When asked whether he would still define his music as “conscious,” referencing a Billboard interview with the artist from half a decade ago, EDEN pressed his lips into a sheepish smirk and shook his head, dismissing his response in the same way he would dismiss an awkward adolescent phase.
“That was definitely a very different time to where I feel about that,” says EDEN. “That was really like an introspective kind of time for me and how I was creating music and I was writing. I don’t know what a one-word definition would be at the moment, maybe liberated?”
While it’s not necessarily an all-encompassing term for his musical style, liberated is a perfect encapsulation of the Irish singer, songwriter and producer EDEN’s musical state of mind as an artist who refuses to be confined by a particular genre or style. Instead, he creates music that occupies a unique middle ground between genres, coalescing the bright and zesty production of EDM, the tender vocals of R&B and the infectious hooks and melodies of indie pop.
Born Jonathon Ng, the seeds for EDEN were sown during his youth as a classically trained violinist. Though EDEN never had much interest in classical music itself, his experience with performing in ensembles helped him develop a sophisticated grasp of musical composition.
“Playing in orchestras and understanding kind of the breakdown between different parts and function of chord movements under themes and how changing one element, even if it’s just a suspension in the chord this time or if it’s the chords are changed and the melody remains the same, could have monumental effects of how the music feels and how the emotions are translated,” says EDEN. “That’s something I’ve been obsessed with since I was a kid, you know, how the movement of chords underneath a melody can just be really powerful.
His foray into more modern styles of music was spurred by exploration, listening to a diverse range of artists from Lil Wayne to Skrillex to Guns & Roses all before the age of 14 and constructing a series of “really shitty techno beats” on his parents’ MacBook. Eventually, his classical and contemporary musical identities slowly, but surely, blended together.
“After maybe a year, or a couple years. I started singing on top of the electronic tracks I was producing and then I was sort of recording violin or like I would put string arrangements,” says EDEN. “In the songs and even if it wasn’t me playing it was just like a software instrument or something. So these separate things converged.”
EDEN’s dedication to the development of his craft was fueled by his fearless independence, which he attributes to his unique half-Irish, half-Hongkongese upbringing.
“I think [my ethnic identity] is something that has hugely, like moved and impacted the way I do everything in my life. Growing up, the Asian part of my heritage and I guess of myself is something that I felt almost ashamed of,” says EDEN. “I think it’s because of that, I felt very alien to the people around me. I’m very, like, very content by myself. I think it kind of, in a weird way, enabled me to have confidence to just do shit by myself, whether that was finding music I liked on the internet or like just playing music or doing whatever.”
It wasn’t until the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that EDEN began to embrace a core aspect of his identity that he had been ashamed of throughout his entire life.
“It took the crazy increase in anti-Asian sentiment for me to kind of reexamine my whole relationship with [my Asian identity] and really feel like ‘wait, no this is something I actually really like about myself and it’s something that I really value about myself,’” says EDEN. “It’s kind of shocking how long it took for me to feel like being Asian is cool and something I really like about myself.”
Balancing a diverse range of identities isn’t something that is exclusive to his cultural background, as EDEN has adopted a vast plethora of stylistic personas throughout his career. When discussing the various phases of his music career, EDEN took the opportunity to clear up a major misconception about one of his previous musical monikers: The Spab Project.
“The Spab Project was like a joke account kind of really like back in the day on SoundCloud. People were called ‘sound clowns,’ and they would post basically audio memes on the website and I made this burner account to post jokes,” EDEN explains. “I would do something like speed a song I was working on that I was frustrated with up to like 800 speed so it would be like a three-minute song playing in two seconds. It’s just weird, shitty memes or whatever, and now people think that it was like a genuine project that I was running for some reason.”
While EDEN is dismissive of his work on The Spab Project, his subversion, and perhaps even perversion, of musical conventions in many of his more serious musical endeavors is what eventually led to his stratospheric success.
“[My music] started super, kind of straightforward. electronic music. I was making, like, electro and like dubstep and yeah, house music and it slowly became apparent that like, the more I thought that everyone was going to hate a song … people would like it just as much if not more as like the last thing I put out,” says EDEN. “I would like to post EPs that I made, and I’d have a bonus track, but I wouldn’t think anyone would like and then that would be like, everyone’s favorite track from the EP. It was like this constant process of like, okay, well, what I think that people want to listen to, is usually wrong.”
Among some of EDEN’s most egregiously clever, yet popular tracks are covers of traditionally upbeat crowd pleasers including Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” — which he wishes to erase from the internet — and OutKast’s “Hey Ya”— which he still defends — draped in smooth acoustics and soothing electronic production in his signature style.
While EDEN describes his newest album “ICYMI” as “the most structured thing [he has] made in a few years,” his latest project still contains a wide assortment of eclectic music selections. For example, the combination of dancehall-style drums and soothing synths in his latest single, “Sci Fi”, stems from a happy accident.
A vast majority of the tracks on “ICYMI” are also products of his free-flowing songwriting and production style. The hook for the track “Balling” comes from a poem that he had recently written. The melodic structure from the song “Video Games” comes from a freestyle he layered with autotune. EDEN describes “Closer 2” as a “weird hip hop techno pop song” that “sounds fucking terrible” on paper, but also happens to be one of his favorite songs on the project.
EDEN revealed that every album has elicited some kind of backlash for his revolving door of diverse and seemingly jarring musical selections, but such is the very appeal of an artist who thrives by pushing the sonic boundaries of pop music, whether you want him to or not.
“ICYMI” was released on streaming services on Sept. 9.
Featured Image via EDEN