It’s been 4 years since I released my last album. Before that, there was an even longer hiatus of 7 years since I had recorded any new material. Things have slowed down quite a but, but back in my 20s, I kept busy. I worked. I was one of the only Asian Americans out there pursuing music as a career (Christian indie music no less). I got to work with some amazing musicians and producers I looked up to, and shared the stage with several artists whose names I shall not drop here. But as I look back on all those years, I realize something important. My music career wasn’t necessarily about music. Honestly, my music was mediocre. And no, I’m not fishing for compliments, and I’m not being false-modest. To balance things out, I will say that I wrote and recorded a few songs I really liked (especially on Brick by Brick)! So there, I'm not just being self-deprecating! And depending on who you talk to, I guess you can say I had a decent level of success. But like I said, what's really interesting when I look back on that time is that it wasn't really all that much about music. In retrospect, if I were to construct a list of what was really important to me during that time of life (in order of importance), it would look something like this:
1 Representing Asians in the Christian music industry
2 Paving the way for fellow Asian artists who were better than me
3 Getting things done
4 Connecting with people
5 Sharing my stories and beliefs with people (through music)
But what came before this list? There was a crucial step that I didn’t consider to be so crucial at the time, and it was the very thing that sparked the long journey of music ahead. What was that step?
I became a fan.
Not just a casual fan, but a SUPER FAN of a few musicians/bands. I've always loved music (Top 3 during my pre-teenage years were Michael Jackson, The Beatles, and Billy Joel). In middle school, I started realizing I can play some of the music I loved (which at that time took me into the New Wave territory: Erasure, Depeche Mode, etc.) But after I started playing guitar, and learned the intro to "I Will Be Here" (by Steven Curtis Chapman), the fan boy emerged. Honestly, it was embarrassing how much of a fan boy I was when it came to musicians I looked up to. It all went next-level when I was finally able to go to a Steven Curtis Chapman concert, and literally ran after the tour bus after the concert was over, to try to meet him. SCC and I made eye-contact, and out of the kindness of his heart asked the driver to pull over so he could meet this crazy Korean boy running faster than Forrest Gump. I asked to take a photo with him, and I made it poster sized, and proudly put it on display for all to see in my college dorm room for the many years that followed. You think the story ends there. The following year, I went to another SCC concert, met him AGAIN and asked for a “do-over” photo with him because in the first one I looked like a maniac. (And I brought that photo where I looked like a maniac so that he can sign that one) He laughed with me, but I'm pretty sure he was scared for his life. But that’s what I was. A maniac – and I couldn’t help it! I believed so much in everything this man did, and I realized that the next step I wanted to take was to become JUST like him. And little did I know that in that moment, long before I stepped into a recording studio, that my music career began.
Not to go too much into detail, but like I mentioned above - my music was mediocre. In fact yesterday an old friend of mine posted my FIRST album with my band on instagram, and I cringed! I was just thankful that probably only a handful of people have a copy of that CD! But like many fan turned artists, I completely resonate with this quote by Ira Glass:
“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.”
Though there were so many things I learned while trying to become what I was a fan of, I probably won't go into too much of that in this blog. Rather, I’m focusing on the “taste” part. There was something so pure and innocent about only being a fan of something. No pressure to network, no pressure to sell something. Just simple admiration for something or someone great. I loved being just a fan, and I still do!
One of the things I learned about myself recently, is that when I am truly a fan of something, it’s easy for me to talk about it and share it with my friends. It’s different from sales, because I actually wouldn’t be able to sell something I didn’t believe in – but if it’s something I love, it’s easy. There’s a deep sense of pleasure I get out of seeing a friend grow to love or appreciate something I turned them onto (and love when it happens to me)! It’s a type of connection.
So, if you got this far - I’d love to tell you from time to time, about the things that I like, the people that are my heroes, and the ideas I’m inspired by. I hope some of these posts might be helpful for you (or just fun to read), and that you might even become a fan of some of these ideas, things, or people, yourself!