“I’m just excited to finally present something to the world that feels authentic and true to who I am,” Erika Tham shares with HollywoodLife. That “something” is her first music release, “Admit It,” a sultry blend of R&B and pop. Against neon-tinted production that pays homage to her Chinese-Malaysian heritage, Erika unleashes an intoxicating vocal performance. “Pardon my seduction / I’ll pardon your assumptions,” she sings to an unrequited paramour, a lovesick fool who’s fallen hard for her (while she cannot say the same.) But, after listening to “Admit It,” how can anyone not fall in love with Erika Tham?
This song opens a new chapter for Erika’s career. “I’ve always loved music but growing up in Asia in a world so far removed from the industry, a career in it just felt unattainable,” she says in an EXCLUSIVE interview. Erika, 21, is best known for her work in front of a camera, having appeared in Nickelodeon’s Make It Pop, the Disney Channel’s Original Movie Kim Possible, and on Fox’s Star. Now, Erika – whose father is Chinese-Malaysian and mother is Dutch, Ukrainian-Canadian – is ready to transition from acting star to singing sensation. “Once I moved to LA and taught myself how to play the piano, I discovered songwriting, and that’s when music became all I wanted to do,” she says.
“Admit It” is a powerful first impression. In her interview for HollywoodLife, Erika explains how this career started, why this song represents her full creative vision, and why you won’t have to wait long to hear new music from her.
HollywoodLife: You’re in the midst of a career evolution, having found success in acting as a teen with roles on Disney, Nickelodeon, and FOX TV shows and films. What made you want to pursue music?
Erika Tham: I’ve always loved music but growing up in Asia in a world so far removed from the industry, a career in it just felt unattainable. It was honestly a stroke of luck when at 14, I randomly sent in a tape from Thailand and booked my first-ever acting job, which just so happened to be a musical. Because of that, I found myself singing in the studio a lot. Those were always my favorite days on the job. I very quickly realized that music is where my heart lies. Once I moved to LA and taught myself how to play the piano, I discovered songwriting, and that’s when music became all I wanted to do.
I spent a good year at home on my piano just writing and writing and writing before I found myself in my first ever professional studio session as a songwriter, writing for another artist. It was at Brian Kennedy’s studio, and I remember after the session was over, he pulled me aside, told me I was dope and that he wanted to bring me in to write for other artists he was working with. I played it off, but I couldn’t believe it! We’re working together on my project now, which feels like such a full-circle moment, but we laugh about that first ever session because he had no idea that I had never done something like that before and was shaking in my boots the whole time.
How does your acting background influence or enhance your musical creativity and artistry?
I think my experience as an actress helps me to almost play characters in the booth when I need to, to elicit my desired emotional response from the listener. To me, singing and being an artist goes beyond hitting the right notes with the right timing; I deeply care about the tone and emotion I use, and I am very deliberate with how I sing every word on a record. I will literally be in the booth trying ten different tones to use for a single word until I find the right one, and I think that emphasis on the intention behind emotion might come from my background in acting.
Since this is a bit of a reintroduction, what is the biggest takeaway you want people to get from you and ‘Admit It’?”
I’ve never had any sort of creative control on any acting job I’ve been a part of, but with my music and my artistry, it is 100% me. I think everyone will have their own takeaways, but I’m just excited to finally present something to the world that feels authentic and true to who I am! That being said, I do hope everyone feels like a bad b*tch when they listen to my music [laughs].
You worked with your friends and Grammy-winning producers Major Myjah and Deion Gill, who have worked with the likes of J. Cole, Usher, Chris Brown, and Damian Marley – what was the writing and recording process like?
My boys!!! I love them both so much. Every song on this EP was made in the same week in Atlanta. We were staying at an Airbnb, and the first night there, I was telling Deion about this sonic world that I’ve had living rent-free in my head for the longest time. It was dark and seductive and immersive, and I referenced characters, and sounds that I felt might belong there. I also explained to him that I’ve been wanting to make something that incorporated traditional Asian instrumentation but was framed in a modern, R&B, pop/hip hop landscape and structure. The three of us have such great creative chemistry, so I knew he was excited about and understood the vision/concept.
The next morning, lo and behold, I came downstairs, and he had made SIX incredible tracks that felt like they were pulled straight from this exact sonic world. As one of them was playing, Major and I were in the kitchen making breakfast, and Major was freestyling over the beat, making fun of my manager, Syd, for using a Samsung instead of an iPhone. There’s actually a video of it somewhere! Later that night, we rewatched the video, and I heard him say the words “admit it,” which is when I came up with the first line in the song, “I’ll admit it, I wouldn’t know love if I was in it.” As soon as I said it, the three of us fell in love with the concept and could SO relate…It was one of those songs that wrote itself because we were just being so honest.
What’s next for your music career? Should we expect an EP or album to come?
“Admit It” is part of a three-song EP! I’m releasing a song a month till the end of the year, as well as a live stripped version of “Admit It!”