Singaporean-Chinese Wayne Lim Junjie (commonly known as JJ Lin and his Chinese name is Lin Jun Jie) was born in 1981–but you wouldn’t know it. Nor his age nor name are how you’d identify the singer, songwriter, and music composer, who is currently touring to celebrate 20 years of artistry and relevance.

In his career spanning two decades, Lin's soulful voice and thoughtful lyrics have captivated audiences worldwide; they speak particularly to Chinese and other East/South East Asian communities who found Lin’s music in childhood and have been raised by his lyrics. Evidence of his impact on a whole generation are evidenced by ticket sales: nearly every show is sold out, across the world.

We sat down to speak with him from his home in Singapore, about his musical journey, how his fans have changed, what he does to manage his mental health and what it’s like to be a celebrity entrepreneur.

What has the tour revealed to you about who you are as a person now versus when you started?

Not sure if this will make sense, but I believe I am a completely different person, while also being nearly the exact same as when I first started. I’ve always been focused on perfecting my craft in the studio and onstage; in the early days that was to prove myself and stand out as an artist / musician. Now I spend more time thinking of how to create unique experiences and moments for the fans.

What hasn’t changed is remembering to be spontaneous onstage, because I believe there’s always magic in that unknown space, where no one knows for sure how things will play out in a performance. To me that’s true creativity at work.

What’s been the most memorable performance on this tour?

To me, it must have been doing three consecutive shows at the Beijing National Olympics Stadium, the “Bird’s Nest”. It’s not only a dream come true for me, but also a huge challenge to be singing to an audience of 180,000 over 3 nights - I enjoyed every bit of it!

How have fans changed since your debut at 22 years old?

My fans used to be very soft spoken and shy, writing letters and preparing little gifts every time they saw me. Nowadays I think they have learnt to become much more spontaneous and outspoken! Most of my fans before focused more on the music–its meaning and story. Nowadays they’re more diverse; I have fans who like to focus on very specific things, for example: my voice, my dimples, hands, hair, and even abs… lol.

JJ making pourover coffee. (Photo: JFJ Productions)

A lot of your fans grew up with you: now they’re in their 20s and you’re in your 40s. How do you maintain creating music that resonates with them?

I believe in making music that resonates with my inner being, and keeping those emotions real. I think fans nowadays can differentiate between staged performances that feel carefully curated versus an unplanned yet honest and soul-baring sharing. I think my fans appreciate that.

How do you think Asian artists are perceived now globally?

The world has grown to appreciate diversity, and with social media and new tech, music has become a much more global community. In recent years we’ve seen a lot more Asian content being put out in movies, tv and music, like with Squid Game, 3 Body Problem and bands like BLACKPINK. I believe it’s time to be much more expressive and adventurous with sharing our unique Asian culture through music and craft.

How has your mental health changed over your 20 year career? What tools do you use to stay solid in the light of so much toxicity?

Honestly, it’s a question I don’t have a definite answer to. I think surrounding yourself with real and true friends and family who care and love you for who you are is of utmost importance. We need to constantly be reminded of our true value in life, as human beings, and not get caught up in a social media race that can easily cloud judgement and morals. To understand that life is precious and life goes on, with or without social media and the spotlight.

You love and utilise technology to talk to your fans and create new hybrid worlds: what do you think is unique about the way you create music and concerts?

I believe technology is a powerful tool, and if used in a wholesome way, can really make the world a better place. Having an adept and up to date understanding of new technology has inspired and spurred me to create content using methods that have never been explored and executed before, like combining XR and live streaming to enhance artist to fans interactive experience. By combining traditional know-how and techniques with new tech, I am able to redefine the live performance, and create premium, yet customized experiences for my fans.

JJ in his creation space. (Photo: JFJ Productions)

What’s it like engaging with your official fan club JJ Federation on a daily basis? How do you do it and does it ever feel like work?

It feels more like family than work actually, though there still has to be rules and regulations to constantly balance and manage expectations. I want the fans to know that ‘JJ Lin’ resides in their lives and their years of growing up, and that my fans are as real to me as I am to them. That is a relationship we don’t necessarily have outside of JJ Federation.

You have a portfolio of businesses: which is your favourite aside from music?

There’s no such thing as a favourite, I want all my businesses to do well! I wear my SMG apparel as much as I drink Miracle Coffee, and wish to see each brand successful in its own unique way.

Did you face challenges being more than ‘just a musician’? Did people get confused about JJ Lin the business man?

For sure. For the extra attention I get for being a ‘celebrity’ business owner, I receive the same level of or even more skepticism and doubt. The only way is to prove my dedication through time and perseverance.

In one of your interviews you mention you’d be willing to explore any kind of industry, including environmental. What draws you to environment and what do you imagine exploring there?

Environment is home. I want to be part of a loving community, to create and protect a world that is safe and beautiful for the future generations. Only then we can continue to live life, and still have fun and be happy.

Collaborating with Steve Aoki’s and Anderson Paak’s of the world – are you looking forward to building more bridges between East and West with more collabs like that?

Definitely. I’ve always believed in collaborations, because it keeps creativity alive and fresh. It keeps me in a learning mode, and always realizing that there is so much more than what we think we already know. Also, I believe it’s an effective way to help people from different demographics get to know our music and cultures.

There was one night in LA when Steve Aoki was like “JJ, come down to my show and let’s feature our new song live together for the first time!” I had thought he meant for me to perform the first song we did together in my English EP “Not Tonight”, which had already been released. It was only when I got backstage that Steve said, “Let’s do The Show, let’s do both songs!” “The Show” was only scheduled to be released the following year, so I was totally unprepared and unrehearsed, but we did it anyway, and boy what a “show” it was! I believe the fans loved it!

JJ at home. (Photo: JFJ Productions)

If you can only sing one song at your concert. Which song would that be and why? (because you have so many songs, fans really want to know which one you personally love most and means the most to you)

I would sing the song that is most relevant to myself at the given point in time. I believe it would be “No Turning Back”. It’s close to my state of mind, as it talks about myself making a transition between musical worlds and lifestyles, and setting myself free from traditional mindsets and stigmas. I believe it’s an anthem for many of my fans recently too.

I know you starred in the show Yuan Lai Wo Bu Shuai years ago, and a lot of your fans loved you there; would you ever consider going back to acting?

That was just a dabble into the acting field. If I were to act again in the future, I would only choose a role and show I really wanted to be in, and it’s most likely not going to be a comedy. I would prefer a deeper and more unexpected role where I can really express myself differently from real life.

It is often impossible to get tickets for your concert (a good problem!). Are you planning on having virtual concerts / other avenues to make it more accessible for people who love you?

Good things don’t come easy! There’s a time for everything, and I believe if fans are patient and dedicated enough, there will surely be a time where everyone is happy! Haha… with that said, we are constantly exploring new ways for music to be shared and experienced, so I’m staying open to every opportunity to get closer with my fans.

What is your message to the many EST fans who have said “WE ALL LOVE HIS MUSIC SO SO MUCH and his songs have helped me go through my darkest moment when I’m away from home”?

I appreciate all of you! Thank you for letting me and my music into your hearts and lives, hope to see you guys in person very soon!