: Would you like to have a community manager managing your Instagram account, or would you prefer to keep that direct link with your community? We can see that you have an engaged community that’s there for you.

Ju_Lien: Right now, it’s true that if I had to cut back, it would hurt me, because there’s this bonding side, this family side, this friendship side.

I think it also depends on what I want to do and where I want to go in music. If I really want to go further, hit higher, I’d have no choice.

But right now, I like the contact. It’s also what helps me, what boosts me when I have my moments of doubt.

By the way, I’ve made a little board with photos of the On_Fire team! I keep it right next to me, so that when I’m composing, I always have an eye on the team and that makes me feel good.

Sources : Ju_Lien

The sparkle multiplied by the community

An: Are there any other music artists in your On_Fire! team?

Ju_Lien: So now I’m starting to dig a little deeper, to try and collaborate.

It’s interesting to be able to discover other artists from other countries, or even in the same country, and to be able to create together. It’s great, it’s just that… at first, you’re scared!

But then I did a collaboration with a guy on YouTube, who does metal. One day, he said to me: “If you’d like to sing, write to me and we’ll look into collaborating!” So I did a collaboration with him!

I like doing collaborations because it allows me to look for other inspirations, explore other horizons, and match up with the other person.

Right now I’m in contact with two or three Swiss artists, so we’ll see how we can set up a collaboration!

And it’s also a pleasure to tell the team to check out an artist’s profile, because it’s cool what they’re doing! That’s what sharing is all about.

Drawing of Ju_Lien that I did after the interview

You can find Ju_Lien on his Instagram, on YouTube and on Spotify

Always On_Fire & Keep creating!

Tu Ha An

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