It’s not often that you hear someone cite Kim Kardashian as their biggest inspiration for going to law school. 

“She’s running an empire!” says senior David Jin, laughing as he leans back in his chair. “People can say whatever they want, but law school is law school, and passing the bar is passing the bar. It’s the one thing that is — thank God — objective.”

Jin recently got into Loyola Law School, and he plans to focus on entertainment law. It wasn’t until Kardashian passed the bar — in his junior year at the University — that he considered it as a possible outlet to combine both his passion for music and realistic concern about a continuous, stable income. However, it is that passion that has led him to release music online for the past couple of years, with his most recent single, “Moments I Missed,” having come out on Jan. 20.

His influences, which include Mariah Carey and Toni Braxton, are ever-present in his work in understated ways. He gravitates towards bigger ballads, has signature motifs that he employs in songs, and uses his whistle register as a track embellishment. In addition, they are a memory of years long ago, back before college here in Rochester and boarding school in California.

“When I was about seven or eight years old, my mom used to buy English compilation CDs with all this 90s music on it,” David reminisces. His fingers flutter as he hums out a snippet of “Without You” by Mariah Carey, as if to guide his own vocals through the air. “I didn’t really know English back then, so I just tried to sing along. Some songs just stay with you.”

Back in Xi’an, China, where Jin lived for the first 13 years of his life, most days consisted of school, after school tutoring, and listening to those CDs. According to Jin, he wasn’t much of a socializer, and still isn’t now. “Had I not been in an a cappella group — and especially the Midnight Ramblers — I would have been miserable,” he half-jokes.His solo journey through music, as an untrained vocalist, composer, lyricist, and producer, ended up being a way to get better at being by himself.

That solitude comes through in his production process, with “Moments I Missed” being his first piece that he outsourced the mixing process on. That decision wasn’t easy — the lyrics are personal to Jin because “they’re exactly what happened,” and in general, he tends to be pretty particular about edits. In total, he recorded “Moments I Missed” over the course of two weeks, and re-revised it while it was out for its initial mix, and went through six different mixes (with various added and re-recorded background vocals) before the final product.

His creation process is almost down to a science as well — sit down at his desk (his vocals are better when he sits), adjust the mic in front of him, come up with a chord progression on the keyboard, and ease into the workflow of putting together an entire song. “Moments I Missed” took about two days to write on piano. Some might call him a control freak — he’d be among them.

That love for 90s powerhouses — especially the live vocals and voice leading choices of Mariah Carey — shines through best in his unwillingness to autotune any of his vocals. “We’re so used to the perfection,” he sighs. “If I can’t sing it, why am I doing it?” 

This striving for as-close-to-perfect-as-possible pushes him to work through every moment, and he hopes that it’ll get him through law school next. While life may kick in, and he may not have a university group to sing with when he goes to grad school, he will continue on with his craft. “This is the last thing that’s planned out for you in life,” he says. “This is going to sound so cheesy, but you can’t give up your passion.”

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