Protecting Her Peace: Wallice on Coming of Age in the Music Industry and What Defines ‘Success’

Wallice © Le3ay
Wallice © Le3ay
Wallice is no passing trend: This LA native’s artistry speaks for a generation of twenty-somethings whose thoughts rapidly skitter between tedious first world problems and feelings of existential dread. Her spunky discography and vernacular of playfully-snide and self-deprecating quips are ever-so relatable; making her a true superstar on the rise.
Stream: “Best Friend” – Wallice




Time is always of the essence when it comes to Wallice.

In a life that is so fleeting, why must our existences be bogged down by trivial matters and mind-numbing anxieties? Seeking to alleviate some of the tensions of everyday life, Wallice addresses the angst of this lifetime head on within her discography, reclaiming the power that her feelings had once eclipsed.

Wallice’s artistic output comes charged by a refreshing youthful energy, tinged by her wizened outlook on life. The musician is gradually perfecting her songwriting recipe, sprinkling in notes of self deprecation and sarcasm into every track; never failing to dust her signature sense of humor even into the darkest of subject matter.

Teetering between youth and adulthood, Wallice permits herself to get caught up within the frenetic energy that accompanies the universal process of growing up. Imbuing this confusion into her discography, the rising star creates dynamic anthems for periods of transition, effortlessly providing listeners navigating through their twenty-somethings with solace in a time typically riddled with immense anxiety.

Wallice's sophomore EP 'Mr Big Shot', out June 23 via Dirty Hit
Wallice’s sophomore EP ‘Mr Big Shot’, out June 23 via Dirty Hit

The past couple of years have been nothing short of a whirlwind for this Los Angeles native; her breakout single, “23” reached 12 million streams (and counting), she has played various headline shows around the world, supported the likes of Wallows, Chloe Moriondo, The 1975, and most recently, JAWNY on their national tours — all the while protecting her peace as both an artist and human being.

Even after experiencing all of this success, Wallice is as humble and down to earth as ever. Despite what she may proclaim (especially within “Rich Wallice,” singing, “I just want more money / I just want more stuff / I just want more money / I just want more”), the singer never fails to acknowledge how lucky she feels to get to make music as a full-time career; humbly reflecting, “It’s really hard to get to the point to make it [my] job and not have to have a day job to support it. It’s been two years since I haven’t had to have another job, somehow.”

WALLICE EMBRACES THE REALITY OF GROWING UP ON ANTHEMIC “23”

:: TODAY’S SONG ::



Though, working in an industry where your success is mostly measured in numbers and metrics has had its own downsides.

Wallice has had to push numbers aside, focusing on creating music that feels authentic to herself, knowing that there will be someone out there who can relate to the theme or message regardless of whether it caters to a trend or not.

After all, it already seems like everyone in the peripheral is too busy trying to be something else, so why not embrace your artistry for what it is instead of falling victim to a trend cycle? “You can literally make a song today of what you think people today would like, and in another two weeks it’ll be so outdated,” Wallice affirms.

“You’re a successful musician if you’re putting out music that you’re proud of. It’s that simple,” she asserts. Unyielding in her mission to stay true to herself and her artistic vision, Wallice’s voice rings clear in every track she releases.

The musician has not only the knack of writing and effortlessly catchy tune down, but also a completely magnetic stage presence to boot.

Wallice’s warm charisma is absolutely undeniable; when gracing an audience with her presence, she happily flits about the stage with a glimmer in her eye and a gentle smile on her face. Playing off of the crowd’s energy, she eagerly riles up eager concertgoers with energetic bangers like “23” and “Punching Bag,” never failing to create an exquisite vibe for a night of top-notch musical entertainment.




While she might have just finished accompanying JAWNY on a string of shows for his spring U.S. tour, the year is just beginning for Wallice – starting with the release of her sophomore EP, Mr Big Shot, later this year. Although the musician’s fans have to wait for a bit until that next project drops, they can bide the time between now and then by streaming Wallice’s newest track, “Best Friend,” released today (April 4) via Dirty Hit, of which she asserts:

“This song can easily relate to both friendship and the friendship within a romantic relationship. I’ve had a couple falling outs with various friends throughout my life, I think it’s just part of life and growing up. Even though that friendship might not serve you anymore, it’s still so easy to reminisce on it and miss it.”

