Written & Designed by Masha N.
As creatives, our works are like letters, conversations to God where we express our heart to the Lord and lay it all down in front of Him. It is where we say “I am Yours Lord, Sincerely”. The beauty in being ourselves, and at the same time being God’s, is that our conversations and letters hold different stories, but still we draw to the same conclusion that we live for His glory. This is “Yours, Sincerely”, a collaborative collection with Awaken Generation, and four local Featured Musicians.
You may read the other articles here.
In this second edition, I chat with LAYYI, a local Singer-Songwriter who’s song, “Hey Love”, inspired this next design!
Hello Layyi! Could you share a bit more about yourself?
Hello! I’m LAYYI, a local singer-songwriter. Music is really an outlet for me as much as it is a solace. So I like to write about anything that’s weighing on my heart.
That’s lovely to hear! How did you get into music and what do you think of it as a Christian?
I never thought of myself as musically extraordinary. However, music has been part of my childhood as my mother and her side of the family are all music/arts-oriented people, so I grew up with singing and instruments in the house. When I got saved at 12-13 years old, it seemed that playing the guitar and singing was a common thing so that’s when I started picking it up more seriously so that I could feel part of the community and join them in their jamming sessions. Soon after I also began leading worship in cell group, the youth ministry and then in the main services as well, so I guess music has stuck with me for a long time.
To me, music is an intimate and faithful friend - it has been there for me when I needed comfort, entertainment, distraction, expression and grief. It knows me in those places, and it always knows what to say. I take in the strength, comfort, insight, while it gives me space for expression. It’s a friend that always understands me and always gives me a voice. Especially in a worship setting, it aligns me, teaches me, reminds me, holds me and gives me permission to express my heart towards God even when I don’t have the words to express them.
Images by TCCO Awaken Generation
Though I don’t think writing Christian Music has shaped me. In fact, when I write, I think it's the opposite. I let the Word and what I know of God shape me, and then I write what becomes a by-product of being shaped by God. However, when I started releasing music and became more aware of how my music is impacting others, I did think deeper about my responsibility as a songwriter. For example, what I’m putting in people’s mouths to sing, what purpose I serve in the industry, and allowing myself to be moulded, guided & used along the way while I also learn to surrender control. As much as I take my responsibility seriously, my tendency is to overthink, take control and be paralyzed by my fears and inadequacies. So I feel like just learning step by step along the way, not taking myself too seriously has liberated me to be the person that God’s made me or at least has led me closer to that.
Do you feel that the arts are important as Christians?
I do think it’s important in general. I feel like the arts help put language to issues and ideas that would speak to the heart and not just the mind. We often want to communicate our truth to people, and they’re often hard to receive when packaged in the limited languages that we have - especially if we’re communicating it with people of opposing views. In a world where we don’t have all the answers, we don’t always know black and white, unfortunately. But if we’re able to help people catch the beauty of what we see and know, in a heart language that reaches them on a personal level, wouldn’t hearts be open to whatever created that beautiful thing?
For example, we might say that pre-believers don’t know what worship is, but if you were to see them at a Coldplay concert or any concert of their favourite artists, you see them lift their hands and dance around and shout their names. They do it instinctively, naturally because they’ve beheld a beautiful thing and it causes them to lose themselves in wonder. I believe the arts have the power to showcase such beauty, and may we use these tools in our hands to create beautiful things, that even without knowing, people begin to throw their metaphorical hands up and worship the Most Beautiful One - the Creator and source of all beauty.
Such a powerful statement! Could you now share more about how “Hey Love” came about?
I had come up with this chord progression casually playing the guitar one day, and I had it for a long time. I always thought it sounded/felt familiar and I must have heard it from somewhere to have played it so naturally on the guitar, but for years, I couldn’t find a song that sounded exactly like this one. I also always knew that it had a message but I also had no words for it for some time. When I decided to put pen to paper and write something for it, for some reason I had a very specific scenario/story in my head:
Image by Shawn Lee (@LEESHWN101 on Instagram)
In my imagination, I was on a stage with a crowd below the stage. I was sitting on a chair with my guitar and the person hosting a show asked me to sing a song for someone. In that moment, I saw a girl in a crowd whom I somehow knew was lost, broken, have ran away in her heart and nobody knows. I then call her up to the stage and imagined singing to this girl - and the first verse of the song was what came out of my mouth in real life.
It was on the last day of 2020 that I finished the song - I was at a friend’s place where they had a music room. I reflected on my year and my life in general and the 2nd verse and chorus came about. When I went home, I meditated on what I’d written for a few minutes and just started singing, and just sang the last verse out. Interestingly, even though I wrote it imagining that I was singing this for someone else, when I finished the song I realised that it was God singing this to me. He was the one with the guitar calling out a lost girl like me and these were His words to me. ‘Til this day I would say that this is the song of my life - the proudest song I've written and one that always realigns me and brings me home.
I think the whole 2nd Verse really hits home for me. It says:
2nd Verse (for reference):
I see you trying to be heard,
Ain’t it hard to keep that up?
