Apparently sitting a few feet away from one of the biggest (and cutest!) Asian American YouTube stars (and by that I’m saying 130,000+ subscribers and 24,000,000+ upload views) wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be, at least not with Jason Chen. I mean, his latest video cover on “Never Say Never” got 50,000+ views in just one day. But still, it’s crazy to believe that I spent two hours eating Taiwanese desserts and chatting with the guy whose songs I put on repeat.
So before I tell you how the interview went over tea and boba drinks, (with two interruptions by fans wanting to take pictures), here’s a quick intro and some fun facts:
Name: Jason D Chen (What does the ‘D’ stand for you ask? Well, nothing; it’s literally just D)
Age: 22 (yet his YouTube music page says he’s 34?!)
Relationship Status: Single! (You heard that right, ladies)
Education: UCLA, Class of 2010, business economics major
5 Interesting Facts
(1) In elementary school, I wanted to be a truck driver when I grew up. At some other point in my life, I even wanted to be a professional basketball player.
(2) My English name is “jie sheng qian” and it means to save money, which is what my grandma calls me by.
(3) I only sleep on the right side of the bed. Wait–that’s not really interesting, is it?
(4) I’ve been this tall since 7th grade. (Hey, seems like I have something in common with him! Except I’m 5’1 and he’s 5’4.)
(5) I’ve never seen any of the Star Wars movies. For some reason people find that really intriguing.
Now for the part about his musical career on YouTube:
Tell me the whole process that got you to where you are right now.
I learned to play the violin since I was young and I’ve only really started singing when I was eighteen. In my 2nd year of college, the people I was living with asked me to post something on YouTube, so I did. But the videos were kind of just left there for a long time until I did a cover with Olivia Thai (October 23, 2008 to be exact), which I consider to be my first actual YouTube video. Then things just took off from there. It was also really encouraging to see that a bunch of people doing Youtube are able to make a living out of it.
So how did your parents react when you told them you wanted to pursue a singing career?
My dad was all for it. He saw the whole process from when I wasn’t that popular to when I got popular and was featured in Asian websites. He saw that even when I was working full time, I was still doing it on the weekends. I had a job as an accountant and it wasn’t what I wanted to do, and he could tell. He actually encouraged me to quit my job, which I did towards the end of last year. It took my mom some time though, but now she’s really supportive of me. It’s just harder for her since she’s living in Taiwan. I’m lucky to have such supportive parents.
(We know Jason’s really appreciative for all that his parents have done for him– he has even dedicated songs to his parents on his YouTube channel!)
On youtube you’re known as MiniAchilles and your catchphrase Music Never Sleeps. Can you explain your thought process behind those choices?
My YouTube name is based off the movie Troy. I really liked how Brad Pitt’s character was portrayed: how he follows his own heart instead of following other people, so I guess I would say the Achilles part goes more with the movie version, not with Greek mythology. But Achilles was taken on youtube, so I went with MiniAchilles. “Music Never Sleeps” was based off of Wall Street’s “Money Never Sleeps.” Plus my schedule’s crazy anyways; sometimes I would be sleeping at 8 in the morning.
Seeing that you sleep at 8 am sometimes, it seems you put a lot of time and effort into your music. How well do you juggle your personal life with YouTube stuff?
Poorly. Even though now I don’t have a full-time office job and get to do whatever I feel like doing, work always comes first. It’s important that I view the music stuff I’m doing as a job; personal life is more secondary right now.
You spend a lot of time with your music, so you must have many memorable moments. What would you say is the best thing you’ve experienced since starting your own YouTube channel?
Mainly just the lifestyle; I’m able to do whatever I want and enjoy my life. It opens up a lot of opportunities, like getting to work with Joseph Vincent and other talented YouTubers who also do it. And I get to travel and a lot of people don’t get chances like this, so I’m really grateful.
You’re traveling to do live performances now. When did you start getting booked and how different is it?
I was only available to be booked after I quit my job in late November/December last year. It’s quite different singing live. How should I say this…it’s kind of like sprinting versus jogging; you can only sprint for so long because you put all your energy into it. It’s difficult for me to choose what songs to perform because the songs I cover tend to be harder vocally. I’m known for my range so it wouldn’t make sense for me to do songs that are really chill. And I still get nervous at every performance since I’m not used to the live audience yet.
Now that you’ve built a huge fan base, would you say you get recognized often?
Mainly where there are a lot of high school kids. YouTube shows the demographics of my audience, and they’re mainly 13 – 17 year old girls in the United States. So if I’m at the mall on a busy day and there are a lot of high school students out, then yes. It’s funny that sometimes they would follow me and whisper to each other going like, “OMG is that Jason Chen?” as if I wasn’t standing two-feet away to make sure that it was me before they approach. But yeah, most of the time it’s cool. Overseas, my audience consists of older demographics and more guys too.
And lastly, you’ve been doing some original songs lately. Where do you find your inspirations, and what else can we be expecting from you within the next few months?
You know how some people sing about the harsh life they’ve had to go through? It’s difficult for me to find inspirational experiences like that to base my songs on because I’ve never really lived a hard life. I just write whatever’s on my mind that I think defines me in some way. For my latest original “Just For a Moment”, I wrote it based on what I think it would feel if I had someone waiting for me back home while I traveled. In the next few months, more originals and more Chinese songs probably. I’ve been wanting to do a cover with AJ for a while now, but we’re still looking for the right song to come out.
Looks like we have a lot to look forward to!
For more Jason Chen:
Buy his Music Never Sleep T-shirts: http://jasonchen.bigcartel.com