And while relationships do indeed come and go throughout this lifetime, we can confidently say that we have found a forever friend in Wallice.

Atwood Magazine was lucky enough to sit down with Wallice before her Boston show supporting JAWNY to get some insight into what’s next for this superstar. Continue reading to learn more about Wallice’s development as an artist, how she protects her peace in today’s music industry, and all of the exciting things she has planned for the future!

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:: stream/purchase Wallice here ::
Stream: “Best Friend” – Wallice



A CONVERSATION WITH WALLICE

Wallice's sophomore EP 'Mr Big Shot', out June 23 via Dirty Hit

Atwood Magazine: I wanted to start off by asking about your time as a musician so far. What keeps you coming back to making music? Why is it so fulfilling to create for you?

Wallice: It’s funny, I go in waves of wanting to create, and then being kind of burnt out on it. Right now I really wish I had time to write and record, because I’m excited, and we’ve been on the road so I haven’t done it in a while. But then sometimes when I have a month of just sessions four times a week, I’m so burnt out, I’m like, “What would I even write about right now?” But I grew up playing music; I’ve been making songs since I was like 13. It’s an outlet that I’ve had for most of my life so I don’t even know what I’d do if I didn’t do it.

There's such a balance that you have to strike between going into sessions, working all of the time and having that mental break. It's really hard to balance especially when today's music industry is so social media oriented.
 

Wallice: Yeah, it’s like, “Go on TikTok, build your following!”

It's definitely difficult not being online all the time; you have to set those limits. Going off of that and the whole industry theme; the industry today can be seen as dog-eat-dog, and you are working as an independent musician with this solo project. You have a team behind you, but mostly it's you pioneering your work. How do you stay grounded within yourself as an artist and person within this industry?

Wallice: Everyone I work with — my band, my management — are also my friends. I am really close with my managers; there’s still a professional level, but we also can go out and have fun. Band members are my best friends. My boyfriend is my guitar player, I’ve known my drummer forever, and our bass player is a recent addition, but she’s been very easy to get along with. Everyone gets along really well. Probably because I grew up in LA, I still have the same friends from middle school and high school, because we have this common connection, which is music.

I’ve known my producer marinelli since we were like 11, and so I’m literally working with my best friends. Also because I’m from LA it’s not like I have to “make it” to stay in LA — it’s my home no matter what. I think that’s a very lucky way to think about LA, because people can feel very lonely there.

Wallice © Nicole Busch
Wallice © Nicole Busch



Definitely, so many people go there to ''make it'' and succeed, and get really discouraged when it doesn't happen within the first couple of years or so.

Wallice: It could look like my success in these last two years came very quickly, but I have been releasing music since I was 18. No one listened until I was 22, so I was really going at it for a while.

It's definitely not like you came out of the blue. So many artists like you have so much of a discography before your big hits. You have these roots, especially as you live in LA and are based there. I remember I read one interview where someone referred to you as a ''newcomer'' in LA.

Wallice: It’s funny when I see those little taglines. I don’t really know what this is trying to say.

It's definitely interesting. But it's awesome how you've really steadily progressed. Even after the success of ''23'' you've continued to rise, which is so amazing. Congrats on that!

Wallice: Thank you! I’m excited for this next EP too. We’re finalizing the rollout and my first song that comes out on April 4 is one of the songs we sound-checked, called “Best Friend.” We shot the EP cover the day before I started the tour, and it’s so cool. I’m so excited!

Wallice's sophomore EP 'Mr Big Shot', out June 23 via Dirty Hit
Wallice – ‘Mr Big Shot’ EP cover art



It's so wonderful to have work that you can be so proud of and excited to release. I hope the release cycle continues to be exciting for you and not super tiring.
 

Wallice: I’m really excited for this one because I haven’t released [a song] in a while. The last song I did was “Japan” in November, and that was like my most successful release in how it did in the first week; the playlists and press it got — which is always sadly what you’re looking at when you release something. That’s kind of what matters in building your career, which is so depressing to actually think about, but I’m excited to start this again.

So much Wallice coming out!

Wallice: Too many plans! I love to sit back and relax but I can’t do that right now.

