Good music isn’t just one thing. San Diego-based songwriter James Frolio isn’t tethered by genre. Punk rock attitudes and hip hop back beats are contrasted with leafy acoustic melodies and personal growth. Somehow all these find some pop sensibility in James’s writing style. Fascinated by the creative process and the impact from inspiration, James has a knack for music that moves you.
When we asked about his stage name “Big Yen,” he said, “Yen, in Chinese, means a lifelong yearning or desire. In this case, Big Yen is the desire to make an impact and inspire others. I love that it even begs the question: What’s your Big Yen”
Big Yen features a revolving line up of Frolio’s close friends and creative collaborators which allows for many different flavors and influences to color the music. The 2020 debut single, Backflip, was produced by John Shields of the rambunctious Hip Hip duo, Little Stranger. Recently relocated from Charleston, South Carolina to San Diego, James has been making records in the studio for years and now combines a southern singer/songwriter experience with a Californian sonic palette for his newest original releases.
Check out our exclusive interview with Big Yen…
Bridge: How would you describe your sound to a first-time listener?
BY: Punkadelic music. I like that term because it turns heads and it’s everything I dig. I like to think it’s a little bit of everything that feels free and genuine. Music from the soul.
Hippies, punks, jazzers, and most artists have a lot more in common than we think. They’re all just looking for musical freedom in different places but I dig any expression that’s genuine and honest.
Bridge: What do you want your fans to feel when they listen to your music?
BY: I hope they might feel inspired, free, present, and grateful. Inspired to do your own thing and grateful for the moment instead of being somewhere else. Essentially how I’m feeling when I write or play. When you lose sight of the past and stop worrying about the future. That’s the kind of mindset when you can write your own programming and be here now. That’s my intention at least.
Hey, if you rock out that’s cool too ya know? That’s a meditation in my book.
Bridge: What is your creative process like?
BY: I try to take an idea, a lyric, chord progression… something to build on and then I just let it happen. Don’t overanalyze. I’ve definitely tried to force it ya know, write a #1 song, or be something I’m not. It’s funny and so true but the best work usually just flows. I don’t think about it too hard or the idea shrinks and hides. I love collaborating with others because it makes something you never could have done by yourself. Although I mostly do write alone, but I’m always finding new ways to be creative every day.
Even if what you work on doesn’t get shared, I believe it’s important to work on your creative muscle in as many ways you can. It’s an incredible practice of self love, problem solving, and seeing things differently.
Bridge: Who would be your dream collaboration?
BY: I think working with some producers I admire would be a great learning opportunity. Rick Rubin for starters. He seems like a zen master and has loads of wisdom that reach even beyond music. Hell, I’d just love to have a cup of coffee with that dude. As for artists, there are too many to name here but I also love collaborating with my friends. You can hear someone’s personality in their playing and it’s that much sweeter a song when you know the homies are on the track.
Bridge: Tell us about your new single!
BY: It’s an acoustic daydream about love. Two of my best buds play on the track with me and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Bridge: What inspired the song?
BY: I met someone really special to me and that moment we met stuck with me because it felt so real. It was more than just butterflies, it was something I can’t put into words although I try in this song. There’s a lot of things that aren’t real flying around these days, so when you actually feel that realness, it punches hard.
She’s the coolest person I’d ever met, down to earth, and there was also that “je ne sais quoi” that’s not meant for words. In those moments where we connected I felt like we were talking to each other with our eyes.
It was psychedelic. So we connected in a way I haven’t ever experienced before. Feeling heard, accepted and understood without needing to say a thing. It was straight up telepathic.
When a moment like that happens, you can have entire conversations with your eyes and no words at all.
So that’s what this song is about. It doesn’t happen often, maybe never. But when it does happen, it definitely merits a song. I wrote this in one sitting about a few days later.
Bridge: What else do you have going on that our readers should know about?
BY: I’m currently working on a debut full-length Big Yen LP and eventually a kick-ass supporting tour to ice the cake. I feel like working on or sharing music is about creating an impact. Changing a mind, widening a perspective, or telling a story that needs to be heard. I was once that kid in a music store hearing Hendrix for the first time! (Woah) And I often think about how cool would that be if we could share THAT with our work? Share the spark. Inspire someone.