This interview was first published on Asiance Magazine on July 28, 2013, entitled It's Not About the Fame.
Independent artists around the country are becoming an instant hit as their videos go viral on YouTube. In order to become an instant hit, there needs to be some factor that generates this fan following. As a reviewer and love of music, it wasn’t too difficult to find talented musicians online who are making noise on the internet with soulful lyrics. The music we often hear today is all about drugs, sex, money, power, make up, break up, and glory; but rarely do we hear music that brings hope, inspiration and words of encouragement (only through Christian music).
IBU – Inspired By You, a trio, who was inspired by their families, friends and fans quickly garnered the attention of fans throughout the Chicago area dubbing them as the hottest boy group and ‘Asians with Soul’; winning a state-sponsored Chicago Music Opportunity Project. Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child was a judge. IBU is the first Asian American music group at the New York International Music Festival and voted the best R&B group. Despite the accomplishments of IBU, overcoming stereotypes in the mainstream music industry and media still has a way to go. This obstacle led to a hiatus from performing in order to mold themselves in who they truly are; artists.
I was finally able to connect with Tommy C, one of the YouTube sensational artists with a wealth of subscribers, who brings in millions of views each day.
ASIANCE: For those who don’t know you, give us a brief bio about yourself and how you got started in the music business?
Tommy C: I was born in Laos and came to the states with my family at the age of 2. We didn’t have much when we came. My mom was the musical one in the family and who I feel I got my passion for music from. I pursued music after graduating high school to later learn that my mom also had aspirations in becoming a singer. She gave up her dream because she didn’t have resources back in Laos to help her through. I intend to keep fighting for my dream and continue to make music in a way it’ll motivate others to do the same.
ASIANCE: How long were you part of IBU? Are you still with IBU? Or are you and IBU working on different odd projects?
Tommy C: We’re still together but the group has branched out as a solo artist so we can focus on each other. We still do group projects from time to time.
ASIANCE: With the YouTube artists skyrocketing, fans are calling out TOMMY C and leaving you so many comments. Was the song “I do it for you” dedicated to your fans?
Tommy C: The song is actually called MY REASON and “I Do It for You” was definitely the message I wanted to send to our fans. I feel that music is a vehicle to spread a meaningful message. It’s a tool strong enough to move a society and influence people to make the right decisions. When I write lyrics to a song I try to make every word count so people can listen and be inspired.
ASIANCE: What are some of the highs and lows of being a musician? What is your advice or tips to offer potential artists?
Tommy C: For me, there are no lows of being a musician. I only see music as a gift. No one forced me into music so it’s a way for me to get away. When I write and sing, if it’s not about me. I place myself in other people’s lives and write about them. One of the highs of being a musician is that it’s a quick way to get out of a bad situation. If I’m feeling out of it, I start writing and the moment I make a song out of it, it gives me such a high that I don’t feel bad anymore. My advice to aspiring artists does music because you enjoy it, not because it’s “cool” or because your parents push you into it. Because when you enjoy it, others will too.
ASIANCE: What’s the story behind “Full Circle”? Was this song about your life?
Tommy C: FULL CIRCLE was co-written by me, Maribelle Anes and another fellow songwriter David Lundy. Yes, the song was about us with a simple message about never quitting on your goals. The lyrics are pretty self-explanatory, easy to digest.
ASIANCE: All in a nutshell, what truly inspires you to keep doing what you do?
Tommy C: My love for music and to use it for a good reason. Like I mentioned a little bit before, writing songs is a passion of mine and no one makes me do it. It’s an opportunity and the freedom we have to be creative. The fact that other people enjoy it is just another fuel for the fire. It motivates me to keep doing what I do.
ASIANCE: Are you like most Asian artists who work by day as an employee and an artist by night?
Tommy C: I feel like I’m an artist 24 hours a day and I do what I have to do to get by.
ASIANCE: I really love the fact that you have been working along with other famous YouTube artists such as J. Reyez, Thai, and others. How did you all meet in the first place?
Tommy C: Technology makes it all possible. We met through YouTube. I think anytime I work with other artists, the key is to be on the same page. Having fun is important and making good music is too.
ASIANCE: Last but not least, are you currently working on an album or is that information a hush-hush project?
Tommy C: I’m working on an album to follow-up with my “C” Mixtape but I’m taking my time with it. I want to make sure I bring out great music and I will continue to do it as long as I can.