Have you slowly lost your way
As you have veered your gaze
But don’t you wander now
But child, I’ll always be near,
I’ve been orphan-hearted for a long time (I’d argue I still am overcoming this), and there was a season of my life where there was more defensiveness, strife, proving others wrong, proving myself right, just, trying so hard. But in the end, I lose myself - that happens in both little ways and big ways. This verse reminds me of my tendencies, of having my eyes fixed on the wrong things, yet it reminds me that no matter how far I wander off, God is still near me. In His mercy, He brings me home to me.
What’s one memorable moment as you put together this song?
There was much great feedback for this song but I remember a specific comment that someone said was, “I love how this song speaks to my life and somehow the parts that I have failed.”. Another incredible moment for me is when the song hit 10k. I was only asking God for 5k but when it hit 10k, and literally a 100 fold later again at 500k - my heart was blown into pieces. God blows me away all the time.
As you know, this collection is a part of a collaboration with Awaken Generation! What did you think as we approached you?
A few thoughts came to mind actually. I do feel that Christian musicians/artists should lock shields and support one another. I find it a rarity to see strong Christians in the music industry and the journey can be a little lonely. If we could hold each other up in this journey, I think we’ll be able to see something incredible happen. I also have known TCCO to be well-known amongst Christians for their products (some of my friends get birthday gifts from there) and I am also a very blessed and thankful alumna of Awaken Generation who’s helped me hone my craft and given me such grace to grow as a songwriter. So I’d like to continue to show my support!
The goal of this is ultimately, to inspire the next generation of creatives, so what is some advice you would give to them?
Firstly, set your “why” straight, because I think someone who knows their “why” can bear almost any “how”. Secondly, I would say, embark on this honest journey with yourself and with God about your definition of “success”, or else you’d be swept away by everyone else’s definition of success. And if you’re not honest about what you’re really looking for and work that out with God, you’ll forever feel like you’ve not “made it”. The key is to be honest. (FYI, i do think that it’s not wrong to want to be a famous pop star if that’s what you really want with the purest intentions, and you feel like God is calling you. But each individual must wrestle with God about this and be sure about it.)
Lastly, don’t separate the heart of worship from the act of worship. Or we’ll end up making “spiritual”, “noble” sounding excuses of why our music is not as excellent as it can be. We understand that God sees the heart and not our works, we understand that worship is beyond what’s on the outside. But Abel in the bible was a skilled shepherd, and brought the firstborn of his lambs - the best Abel had to give. Therefore it was acceptable in the Lord’s sight. Our heart of worship translates into action, it seeps into our way of life, our way of thinking. Abel’s heart of worship was shown in his sacrifices. In the same way with our craft, may we strife only to give God the best we can give and let there be no excuse. For this is our acceptable worship.
Image on left by Jing Zhe (@LOL.KAYZ on Instagram), Image on right by Ashley Matthew Teo
I would say start with your church community. Even though I’ve always been exposed to a relatively musical environment growing up, a big part of how I really stepped into music was because of the church community I was in. If you belong to a cell group, maybe ask someone who can teach you how to play an instrument. Once you have a skillset, you can start exploring other programs like CCAs in school to participate in more music-related activities, with another community. It’s always easier to start in community because you have people of similar interests who will run with you and support you. Of course, YouTube tutorials, constant listening to good music and individual practice will/should also be in the picture.
What do you think the future would be like for Christian creatives?
I definitely feel like there will be more original worship music from Singapore. We see institutions like Awaken Generation leading the way and many churches (now even the smaller churches) are writing songs and releasing EPs and Albums. I see more Christian individuals posting up their own original christian songs on their social medias, so i do think that in this trajectory we’re going to hear more and more original worship songs in the nation. In 5-10 years i can see Singapore finding her “sound” in terms of worship music and possibly having a few that would mark us by then.
Hearing LAYYI’s story, I’m reminded of times I too have lost sight on the “whys” in the creative work that I do, times that I depend on myself and my own strength rather than the strength of the Father. As her song so clearly says, “I’ll always be near.” So let us remind ourselves each time the sun falls shy behind the mountains and we can’t see the way, that He knows the way, and will take our hand and walk every step with us.
Image from LAYYI
LAYYI continues to grow in her music today, with exciting releases upcoming such as a remixed version of her song “lonely” done with an artist from Kota Kinabalu, whose verse really ties the theme of “loneliness” in with our humanity. Coming soon also is a new Single release titled “SUPERHUMAN”, which is about not putting anyone too high up on a pedestal that we forget that everyone is human. “It keeps me in check and realigns me to my humanity”, she shares. There will be a campaign following this as well, getting people to use the hashtag #aintnosuperhuman, and the song to talk about a struggle they have, to remind people on the internet that no one is perfect and how we should all be more empathetic towards one another. It hits platforms in MONTH this year, so do join LAYYI in the campaign as the song is released! For more updates on LAYYI, you may follow her at LAYYI on Spotify and on YouTube, as well as @estherlo96 on IG, where there is a link in her bio for those who’d like to sow into her music journey. Lastly of course, you can also support her and future musicians through the sales of the T-shirts and Keychains sold as a part of this collaborative collection.
- What is the “why” for what I do, in my current season?
- How have I been seeking His will for me?
- What can I do to support others in their walks?