The Man Behind the Tony T Sessions

On August 29th, there will be a special concert in Anaheim, CA that will give the audience members, in real-time or on webcast, an inside look on what musicians think about when they write a song. Featuring Connie Lim, Sue Jin Kim, Giana Nguyen, David “Applesauce” Tran Kristine Sa, and Tony T Nguyen, these artists make up the concert that is known as the Tony T Sessions. It is created by one of the most truly talented and genuine musicians I have had the fortune of knowing, Tony T Nguyen. You can visit here to get more information about the event as well as to purchase your tickets.

What are the Tony T Sessions? Who is Tony T Nguyen? All will be revealed in this special interview with the man himself. An honest, real, and beautiful musician, find out how music came to play such an important role in Tony T Nguyen’s life.

Tell us a little about yourself. What is it that made you want to be a musician?
I was born in Glendale, CA as a Vietnamese American. My real mom left me when I was 6 months old. My dad gave up his dreams of traveling the world to take care of me. My dad is a poet in the Vietnamese community. I believe I got the creative gene from him.

Music discovered me at the age of 5. I had no clue what music was or what it did to for the soul. I sat at the organ one day as my dad hummed to me a melody, I then figured it out by ear. As the years passed, I learned how to play the violin, trumpet, french horn, guitar, concert/marching percussion, drum set, piano, and some other random stuff. I learned these instruments because I wanted to compose music for films, I wanted to understand what the instruments were capable of doing.

I then realized in 8th grade that I wanted to be in the music industry. There were times I performed songs and peopled cried or was touched by something I composed. I realized that music had an impact and I wanted to be able to help express how people felt.

Who are your musical influences? Feel free to talk about your favorite musicians, bands, music genres, etc.

I am the worse at answering these types of questions; the reason is genuinely, I don’t have any particular favorite musician, band, or genres because depending on my mood, I listen to different songs and artists. Growing up I was in a rock band and we listened to bands such as, Pearl Jam, Aerosmith, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, U2, and many more. On my own I listened to Enya, Boys II Men, Sonny Rollins, Arturo Sandoval, Maxwell, Sarah McLachlan, Lauren Hill, Enigma, John Legend, Coldplay, Leonard Bernstein, Eric Benet, India Arie, and way too many more to list.

I will say this. My biggest influences are the independent artists I’ve recently met because they’re real to me. Let me explain. I like Coldplay. But I’m not near them in person and I can’t always pay an arm and a leg to go see them. Independent artists however, are accessible. They could be playing down the street or sitting next to you having a conversation about life. I feel connected and I vibe off of that.

What do you wish to accomplish with your music?

I would like to leave a legacy through my music and work. I would like to have my music mean something to me and/or others. I wish to create music to heal the soul through all kinds of situations.

As a Vietnamese American, did your racial identity ever play a factor in your work?

Recently I auditioned for a commercial spot for a world famous company. After the audition, they said that myself and the other performers in my group had the best talent and energy, however it wasn’t the “look” they were searching for. I kind of knew it before going into it, but I didn’t want to regret not trying.

How did the Tony T Sessions come about?

It was shortly after my first Facebook/Ustream benefit concert, I wanted to do something like a web/live concert. The artists I had on the show and the viewers really enjoyed the interaction that was set up.

At first my idea was to interview anyone and at the end somehow “collab” with them. Example, if it was a musician, I would perform a song with them. If it was a bunch of dancers, I would dance with them at the end of the show.

It took some work to get the Facebook/Ustream application to work and when it worked I wanted to utilize it more.

I was asked to perform at this venue called Tuesday Night Café. I had not performed live for over  2 years. I had such an amazing time with the other artists. I remembered one thing from that night though, because of so many talented artists out there, we all had an amount of time on stage to talk about our songs and to perform it. I caught myself trying to talk so much about my songs and ran over my time limit.

After that night, I had talked to some friends and they said I should put on an event. I wasn’t sure at first how, what, when, and so on.

If there was one thing you could change about the American music industry, what would it be?

Changes are happening with or without me. I’m just glad that I have the opportunity to make an impact. That in itself is a luxury I’m fortunate to have.

You have a very giving nature when it comes to collaborations. What is it about collaborations that you enjoy the most?

I started with collaborations recently because I’ve noticed how awesome it feels to connect with another creative mind. I can only get better if I surround myself with better people than myself. The biggest thing is, I don’t forget where I came from meaning, no matter where I am in life, I am here because of each and everyone I meet. If it weren’t for people giving me guidance or mentoring me through education and friendship, Tony T Nguyen would not exist. With collaborations, it allows people to see my influences through future creative works.

Where would you like to see yourself in terms of future goals and dreams you would like to fulfill?

When I was a kid, I had that cliché dream of wanting to be a “rock star.” In my travels I have reached some point of stardom to realize that it wasn’t what I wanted. It came back to the art of music and the people I get to meet. My goal is to be able to continue to touch people’s lives through my stories and music. I’d like to pass on the knowledge of my parents, teachers, mentors, friends, and people like you and me. I’d like to be remembered as “the guy who reminded us what it is to have the human spirit and to remember all that have taken the time to be there.”

I truly can’t predict the future but this I love this quote, “Life is not about FINDING yourself. Life is about CREATING yourself.” Don’t wait to see what you are going to become. Know who you want to be and make it happen. Be who YOU want to be and stay true. Just recently a few people had approached me and took the time to say, “Tony, I really admire you because no matter how hard things get, you stay true to your craft.” I’m honored to hear people seeing that about me. I may not be the biggest rock star, but my friends and family sure make me feel like one and to me that’s more important.

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About Edward

Edward Hong is an actor and spoken poet. Passion to make a change in this world through the performing arts and activism defines his ongoing life and it is the struggle against all things unjust that gives him this passion to be one heck of a talkative, stubborn man. It, however, does not mean he strives to be a champion or role model of any community but to be the man who will be honest and say the things nobody will have the balls to say. He is the jester who is outspoken in what he believes in most passionately and therefore cannot be pinpointed that he will do what you expect him to do.
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