Rising artist Wallice on navigating young adulthood in the age of social media
The rising music artist Wallice has been dubbed by critics a “young rock star,” an “alt-pop hero” and “indie pop sensation.”
But despite her growing popularity and the momentum she has built over the past two years with hits like “Punching Bag” and “23,” Wallice is determined not to let this numbers-driven biz define her or affect the way she sets her career goals.
“It’s detrimental to me because it can be so easy to compare myself with my peers, whether it’s followers on Instagram, or monthly streams and listeners. It’s easy to fixate on the numbers and I wish I didn’t,” she told the Inquirer in a recent email interview arranged by Amplified Entertainment.
“Luckily, I have an amazing team behind me that believes in me more than I do sometimes,” the 25-year-old American added.
And sometimes, numbers are just that—numbers. But now that Wallice has started playing live shows and touring around the world, she has realized that there’s no better feeling than sharing spaces with people who appreciate her work.
“It’s hard to know how the numbers on social media translate to fans in real life. And when I play shows around the world and see people—even just a couple of them—singing along, it feels so redeeming. I forget about the numbers,” related Wallice, who has lived a “pretty lowkey life” until recently.
Wallice, whose full name is Wallice Hana Watanabe, opened for the Asian and Australian leg of the British pop-rock The 1975 band’s “At Their Very Best” world tour, which made a two-night stop in Manila earlier this May.
For the fans
“The 1975 shows were by far the biggest I have ever played. I’m so grateful to all my fans, so I always try to make time for them. I try to reply online as much as I can! At my own shows, I like to go to the merch booths and meet the fans,” said Wallice when asked how she’s dealing with the attention she has been receiving lately.
“The fanbase is growing, luckily, so I’m not sure how much longer I have to keep up,” she said.
Wallice and The 1975 are labelmates at Dirty Hit, whose roster also includes Rina Sawayama, Oscar Lang, Filipino-English star beabadoobee and London-based Filipino artist No Rome. Is she friends with any of them?
“It’s hard to say friends because lots of Dirty Hit artists live in London,” pointed out Wallice, who’s based in Los Angeles. “But I’m friendly with The 1975 and beabadoobee since I have opened for them both… I also became friends with Oscar, with whom I released a song last summer called “I’ve Never Been to LA.”
Ahead of the release of her upcoming EP, “Mr. Big Shot,” in June, Wallice dropped a new single “Best Friend”—a nostalgic, if angsty, song about friendships or friendships with romantic relationships.
“A recurrent theme in my music has been friendship… I have had a couple of falling outs with various friends throughout my life. I think it’s just part of life or growing up,” she said. “Even though that friendship might not serve you anymore, it’s still so easy to reminisce on it and miss it.”
Unlike her previous music videos, which she conceptualized, the visuals for “Best Friend” were done by a creative director. But just the same, the video’s surreal, metaphoric vibe and aesthetics seem in line with Wallice’s other concepts.
“In every video up until ‘Best Friend,’ I would say that I initially came up with the concept and worked with different directors to bring it to life. Usually, when I start writing a song, a music video concept pops in my head almost immediately… However, I was a little stumped this time around. I was a little too busy to be hands-on, so we brought in a creative director,” she said.
“Visuals are a huge part of my music. They’re so important in building a world for the song to live in,” she said.
Wallice started playing instruments at age 6 and wrote her first song in middle school. In college, Wallice, whose influences include Lana del Rey, Radiohead and Wheezer, attended The New School in New York, where she majored in jazz vocal performance. However, she decided to drop out and return to California after getting homesick and realizing that she can further her career in her hometown.
But Wallice’s training in such a technical genre still serves her well today. “My background in jazz helps me have the music theory knowledge to overcome some writing blocks I might encounter,” she said. “I studied jazz in the first place to get better in music theory and performance!”
Gen Z life
More than her technical know-how, it’s her uncanny pulse on young adulthood and the Gen Z life—the hopes, the dreams, the failures and anxieties—that endeared her to listeners. And she manages to package them in catchy, “tongue-in-cheek” and “self-effacing anthems.”
“Punching Bag,” for instance, is about falling out with friends and toxic relationships; and “23,” about dropping out of college and living with her mother amid the pandemic.
Another topic or situation unique to Zoomers is navigating adolescence or young adulthood in the age of social media. Like other people her age, Wallice admitted that she tends to “spend way too much time on her phone,” which sometimes affects her productivity.
“But I wish I didn’t… I love scrolling through TikTok and Instagram when I should be spending that time making new music or being creative. I think many people feel this way. We’re so glued to technology and we have shorter attention spans,” she said. “I hope we slowly grow away from technology, but that might just be wishful thinking.”
Indeed, while social media has its pitfalls, the opportunities it created and the impact it has made on young aspiring artists seeking platforms to showcase their works are undeniable.
“I do credit my career to the pandemic and social media. We had the free time to find new music,” she said.