By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
“Music is where my heart is,” said Seattle-based Rachel Wong.
This summer, the 25-year-old Chinese-American singer-songwriter is releasing her sophomore album, “Letters to You,” and she hopes that the album shows her continuing maturity in music.
“The last album was really special to me because it was the songs that I wrote while I was growing up,” said Wong.
This album, however, features all new music with entirely new musicians. At first, Wong found it difficult to find a producer to collaborate with on the album.
“For me, I wanted to work with a producer that really knew what music I wanted,” she said.
But after some time, Wong found the right connection and has gotten more involved in the process of building out all of the instrumentation. This summer, she will begin playing with a live band. She’s excited about the next iteration of her music.
It was only two years ago that Wong debuted “Curtain Fall,” a set of songs she wrote, performed, and promoted without the help of a record label. Through her hard work, the self-titled single
“Curtain Fall” saw radio playtime in Canada and the Philippines. Her successes thus far are a product of a lifetime of passion.
Wong began her musical career at age 3 when she started to learn to play the piano. She took to music immediately, taught herself how to play guitar, and wrote her own songs. While attending the University of Washington, she began performing in front of crowds. She released her debut album in 2011 and has performed at local venues in Seattle and Portland.
Without the assistance of a record label, Wong has built a fan base due in part to social media.
She maintains a presence on multiple social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Spotify.
“It’s definitely hard but there’s something special about social media.” Wong said. “Before social media came into the game, there was an uncertainty of who you were communicating with.”
“[I]t allows you to be who you are,” she added.
In addition to writing her own music and managing her own music career, Wong also works full-time at Brown Paper Tickets. Between her passion and work, her days can be extraordinarily long. “Lots of coffee,” Wong half-joked, remarking on how she survives through the day.
One recent day, Wong had a woke up at 5 a.m. to perform for a morning television program in Portland, then had to drive up to Seattle for her job and work until 7 p.m.
Similar to her first album, the songs on her second album are about her observations on life.
“I appreciate and take things in. The songs are not exactly about me, per se, but experiences walking through life.” Wong explained, “I love writing songs because there’s something really powerful telling the story.”
“Center Stage” was written after Wong made an unsuccessful attempt to audition to be on American Idol. It was the first time she had auditioned to be on a television show.
While Wong has her own thoughts and background with each song, she embraces the idea that songs can mean different things to different people.
“It’s really special to create something in general, but people take it in a personal way,” she said.
Despite being turned down from American Idol, Wong persevered and competed in the Ford Motor Company’s “Gimme the Gig” competition. The competition spanned eight months and searched for the best independent musicians and bands. Wong was actually a fill-in for another act that had dropped, but once people heard her perform, they immediately got behind her.
Wong made the final 12 out of over 3,000 acts. She was flown to Los Angeles to compete.
Finalists were chosen by a combination of a popular online vote and input from judges Ford, Grammy-winning Don Was, and Grammy-winning producer Krish Sharma.
During the competition, Wong’s acoustic, soulful pop sound was compared to Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, but on the guitar.
The final event was held in Los Angeles and had over 4 million broadcast viewers. Although a group from Gig Harbor, Wash. came away as winners, Wong thought that it was a rewarding experience.
For the finale of the competition, Wong performed a song off of her new album, “Invisible Strength,” which is about overcoming adversity.
“If life throws you curveballs, stay positive,” she said. (end)
You can see Rachel Wong perform at the Wing Luke’s Jamfest on July 18 and at the Bellevue Festival of the Arts July 27.
For more information on those events and about Rachel Wong, visit RachelWongMusic.com.
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.