I get it! I feel like the musician grind is really tough. Musicians definitely don't get enough credit for all of the work that you're doing behind the scenes.

Wallice: Up until very recently I did a lot more with the visuals than I think most people would think — styling my own hair and makeup and everything. This last video is the first one where I have a team, a set designer, which is really cool to work with. I felt like such a pop star.

That probably alleviated some of the pressure to do everything.

Wallice: Especially since I was prepping for this tour and not having to go to different stores to find outfits and worry about the little details and have all of that. Someone else was doing that for me, and it was really nice. But it’s also hard to let go of that control and trust someone’s instinct.



It's such a balance, because you want to be hands on and then you also want to get some chances to rest. It's a little bit of a struggle there. You touched upon the notion of success within the music industry — playlist ads, streaming numbers, and some of the money that comes from that — but I want what else defines success for you? How will you know that you are succeeding as a musician?

Wallice: It’s really hard to get to the point to make it your job and not have to have a day job to support it. It’s been two years since I haven’t had to have another job, somehow. I used to work at my Mom’s salon before COVID, doing eyelash extensions. I did that up until February 2021, and then I felt like I needed to devote more time to making more music for the next six months and see if that works. “23” and “Punching Bag” were getting traction, which I had never had before […]. I had a little bit of savings from my salon job and I lived off of it for a little bit. Then I had some interest from record labels. But I still know some musicians who make such amazing music but still have a day job — in my head they’re still successful, they’re just not monetarily successful yet.

Definitely. There's a period where you might have to do different things on the side, but you are still a valid musician. It's so hard mentally to be like, ''Oh, I'm like serving in a restaurant, or working in a salon — am I really like a valid musician?''
 

Wallice: My revised answer is: You’re a successful musician if you’re putting out music that you’re proud of. It’s that simple.

That's beautiful. And speaking of putting out music that you're proud of, you touched upon ''Japan'' earlier, and I wanted to talk about that and themes of home within that track. You have mentioned that you didn't grow up in Japan but you grew up visiting there every now and then, and it's still very much a part of you and your person.

Wallice: I didn’t necessarily visit too many times, but my dad is from Japan and he would go there a lot. My mom lived in Japan for a couple of years, even though she’s very American. I grew up with a strong sense of Japanese culture in my house. A lot of people can relate — especially Asian Americans and mixed people — being half White and half Japanese.

Growing up in my White family, they’re like, “Oh, you’re so Japanese,” and you go to your Japanese family and they’re like “You’re so American, you’re so White.” It’s kind of weird and hard to feel like you fit in. A lot of half mixed people feel that way with both of their parents’ cultures and ethnicities.



Definitely. I can relate because I'm adopted from China. It has been a different set of circumstances — both of my parents are White. It's very much a thing of navigating who I am, and what part of my identity I lean with more — it seems like I can't be both at the same time. Your song really kind of taps into that energy of finding strength in being unsure. How do you make a space that is foreign to you home? What do you do to feel more comfortable and at peace with yourself in a place that might not be super familiar?

Wallice: Annoying answer, but having my boyfriend on tour with me. He plays guitar. I was talking about it with JAWNY; he was like, ‘Wow, that must be so nice, to have your partner with you.’ If I was gone for all these weeks, only being able to call, text, and FaceTime, everyone knows it’s not the same. So, I’m not necessarily missing home as much as I would, but I do miss my dog, who is with my Mom right now. But physical things; I overpack and so I have all of my stuff.

It always helps to bring things that have always been part of you with you. It helps make you feel more sound and sure of you and your identity wherever you are. And it definitely always helps to have your partner with you too, so I completely get that. What has been the best part of the tour so far?

Wallice: There have been some highs and some lows. Our van literally broke down on a hill at midnight in Toronto. The next day we were going to Montreal, which I was so excited about — I had never been to Montreal before. I was so excited to play, but it wasn’t in the cards I guess. But we drove through Montreal and I had the best Thai food of my life. I don’t even remember what the place was called. But we got barbecue chicken, panang curry, tom yum, larb; a bunch of random stuff. We all were freaking out at how good it was. So, that actually was a high.

