An Interview with Lotus Flow - 8/4/2023
Interview by Claire Liu - Illinois, USA
Earlier this month, we had the privilege of speaking with song-writer and music producer Lotus Flow. Real name Ou Yang, Lotus Flow is an LA-based artist originally from Shenzhen, China. She’s experienced and well-versed with a wide variety of genres, from jazz to EDM, and has incorporated her skill with these distinct sounds into her production quality. However, she describes her initial musical roots as grounded in classical piano.
“I started learning piano when I was 5 and that’s why I grew up with that genre. Like a lot of kids, I practiced piano everyday so that’s in my DNA,” Lotus Flow said. “When I got into high school I really thought about my future career and I think music is definitely my first priority.”
Once committing to a future in music, Lotus Flow dropped out of her high school in Shenzhen at 15 and moved to Beijing with her mother where she enrolled in composition, harmony, and jazz classes. She conveyed strong gratitude for her parents’ support during this period. “They trusted me without any words, they just said ‘okay, so what city do you want to move to so we can move with you?’” She recalled. Her parents’ unconditional support motivated her to overcome a hectic schedule, moving back and forth between the cities to fulfill her school exams, music classes, and US college application requirements. This journey led to her enrollment at the Berklee College of Music.
While she initially entered as a film composition major, Lotus Flow was soon exposed to a multitude of genres at the college. “After I got into Berklee I started to get access to different genres like electronic, jazz, contemporary, pop, R and B, that’s why I feel like I’m lucky that I have a lot of those different genre experiences which made me become a multi-genre producer right now,” Lotus Flow stated. After gaining experience as a keyboardist, producer, and synth bass player for numerous bands in college, Lotus Flow ultimately chose to major in sound design where she became familiar with signal flow and music programming.
Her exposure to such a wide variety of genres has since proved instrumental in her music production process as she incorporates her experiences and admiration of various genres and artists into creating a fresh sound. “I got inspiration from a lot of artists from a lot of different genres. That’s my strength I think, because they can always hear something new from what I do,” Lotus Flow said. She particularly cited artists Tinashe and Fredagain as sources of inspiration for her. This consistent journey of inspiration and learning has become a critical part of Lotus Flow’s musical identity. “I think that’s part of my personality, I’m just curious about a lot of things that I don’t know,” Lotus Flow stated. She especially highlighted the potential to learn from everyone around her, stating, “different musicians, different producers, they hear things differently, they think things differently.”
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Lotus Flow chose to take a gap year from her education and move back to China where she signed with her company, Universal Music Publishing Group, in 2021. She described this opportunity as serendipitous as she had been introduced by a friend to their artist and relations team. At the time, her musical experience was largely grounded in work with indie bands and electronic underground groups. Nevertheless, she was quickly entranced by the speed, fresh quality, and urban sound of pop music. “After I met a lot of pop musicians, I realized those people are very interesting and I’m a very open minded person so after I met all of them I wanted to learn from them,” Lotus Flow recalled.
During this time, she also faced many challenges and gained new experiences through her attendance at writing camps. “The writing camp I attended [was] ‘She is the Music’ hosted by Alicia Keys and Universal Music. So I was invited as a producer and songwriter in that session but actually I didn’t attend any writing session before, I’d never really co-written with any other professional musicians at that point,” Lotus Flow said. Despite experiencing some imposter syndrome, she felt driven to work hard and learn from the environment she was in. Soon, she created a song that accrued great popularity in the company, an experience she defines as instrumental to her growth in confidence.
In 2022, she returned to the U.S. to finish her degree and ultimately relocated to Los Angeles where she began delving into the U.S. music industry. Some of her most favorite recent projects include her work on “Juliet” with AleXa and “Best U Had” with Gloria Kim because of the smooth back and forth ideation process she experienced working on both projects. When choosing projects, Lotus Flow highlighted the importance of creative space. “I’m pretty open to any project that is great… projects that are open to musicians that create something fresh, those projects are really my favorites,” Lotus Flow said.
Regarding her biggest successes and challenges of her career so far, Lotus Flow identified struggling to balance the business and artistic sides of the music industry as her largest challenge so far. When asked to identify her largest success, Lotus Flow stated, “I don’t think I’ve had the biggest success yet… The success I want is I can really have the voice to inspire younger people that they can pursue what they want.” Providing support for passionate musicians is especially important to Lotus Flow as she recalls the immense support her parents provided her and the impact that had on her own journey as a producer. “For me, if I didn’t have any support when I was young, being a female producer would be impossible if I didn’t have a lot of those resources and education… I want to deliver that, more opportunities for people who want to do this,” Lotus Flow said.
Lotus Flow also identified a lack of support and resources as a key aspect of the gender identity power imbalance in the music producing industry. “I didn’t really realize this is a male dominated industry before I got into the industry. When I was in college, I didn’t realize that… There were a lot of female musicians in school. But after I got into the industry, those people disappeared…” Lotus Flow said. “You have to get a lot of resources to become very successful and for a lot of people, there’s a boundary.”
In her own experience, Lotus Flow expressed often feeling alone when she was the only woman in the studio. “Whenever you speak… They ignore it. There’s like a wall… Those are just not good sessions… It’s sad but it’s the truth,” Lotus Flow recalled. She regularly encountered the sentiment that having a female producer was a “rare” or “fresh” sight. This increased the pressure she experienced as most first impressions became a test of her abilities and work. However, she highlighted that over time, through her work she became accepted and built her own strength and reputation in the industry.
Lotus Flow also emphasized the importance of supporting women in the music producing industry. “I try my best to connect to some very talented female producers and try to find a community,” Lotus Flow said. She particularly recognized that despite knowing many female instrumentalists and songwriters, many of them felt deterred by the programming and engineering aspects of producing and assumed that they were not suited for technical work. Thus, she particularly wants to encourage them and other young women to try it out and seek out resources on the internet to learn more. “It’s not that hard, you gotta just try and you’ll probably be good at it. I know some girls they just assume about themselves, they’re not gonna touch it because those look very insane but I just want to tell them it’s really not that hard if you really look at it and try to figure it out… Treat them as a product and you can use those products to create the music you want,” Lotus Flow stated. “90% of the knowledge is on YouTube. People just need to know what they want to search… It just takes time.”
Ultimately, Lotus Flow continuously emphasized the importance of practice and learning for aspiring musicians and producers. “Keep learning everyday, try to make music everyday,” Lotus Flow recommended. While she acknowledged the often tedious process this entails, she also expressed the necessity of such practices for growth and improvement. “Those journeys [are] actually amazing. You can see the outcome at the end,” Lotus Flow said. As her own journey progresses, we look forward to following the projects Lotus Flow continues to create and inspire in the future.
This or That with Lotus Flow:
1. Books or movies? - Movies (love “punch your face” Tarantino films, especially Kill Bill)
2. Winter or summer? - Boston winters and LA summers
3. Singing or dancing? - Singing
4. Cake or pie? - Cake (ice cream is better!)
5. Chocolate or vanilla? - Vanilla
Connect and follow Lotus Flow at the following links:
Lotus Flow Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lotusflow__/
Lotus Flow Twitter: https://twitter.com/prodbylotusflow
Lotus Flow Website: https://www.lotusflowstudio.com/
Check out our previous feature with Lotus Flow and WD: https://www.projectsaid.org/post/juliet-feature-w-lotus-flow-and-wd-7-4-2023