“Higher Ground” by Alternate Jane

Taking inspiration from her life as a doctor and musician during the 2020 pandemic, Alternate Jane has put out her new single, “Higher Ground.” She is a fierce multi-instrumentalist, taking the industry by storm through her music, writing, and production.

The single “Higher Ground” was created from two musicians who would have never met if not for the internet. Malaysian based singer Alternate Jane worked with her producer from the Netherlands Melvin Rijlaarsdam. Alternate Jane’s confidence to embrace a sound that uniquely hers will allow her to garner more like-minded fans and break the molds made previously.

Alternate Jane’s Animated Music Video for the single “Higher Ground” – watch now!

I had the pleasure to talk to Alternate Jane about her new single, what success means to her, and more!

Q&A with Alternate Jane

Q: How has your year been so far? Any highlights?

ALTERNATE JANE: Thanks for having me here! The year has been productive so far, with things running smoothly again post-pandemic. Travelling and concerts are allowed again, so the highlight of this year was my trip to neighbouring country Singapore to attend Mamamoo’s concert (Korean pop girl group) and Westlife’s concert in Malaysia. I’ve also found the right rhythm to balance music with my medical career due to better working hours after the pandemic.

Q: What originally inspired you to become an artist/begin songwriting?

ALTERNATE JANE: I started off as a non-fiction writer who dabbles in poetry occasionally. Combining music with the words I’ve written was an unexpected decision, influenced by my experience of joining my high school choir. I ended up in the choir as I wasn’t selected to be in the school editorial board, which turned out to be an interesting turn of event. We used to experiment with song ad libs and I enjoyed it a lot, so I decided to write songs as a result of this. Early on, I wrote songs inspired by movies or TV series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was an experience I treasured and eventually brought into the making of “Higher Ground”.

Q: Can you talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your music career?

ALTERNATE JANE: Yes, unfortunately the Covid-19 pandemic has done something big to everyone including myself – it took away precious time to do more leisurely soul searching and expand on our passion projects as we were living on an “activity on necessity basis only” kind of policy. But interestingly, it also put a spotlight on healthcare workers – previously a group of unsung heroes – and steered my career in another direction. I had to take a hiatus from music and soon found myself running a quarantine centre, improving my nasal swab skills, conducting mobile Covid-19 assessment centres with a small team in a van, discovering the virtues of teleconsultation during the Covid-19 pandemic for interacting with quarantined patients, and so on. I truly felt like I got to experience what I was trained to do all this while as a medical doctor, but I wouldn’t wanna go through another pandemic in my lifetime if possible. However, I continued to write songs during my small pockets of free time and try out remote production and recording, which was a blessing in disguise during the pandemic as it expanded my music network globally.

Q: You’ve wYou’ve got your new single, “Higher Ground” out now. Could you expand on the themes that inspired this song?

ALTERNATE JANE: I was inspired to write “Higher Ground” after watching Project Inferno, a YouTube-based web series. The series is based on the themes of newfound power and awakening under mysterious circumstances, with some romance in it. Back then, I naively sent the demo to the creator and didn’t hear back from her, which was to be expected as the song was still in its unpolished form. I eventually completed different studio versions of the song, the latest of which is the one worked on with producer Melvin Rijlaarsdam as it fits the cinematic and OST vibe very well. During the production of the song, I was heavily inspired by James Bond films, mystery genre movies and series, as well as video game soundtracks as they carry a good mix of suspense and excitement. The songs that “Higher Ground” was inspired by the most were “The World is Not Enough” by Garbage and the James Bond instrumental theme song.

Q: You worked on this song remotely with Netherlands-based producer Melvin Rijlaarsdam, do you have stories from the recording process?

ALTERNATE JANE: I ended up trying out remote production and recording as I was unable to continue working with my previous producers for “Confidence” and “Skype Love”, both freelancers whose main careers are not in music. They decided to pursue other ventures at the time, so I started looking around for a producer to help bring my new songs to life. For a period of time I was either turned down by local producers or set back by budget constraint in some cases, and a chance encounter of an advertisement for the music creation platform SoundBetter led me to rethinking the mode of production of physical vs. remote. Once this mental barrier was crossed, I was able to appreciate the vast benefits granted by remote production – being able to work with musicians and producers from all over the world is an amazing thing.

