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Chillin' With Coco Zhai

Devin Rotz '25

Oct 14, 2022

Recently, Coco Zhai ‘24 released an original song on Spotify titled “Chill.” Zhai has been a prominent member of various art programs at Mercersburg Academy including chorale and Magalia.

She co-wrote “Chill” at home with a friend at the peak of the pandemic during her freshman year when both she and her friend were learning virtually. For international students attending boarding school abroad, learning online was especially difficult as they were often in different time zones.

During the pandemic, Zhai and other Chinese students from Mercersburg and other boarding schools would gather together to study and talk about their struggles and the stress they felt.

When Zhai and her co-writer, Jerry, met at these gatherings, they instantly connected through their love of writing music. The songs and lyrics in Coco and Jerry’s song intend to give people time to relax. “Everyone needs time to chill, and lean back to relax,” said Zhai.

Zhai said, “We decided to name the song ‘Chill’ because the vibe of the song was really relaxed and everyone needs time to sit back and relax” during a time of stress about school, home, and the world.

The lyrics in “Chill” are a mixture of Chinese and English, but Zhai translated some of Chinese lyrics into English for fans: “Enjoying the sunset, a cup of coffee or tea, next to the window with your pets, and appreciating the time that’s stopped and when you are just there.” Coco and Jerry's goal with the song is to get people to understand the idea of taking time to unwind.

Zhai also worked with a producer, Ethan, to achieve the final iteration of her song. Ethan’s job as the producer was to create the melody and beat of the song. Coco and Jerry each wrote a verse of the song and each wrote the melody to their respective verse as it wasn’t possible for them to be together all of the time to write.

“Track first, lyrics, melody, and then produce,” Zhai said when to describe the process and steps in writing a song.

When an idea comes to mind, Zhai writes it down or tries to make the idea come to life before she forgets. Writing her verse took about two to three hours to complete in one sitting.

It took hours on the phone before or after school and coming together in a studio with a music engineer to mix the song to produce it. After hours on the phone, in the studio, and producing the song, it took Zhai and the others around a month to finish and release the song.

Listen to “Chill” for free on Spotify under the artist name Coco Zhai.

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