Coming up in a family of musically inclined individuals, it was no surprise when Diandian fell in love with the arts. However, her mind works wonders as it balances both the sounds of the cello with the intricate ways of engineering. We talked about how those two worlds come together for her, current music inspirations, her latest singles, and how they connect to the places she’s called home.
Kendra: Cellists are musicians you come across every day, was that part of the reason you wanted to learn it? And when did you decide to start down that path and take lessons?
Diandian: Growing up in a family of classical musicians, I was always surrounded by beautiful music. I was always intrigued by the cello and would spend hours watching Yo Yo Ma’s Dvorak cello concerto and Rococo Variations. I was absolutely obsessed with the rich, deep, and versatile tone of the cello; it sounded both mysterious and yet relatable, almost like a human voice.
My mom made sure that cello was something I truly wanted. She refused to let me play, and I begged for years. Finally, on my ninth birthday, she tied a red ribbon and hid the cello under our Christmas tree…it was the most life-changing gift I had ever received.
From there, she coached me through the years…mostly from age nine to high school. As I began to learn more about music and what it meant for my family; it was the thread that helped my parents integrate into American culture when they first immigrated to the states; it made me love the instrument even more.
Kendra: Back in the day, Vh1 had this big campaign called ‘Save the Music’ that really pushed that playing music helped with math and science. Being that you’re an engineer on top of a seasoned musician, how do you feel the two worlds coincided for you?
Diandian: I feel that having experience in both the arts and engineering has allowed me to deep dive into the creative process with a logical, problem-solving approach. Sometimes when I don’t get something in engineering, I use creative frameworks in art to reframe the problem. Or if my music just isn’t working out, I take an engineering framework to re-approach the piece.
Fingers crossed that I continue to see parallels between the arts and sciences!
Kendra: Well, they’re working out very well together. You’ve performed at some of the most notable venues and now you have your debut out and about. “I’m Still Me” gave me Owl City vibes, a very soft, melody-driven song. Do you have any mainstream influences like that?
Diandian: It’s a big compliment for me that you thought of Owl City! I absolutely loved their music growing up. I am very influenced by dream-pop artists, as well as artists from all genres. An artist I’ve been crushing on is Doja Cat; I love her bright and bold music. She is an incredible female artist that inspires me to speak up and express myself in bold and original ways, and some Asian American artists/producers I also adore are BIBI, Shawn Wasabi, and Olivia Rodrigo.
Kendra: What inspired you to pen “I’m Still Mi?”
Diandian: “I’m Still Mi” was inspired by feelings of nostalgia and change in my own life. It’s about the innocence and nostalgia of childhood love. When I wrote the song, I imagined two characters who grew up together, fell in love, then grew apart. Years later, they cross paths again. Even though everything has changed, the protagonist wants to share that she’s still the same person at her core.
Kendra: That’s not the only song available right now you also have “Rendering.” As someone who’s spent time living in both LA and the Bay Area, do you feel each of these two somehow represents those cities in their own way, or do they lean more towards one over the other?
Diandian: Great question. Both pieces don’t really directly capture my lived experiences; they more so paint portraits of the places and spaces I’ve seen.
I think “Rendering” was written to capture the high-energy, wild feelings of young adulthood and being free. The energy reflects the busy bars, parties, and nightclubs my friends and I stumbled across in San Francisco during my college days. While “I’m Still Mi” is meant to capture the more quiet and reflective periods of life, representing a ‘Moonrise Kingdom-esque’ portrait of someone who is ready to settle down.
Kendra: On top of everything you have going on, you also find time to model. Was that something that you’d been eyeing to do since you were younger?
Diandian: Yes! I always adored watching ‘America’s Next Top Model’ and loved how modeling allows people to paint a story through a picture. Fashion and beauty can be very empowering; entering the modeling space has taught me to embrace my unique features and to express myself freely.
Kendra: Now on a side note, my favorite holiday is Easter only because of the candy. Truly. So with that happening this month, I’d like to know what album that you absolutely adore and treat would you love to find in your holiday basket?
Diandian: I’ve recently been OBSESSED with Tate McRae. My goodness, she has a voice of pure silk. I’ve listened to “she’s all I wanna be” 100x in the past two weeks.
As for candy, it has to be Reese’s pieces. I’m a sucker for peanut butter!
Kendra: Lastly, with two singles out now – what’s the plan as we keep trucking through 2022?
Diandian: I’m excited to be performing at the Getty Center in April, LAX, and the National Gallery of Art in June, and at the Jazztrax Festival in Catalina Island in October! In addition, I’m working on another EP to be released in May/June 2022.