Her music is more than just a career to her — it is her mantra in life, a tool for her personal growth, and a shoulder to cry on for her fans. Meet The Z List 2022, the star that’s making waves across the region, Jeryl Lee Pei Ling (李佩玲).
Jeryl Lee, twenty-two and thriving: she starts each day with a fresh outlook on life, and finds her rhythm for the day by swaying along to the music. An absolute pleasure to work with, Jeryl has a very relaxed and laid-back vibe, much like her soothing singing voice. While she started out in her music career by doing covers, Jeryl first emerged as a household name when she represented Malaysia in the inaugural Sing! China competition back in 2016, and made it all the way to the final stage.
Since then, she has juggled both music and studying full-time, and has released multiple singles as well as collaborated with local musicians in the likes of Dennis Lau and our Z List alumnus, Masya Masyitah.
“I’ve always leaned more towards ballad music, the genre is just what I’ve been drawn to,” says Jeryl, of her musical style. “But I’m also really into R&B or chillwave music. Some of my favourite artists are Joker Xue when it comes to ballads, and I also really like Bruno Major, Gracie Abrams and UMI.”
When it comes to finding her muse, Jeryl says she gets bursts of inspiration anywhere and everywhere, whether it’s through like-minded artists on YouTube and TikTok, or by keeping still to focus on the world around her, opening her eyes and ears to everything.
“I feel like music has the ability to connect a lot of people together.”
On her exposure to an international audience
Her experience on Sing! China gave her an experience of a lifetime. As soon as she’d landed in China, Jeryl immediately recognised the true scale of the competition, and just how much bigger it is in the grand scheme of things.
“I would definitely say that getting that international exposure made me a lot more confident than I had been previously,” she opens up. “Before then, I was a really shy person, especially when I’m put in ‘serious’ situations like that. I didn’t know how to go about expressing myself. But after braving through that, I for sure gained a lot of confidence about myself and my own talent.”
Jeryl has always found peace of mind through music, but having showcased her talent on the big stage in front of a live audience as well as broadcasted to the nation of China, she fully recognises the power of music as both as a tool for her personal growth, and a means of steeling herself to the world.
She has since gained quite a number of fans from her time overseas, and it is one of the assurances she has that she’s eternally grateful for, and will cherish forever. “It’s really quite a magical thing, music,” adds Jeryl. “I feel like music has the ability to connect a lot of people together. It can connect fans of all kinds of genres, and I’ve also recently had the pleasure to learn that my music helps some people. I would get messages from my fans — both local and overseas — telling me that my music has actually helped them through hard times. And I’d feel so incredibly honoured. It’s magical to know the impact my music has on my fans.”
Jeryl laments the lack of attention that many deserving yet very underrated creative talents in Malaysia are getting, whether it’s in music, or art, or anything at all. She expresses her desire for them to get a chance to get their own international exposure, and to be able to build a name for themselves. A lot of great, homegrown artists are lowkey or underground — think the likes of Lunadira and indie bands, lost spaces and babychair.
“When it happens, it happens. Go with the flow. The important thing is that we find something we want to focus on, and work hard towards it.”
On finding the connection with ‘Gen Z’ers alike
‘Gen Z’ is more often than not depicted as the ‘ditzy’ generation, the too-much-in-the-moment, the wild and carefree — and sometimes what the naysayers mean is ‘dumb’ or ‘self-absorbed’. They believe ‘Gen Z’ers lack maturity, and they’re far too playful to be thinking seriously about what lies ahead of them.
But Jeryl debunks this misconception as she recounts her own experience: “I’m speaking for myself — and I’m pretty sure most of ‘Gen Z’ feel this way, too — when I say that I actually tend to think more about the future than I do with the present. Every time I do something, I’ll be sure to think further ahead, about how it would affect me later on. So, yes, I’d say that ‘Gen Z’ers do give a lot of thought about what lies ahead of them.”
With the perils of social media, too, thinking about the future seems inescapable, according to Jeryl. You’re almost constantly bombarded by facts and figures about everything under the sun. Sure, it’s a great tool for getting the word out quickly on important things, but the downside is having people — essentially, strangers — observing your every move.
“Even when I go out nowadays, I’ll feel kind of self-conscious, and anxious, because I don’t know who’s looking at me. People are just observing,” says Jeryl. “Constructive criticism is something I can handle because I know what to improve from there, but what gets me to slowly lose confidence is when people start observing me in pretty much everything I do daily. I’ll start having doubtful thoughts. Just come and talk to me directly, I won’t bite — promise!”
On her personal growth as a young artist
Jeryl keeps a very open and positive mindset when it comes to her own future career. During the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns across the country, the future felt very uncertain, and it would often affect her focus in her music.
“We didn’t know what was going on, and what was going to happen,” she elaborates. “As I’ve mentioned, I do think about my future a lot. So, it was a pretty scary time for me. I was stressed, I had a lot of negative thoughts. But thankfully, I’m at a more positive stage in my mindset right now, and it really keeps me going.”
Music is also Jeryl’s muse in her day-to-day life. She sees music in its pure, ethereal form that not only connects her with those around her, but also evokes all kinds of emotions within her. And that’s precisely why she sings — she wants her fans to be able to grasp that same, magical feeling, too.
“One of my favourite memories ever is of my very first concert, back in 2018,” she recalls fondly. “It was my first ever solo concert, and I was just 18 years old. It’s very memorable for me because my family and friends came, too. I couldn’t believe I’d done that, and I had all these people there to see me. I’m super proud of myself and my team for making it happen, because it was a really tough and stressful time — I came close to giving up, but my team encouraged me to keep going. And I’m so glad I did.”
Her next big goal is recapturing that same feeling once again and hold another concert to be able to truly connect with her fans. For now, she’ll focus on working on her next single, and maybe even an album — to follow up from her last album, SAY.Listen, which was released in 2020.
“For me, I’m more of a ‘go with the flow’ person,” says Jeryl. “So, when it happens, it happens. The important thing is that we find something we want to focus on, and work hard towards it. After that, just go with the flow. Everything will come to you smoothly.”
editor MARTIN TEO | interview PUTERI YASMIN SURAYA | creative ANDREW LOH | photography ERICJ LOO | makeup KEVIN LEE | hair KAY TUAN CENTRO HAIR SALOON | wardrobe HERMÈS & MOSCHINO
In its second year, The Z List continues to be a platform that celebrates outstanding Gen Z talents who are successful, influential, and remarkable in their respective fields. Together with our authoritative voice in digital media, we hope that The Z List will inspire other Gen Z stars in the making out there to live their best life, with purpose, grit, and authenticity.