Most of us love eating really good food — I mean, who doesn’t. [We love] finding really good restaurants throughout the country or wherever we’re going. Playing the show in Cleveland was really fun; I played two college shows there last year. There were a couple of groups from the colleges that I recognized, and they were so hyped to be there. They were so enthusiastic, and as an opener you don’t see that every night. Literally in Toronto this girl was standing front row, looked at me, and yawned while I was singing. I was like, “Oh my god, I’m boring them!”



That's one of the most triggering things, especially after COVID — people just have no concert etiquette and no respect for openers which makes me so furious. But I hope that Boston will impress you because we are a college town, too.

Wallice: My first color show was at Northeastern, but that was a weird show because it was a weird venue. I like Boston; [Paradise Rock Club] has been super cool. I’ve only been here for like an hour, but the sound check was literally the smoothest we’ve had, so I’m very excited.

I hope it will continue to impress you! Most of the Boston concerts that I've been to have been very good energetically, and hopefully everyone respects you, or else, they're out!

Wallice: Toronto was just a weird vibe, and also the sound was really bad in my ears and the whole time I was overthinking it. But then after the set some people were like, “I’m so excited you came here!”



Do you find yourself overthinking about live performances often?

Wallice: Yeah, especially during the first few shows. It felt very rough and the second show on this tour was in LA at the El Rey, which has a bigger capacity. I was very excited to play there but then my [in-ear monitor] wasn’t working. I was like, “Man, I don’t think I’m sounding good.” It was a very rushed show, and a rushed soundcheck. But I think I am pretty hard on myself. Still, people are like, “Oh, that was great!” And I’m like, “Oh I didn’t think so, but okay!” It’s just getting back into the flow of doing shows every night.

How do you ease up when you're being hard on yourself? Are there any things you do to alleviate that stress and pressure you put on yourself?

Wallice: After like four shows then I’m like, “Okay, it’s fine.” Even if you miss notes or sound weird, I don’t think other people are going to go “Wow, she missed that” — because hopefully it’s not that bad. It’s just getting back in the swing of it.

I'm excited to hear it! You sounded great at soundcheck. I actually have a little anecdote — earlier this year, I walked into my friend's dorm and I heard ''23'' playing, and I was like, ''Is this Wallice?'' And he said, ''Yeah, it is!'' And I was like, ''Oh my god, she's so good!''

Wallice: Earlier today I had a Zoom interview with this girl in India, and she was like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m talking to you!” And I was like, “Oh, really? And she said, “I’m so excited; sorry if I’m nervous. I told my friends I’m interviewing you and they’re freaking out.” People in India listen to my music? I thought it would be this one single person knowing my music but she was like, “No, it’s all of my friends!” And I was like, “How?”

Wallice © Le3ay
Wallice © Le3ay



That must be so validating to know that you have reached people all over the world. That's amazing. Congratulations! What are you doing to ensure that you continue to grow and change as an artist, and a person as well?

Wallice: It was important to bring more voices into the creative process. For the first two EPs, it was basically just me and marinelli who wrote and recorded at all. For this next one, almost every song has one other co-writer or co-producer, which I was very opposed to for a while. But it opens up more doors of where you can go and what strengths that producer has, or what genre [can be] blended with what we already do all the time. It’s important to have an open mind to work with. Also, it’s the opposite of what you would think, but not to follow trends, because trends go in and out so quickly. You can literally make a song today of what you think people today would like, and another two weeks it’ll be so outdated. If you make things that aren’t trendy or what you want to make, like I said earlier, that’s the best — just being authentic.

It's so rewarding because it's not like selling out — not that you're selling out if you do follow trends — but you get to make something that feels so true to yourself, and you find that other people do, in fact, enjoy it, even though it's not what's trending.

Wallice: I think people feel the authenticity.

I definitely hear it in your music. My last question is a really simple one. I like to end all my interviews on a happy note, so it's what has been giving you joy lately? It can be literally anything — music related or not.

Wallice: I like it when my mom sends me videos of my dog. She started swimming in the pond at the dog park, and I’ve never seen her swim. And then she taught her to fetch, and I was like, “She hates fetching!”

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:: stream/purchase Wallice here ::
Stream: “Best Friend” – Wallice



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Wallice's sophomore EP 'Mr Big Shot', out June 23 via Dirty Hit

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