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Columbia alum Ian Jake Robleza grapples with existentialism on new single ‘Little While’

Christalyn Barker
Indie Singer-Songwriter Ian Jake Robleza poses in Grant Park on Wednesday, May 1, 2024. Robleza currentlly studies Audio Arts and Acoustics at Columbia College Chicago with a graduation set in December.

Columbia alum Ian Jake Robleza’s new single “Little While” deals with themes of existentialism atop an acoustic rock instrumentation, due May 10. The song features current senior audio arts major and music business minor Linh Pham, who performs under the moniker, LIONAH.

Robleza began songwriting in high school, around the time when his friends convinced him to enter a male beauty pageant to select “Mr. Handsome” for homecoming, which earned him the opportunity to perform for an audience. Onstage in front of his high school, he received a standing ovation for his performance of an original song he wrote. That moment pushed him to continue writing songs and pursuing music, which led him to Columbia where he majored in audio arts with a concentration in music recording and minoring in philosophy while also self-releasing two albums, an EP and a number of singles. He graduated in Dec. 2023 and continues to release music after his graduation.

Robleza started work on his upcoming single “Little While” last summer and said it differed from much of his previous work.

“The moment I finished writing it, it felt different than the other songs I’ve written, pretty much all the songs I’ve written in the past,” Robleza said. “This is a lot more existential, it’s a lot more ambiguous and I know I just want to do something differently.”

After sitting with the song for a few months, Robleza returned to “Little While” for a project in his “Advanced Practicum in Music Design” class, taught by part-time faculty instructor in the audio arts and acoustics department Christopher Brickley.

The class tasked students with a project of developing and completing a piece of music. Robleza decided to recruit Pham to feature on the song after becoming friends with her through their shared work as studio assistants in the audio department. Beyond their friendship, Robleza said he wanted to join his and Pham’s musical styles together.

“When I collaborate with someone, I want to kind of take on [their] style,” he said. “I want our musical intentions to somehow fuse.”

Pham said that when Robleza approached her with a guitar demo of “Little While,” she worked to help smooth out the song’s melody and fine-tune the lyrics. She said that she was drawn to be a part of the song because of its strong songwriting.

“I think that Ian is such a great songwriter for where he is in his career. He writes such memorable melodies,” Pham said. “I’ve always been amazed by that, so when Ian brought the idea to me I was like, ‘Yeah let’s do it.’”

Both Robleza and Pham have both described the song as lyrically detailing existential dread, while still maintaining an optimistic flair to the instrumentation. Robleza said that he hopes people will listen and connect to it based on their own experiences.

“This is something that I think I would like people to not only enjoy sonically but also appreciate lyrically,” he said. “I want it to be on people’s radars and be like ‘Oh, this collaboration is cool because it’s two Chicago artists working together.’”

Brickley, who taught Robleza in his “Advanced Practicum in Music Design” class, said that he observed a series of iterations of the song before it reached its final form, improving each time after feedback.

“Ian took to heart what was said, and his song got better with every listen, which is the point. The version of the song Ian sent me a few days ago sounds even better and shows his attention to detail, passion and selflessness,” Brickley said. “I’m a fan and look forward to hearing more great music in the future.”

In the five years that Robleza has been writing songs, he said that he’s steadily improved his abilities and sustained musical development..

“I feel like I’ve definitely grown as an artist, but I still have so much more to learn, so much more to experience,” Robleza said. “I feel like ‘Little While’ is kind of like a testament to that.”

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About the Contributors
Avery Heeringa
Avery Heeringa, Former Reporter
aheeringa@columbiachronicle.com   Avery Heeringa is a senior communications major, minoring in journalism. Heeringa has reported on the college's unions and events on-campus. He was also the editor-in-chief of ChicagoTalks. Heeringa worked for the Chronicle from December 2023 through May 2024.   Hometown: St. Paul, Minnesota
Christalyn Barker
Christalyn Barker, Former Photojournalist
cbarker@columbiachronicle.com   Christalyn Barker is a senior photojournalism major, minoring in music business. Barker has covered campus events such as Convocation, Acoustic Kitchen performances, and metro events. She worked for the Chronicle from August 2023 through May 2024.   Hometown: Dearborn, Michigan