How Lay Zhang Goes The Distance To Make Big Things Happen zhang yixing exo

How Lay Zhang Goes The Distance To Make Big Things Happen

Big advocate of just going for it.

There’s no looking back for Lay Zhang, only moving forward.

Related: We Need To Talk About How Wholesome Lay Zhang Was During His Manila Fanmeet

Imagining a bright future is far easier than putting in the work to realize it, but let a longtime artist inspire you to just go after your dreams, no holds barred.

Chinese pop artist Lay Zhang, or Zhang Yixing, has been a staple of Asian pop culture for a while now, having been an actor in his youth, as well as having made music and performed both as a solo artist and as a member of K-pop group EXO. The singer, rapper, dancer, actor, producer, and entrepreneur has gone from being a trainee himself to training other idol aspirants, proving his experience and expertise along the way—all while building himself a successful career.

On the heels of his collaboration with American singer-songwriter Lauv, Run Back To You, Lay Zhang recently made his much-awaited comeback with a catchy, high-energy single called Psychic, a testament to his artistic evolution and commitment to making music a bridge between not just him and his fans, but also across artists and cultures.

All the way from Beijing, Lay Zhang took a few minutes out of his busy schedule for a Zoom call with NYLON Manila to talk about his musical journey, the lessons he’s learned over his career, and how much he loves his Filipino fans. Read the interview below!

lay zhang psychic interview exo zhang yixing

You recently released singles Psychic and Run Back To You, and you have some exciting projects coming up soon. What’s the overall message that you want to share with your new music?

Through music, I just want to pass the positive energy to the audience and make people happy, you know? Especially after the very hard few years we have had.

You’ve had many chances to collaborate with international artists, like Lauv for your song Run Back To You. What’s it like to make these connections all across the globe?

Yeah, I think it’s a really good opportunity for me to work with any good artist from all over the world, because we can combine our skills from culture to culture. Also, you can learn a lot from good artists like Lauv. I still ask Lauv sometimes how to make a good song—how to connect with the audience through the music.

Auhor’s Note: Lay then references an old Confucius saying from the Analects which roughly translates to “With three men walking together, there is always a teacher among them.” This essentially means there’s always something to learn from everyone around us.

Are there any other artists that you want to collaborate with in the future?

I’m open to collaborate with any artists who would have mutual respect for others. And also I want to spend more time sitting down in the studio and meet people, and to find the right tracks and write lyrics with the right people.

The Show It All episode with P-pop groups BINI and G22 just aired. What was it like to work with them and see their performances?

They’re so cute! These young girls—their capacity in vocals and dancing and rapping, I think it’s all really strong. All of them are really strong. Also, I’ve become good friends with the producer and I just invited them to join us at the DNA Festival in China. I think China has a big market for P-pop and other pop artists that come to our country to perform.

I have a lot of fans in the Philippines as well! I feel so appreciated and loved—it’s like a love story! I can bring my music to them and they’ve built a really good team that supports me. I think it’s so sweet.

Speaking of Show It All, what’s it like to mentor aspiring young artists that are chasing the same dream?

I just want the young artists, or any young people who have a big dream, to just go for it. And just follow them hard and just be real with themselves.

Are those some of the most important lessons you’ve learned over your career as well?

Yes, yes, yes. Just be yourself, don’t think too much. Follow your heart. As artists, we can’t just look at things in a surface way. Something like, when you see someone perform on a stage, it looks like it’s really shiny and stunning, and everybody is so charming, and everybody is shouting for you. I know the picture is really beautiful and charming—but it’s not real. You have to look beyond it.

On the surface, it looks really good. Everybody wants this job. But before you become a superstar, you have to pay a lot of effort, you have to take a lot of time. That’s the main thing. And also, you have to love the career, because you don’t know when you can be the “superstar,” when you can be the “big fish.”

lay zhang psychic interview exo zhang yixing

I think all these things that you know and have learned about this industry, it helps you a lot. That’s why you get to judge and mentor a lot on talent competition shows. But does it ever get hard sending people home?

Yeah, I don’t want to send people home! I just want to build a home for them—I don’t want to send more people home. Because I think all people who have a dream, we don’t have to laugh at them. We have to respect them. If someone has a dream, and they move towards it, and they spend time and put effort into it…I respect everyone who does that.

You’ve been in this industry since you were young. Was there ever a moment where you doubted what you were doing in your life?

I mean, I don’t really consider it that much. Because I think if you’re thinking too much, you will lose opportunities. I think nobody can predict the future, but you can imagine the future, and you just go for it. Maybe someday it’ll happen for you, who knows? But if you keep thinking “oh, I’m not suitable for this, I’m not suitable for that,” I think that’ll be a big problem in your journey. Because life is an experience—you have to feel it, you have to try it, you have to do it.

lay zhang psychic interview exo zhang yixing

What’s the biggest difference between you when you were starting out in your career and you now?

I have to face it—I’m getting old. [Laughs.] Right now, I’m 33 years old. But I learn a lot from young people, because they have good positive thinking and good energy.

How would you describe yourself when you were younger?

I think I was like Luffy from One Piece. I was shouting my dreams loud, everybody knows my dream. These days, I just want to protect my fans, and protect myself and the goals that I want. I want to keep trying. I think this process is so, so, so precious to me.

You came back to the Philippines last year after ten years. What was that like?

I don’t know why, but Filipino fans make me feel so warm and so snug. I love them, I love them—real talk. I love them, no doubt. When I talk with international tour promoters, I tell them I have to go to the Philippines again, I have to bring my shows to them, not just a fanmeeting, but a whole show.

Do you have anything to say to your Filipino fans?

I appreciate all of you for always waiting for me, and making me feel so warm. Besides the stage and the music and the production, I don’t know what else to give you guys to thank you and make you happy, but I’ll try to make all the things happen for you guys.

Interview has been edited for clarity.

Continue Reading: We Weren’t Ready For This Throwback At EXO-SC’s Fancon In Manila