From working with the talented multi-instrumentalist producer Melvin Rijlaarsdam from Netherlands, I also discovered my own passion for music production and arrangement. It’s something I hope to continue doing, whether on a smaller scale or at a major recording label if that’s what the future holds for me. “Higher Ground” was the first studio track which I recorded my vocals at home, to combine with the instrumental track Melvin has made, which was a fun experience as I got to try out my friend’s suggestion of using wardrobe clothing as sound insulation.

Q: What message are you hoping listeners take away from “Higher Ground?”

ALTERNATE JANE: The song in essence is about feeling alive again and having the courage to take a leap of faith after going through hardship, through the introduction of a new and mysterious person in one’s life. It was this curiosity and keenness to believe that I wanted to capture in the song. This song is about encouraging the listeners to let their guard down every now and then to live a fuller life. The thrill and cinematic vibe of the song also adds to the sense of wonder and inspires people to go out there and travel or embark on an adventure.

Q: What advice would you give to your younger self or young songwriters aspiring for a career in the music industry?

ALTERNATE JANE: If I had a chance to meet my younger self, I would tell her not to be too hard on herself and to embrace her talents more. I would advise my younger self to check out more opportunities to audition at various projects and to develop and promote her YouTube channel more. For young songwriters out there, I would encourage you not to give up on your craft despite any early criticisms. Listen to a variety of music to broaden your music range to become a more versatile songwriter. Know about current trends, work on marketing and networking as these are important aspects of how to gain the most for your work.

Q: What artists have you been listening to lately? Any recommendations?

ALTERNATE JANE: I’ve been listening to two ballads from a contrasting perspective, the piano-driven “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi and the guitar-based “Someone You Hate” by Sasha Alex Sloan. I discovered these two songs coincidentally and found the similarity in their song titles interesting, yet being sung from opposite perspectives. I recommend both artists as they are gems who make songs with depth in a sea of light-hearted, overly polished bops out there. On the other side of the globe, I discovered Korean Pop (KPop) music in December 2022 while I was quarantined due to Covid-19 infection. I guess I’m pretty late to the Korean Pop music scene compared to my peers in Malaysia. I wanted to connect more with music related to my Asian roots, so I found KPop to be an interesting intersection of modern Western-influenced pop music meeting Asian culture and lyrics. I’ve been listening to the girl groups Mamamoo and IVE, understanding the dynamics of singing in a group versus being a solo artist. I also appreciate the differences in their style and enjoy watching the trajectory of both groups as the former is a powerhouse veteran group and the latter, an up and coming group.

Q: What does success as a musician and songwriter mean to you?

ALTERNATE JANE: Success as a musician and songwriter to me means being able to challenge oneself in songwriting style and genre without having to worry about external pressure, being able to collaborate with any artist of one’s choice, having unlimited access to resources for music making and a supportive team to work with, having a steady stream of projects or endorsements for healthy income generation, and gaining possible accolades and recognition for one’s work as a motivation to do better. When starting out, musicians often find it very hard to generate income for their work apart from the occasional gig, teaching music or session musician work. So it would be really great to be able to contribute songs for other artists or make it as a solo artist, without having to worry about bills or food.

Q: What are some of your goals – whether musically or otherwise – for 2023?

ALTERNATE JANE: Musically, I plan to release at least one more original song this year, record a few cover songs and try writing new material in the contemporary pop genre. It’s a genre I’ve always casually liked but never tried writing a song in before. It would be pretty exciting to do a collaboration or contribute as a songwriter for other artists too. Meanwhile, I’m also learning Korean as part of my New Year’s resolutions this year, which could come in handy with songwriting. I’ve always wanted to further my studies, but a postgraduate degree is more time-consuming and expensive to pursue at the moment. So a language course keeps me energized and excited to learn on a weekly basis. I’ll hopefully know how to communicate with the locals when I visit Korea next time, and say hi to my fans if I ever meet them there

Reviewed & Interviewed by Katie Power

Photo by Alexandra Radu





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