A few years ago, leaderonomics.com was given an exclusive to follow YouTubers, Jayesslee while on their tour at Kuala Lumpur. We spent a few days with the duo and Lily Cheah bring you exclusive insights into the lives of Jayesslee, including their sold-out concerts and rehearsals.
June 22 at 11.58am at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s arrival area.
The sliding doors opened and out strolled Sonia and Janice Lee, 25-year old Korean-Australian twins and YouTube stars. The best way to tell them apart was by their hair colour: Sonia was spotting brown coloured hair, and Janice’s was black. They were pushing a trolley with just a few luggages, and were accompanied by their manager, drummer and husband to Sonia, Andy Lee.
Fresh from a concert in Manila the night before, Malaysia was their sixth stop on their Asia-Pacific tour. Their previous stops included Singapore, Melbourne and their hometown Sydney where they were born and raised. The next day would be their concert at Menara PGRM in Cheras, and they had come a day earlier to prepare.
The duo was warmly greeted by Creative Central, organiser of the Malaysian leg of their tour. Then Janice and Sonia proceeded to do what seemed to be second nature to them: they recorded a video for their YouTube fans. “Hi! This is Janice, and I’m Sonia, and we’re Jayesslee,” they exuded in front of the airport’s information booth. Curiously, they seemed to know exactly who should say what and not “talk over” each other.
No strangers to the camera
Perhaps it is a “twin connection”, or maybe after 35 videos on YouTube, they’ve developed a “good working system”. What began in 2008 as ad-hoc video recordings made at home and posted on YouTube, has now become a full-time vocation for the Lee sisters. They make music, post it on YouTube, sell it on iTunes, and occasionally, travel the world playing live for their adoring fans. Their YouTube channel Jayesslee (a combination of the first letters of both their names and their family name) boasts almost 500,000 subscribers and their 35 videos have a combined total of more than 85 million video views. Seven digit viewerships for each of their video is a norm for this duo. Their latest video, a cover of Taylor Swift’s Safe and Sound, surpassed 1,000,000 views in less than two weeks. That works out to an average of 71,428 views a day for that video alone.
Their families are supportive of their career choice, although initially they were quite apprehensive. “Dad had very traditional views on careers,” Sonia explained later, “but when our videos hit 1,000,000 views, he knew something was up.” Even their grandfather now watches their videos on his phone and shares them with his friends.
In their message to their Malaysian fans, the Lee sisters proclaimed, “We can’t wait to see you guys, we’ve missed you. See you soon!” Their warm persona has earned them many loyal fans and the number is growing by the day. They get more than 1000 new subscribers everyday.
Practice makes perfect
After a quick freshening up and lunch, they headed for a rehearsal with their band. Sonia’s husband, Andy, played the drums. As in all their YouTube videos, Sonia was on the acoustic guitar, which she learned to play in 2007 by watching YouTube videos. Janice, the older twin by 10 minutes, was on the tambourine and also did some nifty beatboxing, which was also picked up from YouTube. They were joined by Malaysian locals, Andrew Lau (from Leaderonomics) and Joy Anthony, on the electric guitar and bass, for their Kuala Lumpur concert.
The rehearsal stretched for a whole two and half hours. They rehearsed the entire concert’s routine and only stopped when they were satisfied that everything was in place. Vocally, they are strong and their harmonies carefully pre-planned. After the rehearsal was over, they called it a day and returned to their hotel for some much-welcomed rest.
We joined them again the next afternoon just after 3pm. A crowd of fans had already gathered outside the hall. As Janice and Sonia arrived at the concert venue, they were chaperoned past screaming excited fans to the backstage. The twins have taken their rapid rise to fame with a humble and down to earth disposition, preferring to say they have made many friends around the world through their success.
Three hours to the concert and it’s time for sound check on stage. They approached it just as they would the actual concert; running through the entire set thoroughly. For the duo, the objective was clear - they just wanted to make sure all went right. An hour later, they were back in their dressing room back stage, fixing their hair and make-up. When asked how they picked their outfits, they said they like shopping and matching clothes for their shows, but “there is no real structure” as to what they chose to wear. Ultimately, they want to look good because “we just want to give the best to our fans”, they said. To keep their voice in tip top condition, their standard warm up routine is an exercise where they blow air and let their lips flap. “Apparently, that’s supposed to make you sound awesome,” confided Sonia. They also make sure they drink lots of liquids and rest their voices to sound fresh during shows.
As soon as they were ready, they headed to a press conference, and thereafter to a radio interview with RedFM. Janice and Sonia are no strangers to the media, having been featured on various programmes while on their tours such as “E! News Asia”, “8TV Quickie” and the “MTV show”.
As I followed them around, I noticed that Janice was always on the left side and Sonia on the right. When asked, they confirmed that these are their favourite sides.
An hour to the concert, the sisters began to settle down. During the opening acts, the girls remained in their dressing rooms. Then, it was time for them to perform. The 1300 adoring fans, anticipating their entrance, began chanting “Jayesslee, Jayesslee”. Perhaps one of the uniqueness of music careers forged on YouTube is that the artists become known by the name of their YouTube channel - something to bear in mind for aspiring musicians on YouTube. The chanting fans demonstrate an added dimension that YouTube does not offer: the gathering of fans as well as direct interaction with the artist. Janice and Sonia however gave the thumbs up to YouTube “for changing the music scene for the better,” noting that it gives musicians direct access to the public. Now, it’s possible to disseminate music without a record label!
The hall was packed with indulgent fans who knew almost everything about the girls. “Hi Andy!” the crowd shouted as Andy came on stage. Then again, even Sonia and Andy’s wedding video on YouTube has reached over 700,000 hits.
The girls shared stories about each other candidly, explaining the origins of their songs before they sang, and talked about the things they enjoyed about Malaysia - roti canai and pasar malam - to the delight of their fans. They poked fun at each other: “She’s not my sister, we’re not related,” chirped Sonia when Janice referred to movie Hunger Games as Hungry Games. It was like an intimate night out with friends, only that these “friends” were stylish, very good musicians, singers and on top of that, did most of the talking.
Being YouTube musicians they are aware of their responsibility not only to the “physical world” but also to the “cyber world”. Inevitably, they have to make time in between songs to take an Instagram photo on stage and to record a video for YouTube. For the video, Andy joined them using a Canon EOS 7D.
And what is their secret for a successful YouTube channel? Without hesitation, the Lee twins answered, ”Good content, location, writing, editing, and most of all, a personality that people can relate to. People must feel like they want to come back,” was their advice.
Sonia and Janice stay grounded and humble despite their sensational success
It is then time to meet the fans
The concert ended at close to 10pm. The beaming duo went backstage and met up with concert-goers who had purchased VVIP tickets and were entitled to a post-concert meet up. After answering some of their questions, it was time for autographs and everyone in the room got their chance. Jayesslee’s advice to aspiring musicians and YouTubers is to “keep it real and genuine”. With such warmth and dedication to their fans, it is no wonder that their popularity and subscriber base will continue to soar. At leaderonomics.com, we wish them all the best in their lives ahead as they start families and as they continue to inspire others to greatness!
Check out leaderonomics.com LIVE video of Jayesslee's time with us in Kuala Lumpur below: