Jonathan Wong is the son a Tiger Mom asks for: intelligent, a piano and violin prodigy, and a graduate of Cornell University. Although his parents were really supportive of him and his mom isn’t exactly a Tiger Mom, he still felt a little pressured to seek a career that was typical for many Asians—Business and Banking. He even interned at one of the largest banks in America during college. When he was in college, he tried to experience new subjects and extracurricular activities. He double majored in Psychology and Modern Dance. He was a musical director for his university’s a cappella group, Last Call. Wong was the first Asian American to receive the Undergraduate Artist Award at Cornell University –an honor given once a year by the university to acknowledge one undergraduate among nominations received from various disciplines. Now, Jonathan Wong is on his way to become an international artist. I sit down to talk with Johnathan, after the jump.
What a drastic change from pursuing a career in Banking to becoming a singer. When did you realize you wanted to be a singer and producer?
Well, I always enjoyed performing arts, and as a kid, I tried many activities such as judo, wrestling, piano, violin, theater… When I entered college, I thought I was going to do Banking for the rest of my life. But then I started to write music and I had the opportunity to work with a well-known producer in Hong Kong, Tsang Hei Chiu. I sent my demos in to get a feedback on my music. Getting a critique by a famous music producer was already rewarding enough for me because it helped me improve a lot on my music.
After I graduated, I was kind of lost; I did not really know what I wanted to do. I knew Banking wasn’t really my thing, but I was not sure what else to do. Then I got in contact with the producer from Hong Kong and he said, “Well, what do you want to do now? You already sent over 30 songs; let’s just make an album.” I never expected that I would become an artist someday, but I knew I wanted to inspire people and I can do that with my music. I can say I am kind of a hippy. I write music to look for a brighter outlook in life, and I hope that my listeners can receive the message from my songs. This is not to say that bankers can’t find a meaning of life and inspire people around them, but then again, I would never know for sure.
Are you trying to tell me you should always try something before you give it up all together? Did anyone ever bring you down and tell you that you shouldn’t be an artist?
First of all, all the activities I did shaped who I am today. They are tools that helped me with my career, changed my way of interpreting people, inspirations of my music, and the way I interact with my fans. Alright, let me ask you. You are a writer and that’s what you want to do, right?
Yes, I love to write, but I ultimately want to become a physician.
Well did you ever stop writing when people told you your writing is crappy or that you aren’t smart enough to be a doctor? People at first did not take me seriously. They thought I just wanted to sing for fun and I could just do whatever I wanted because I didn’t have to worry about money. If you give it all you got and love whatever you do, that is something you can’t put a price tag on. When you believe in what you are doing, you will find value, appreciation, and discipline. So who cares what people say about you?
Wow, that was deep… you should become a motivational speaker instead. (Haha, just kidding). Do you try to convey these messages in your music as well?
Absolutely! Most of my songs are about ways of life, taking chances, and self-identity. I remember on my fans forum, one of my fans said that she was in an unhappy marriage and her child was mentally challenged and had a brain disease. She was at a really tough spot, but she shared it with everyone. She even quoted my songs and said that my songs are what keeps her going and to not give up. That made me really happy and I knew what I was doing was right.
I always try to use my music to communicate and connect with my fans. I am open for criticism from my fans so I can understand what they want. This is one of the main reasons why I released an App on Apple Store. It’s called 王梓軒 J-Wo. There is even a chat room on this app. Although it isn’t fully set up yet, I eventually want to use this platform to communicate with my fans.
So what makes you stand apart from other local artists or even artists around the world?
The main goal for me as an artist is to communicate with my fans as much as possible. I know that sometimes, it is easier said than done, but I try my best. I also recently released a multimedia electronic book, Beyond. It is different from what any artists have done. You can purchase it around the world through the Apple App Store and Android Market. According to the publisher, I am one of the first singers to release a multimedia electronic book like this. My e-book includes videos, pictures, texts, my experiences, and behind the scenes of what I do when I create my music. It makes my music even more personal. I understand that a majority of my songs are in Chinese, but I also know that nowadays, there are a lot of Chinese people around the world and even a lot of Chinese speakers who aren’t ethnically Chinese. I can still inspire people around the world with my music.
I recently went to Canada and I was a guest at the New Talent Singing Awards. I performed there and noticed that the feedback I got from the audience was a very different vibe from what I get in Asia. I hope to create some sort of cultural phenomenon that all listeners around the world can share.
Is there anything that you want to share with the fans that they won’t know from reading the E-book?
I would have to say that the whole process of making the book was a challenge. I had to work with people from around the world—Canada, Japan, and Hong Kong. The time zones are very different; it was really hard to find a good time to put my videos together and to write the book. We had to communicate through emails most of the time. I remember I was still in Japan at the time when the deadline was almost up. I barely had time to fly back to Hong Kong to dig through my albums for my baby pictures and other photos for the E-book. Now that it is all done, I have to say that, I enjoyed every moment of working on this project. I am thinking of updating my E-Book soon when I get enough feedback from my fans so I know what I need to change and add.
I know that Jin the MC is in Hong Kong now. Have you ever collaborated with him?
We are very close friends! I am a guest host on his TV show in Hong Kong called Big Boys Club. We have a lot in common—we both like hip hop. Jin was a rapper in the States and he recently moved back to Hong Kong. We both wanted to pursue our careers in Hong Kong. We also collaborated with another local artist, Kary Ng, on a song called “Strong.” This song is in English and we got together to record the track for a Japanese Rock Icon, GACKT. GACKT announced his Show Your Heart foundation to bring relief support for the victims of Japan after the earthquake. We did a song for the foundation to show our support for Japan.
What are you currently working on and what do you plan on doing in the near future?
Last year, I signed with Avex, a record label in Japan. Now, I am working with a Japanese band, AUN, on my new album. They play Japanese traditional instruments and I am trying to incorporate that type of music in my new songs. The theme of my album will be a little different from the themes of my past albums as well. Normally, my songs are really bubbly, show the up side of love, etc. In this new album, I am exploring with other emotions such as regret, down side of love, etc. My newest song is called, Regret, and it is about taking chances and challenging myself.
I also want to perform in the U.S. sometime soon! I have a lot of friends from the states. Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep in touch with everyone now that we are all very busy. It would be nice to get together with them again.
Alright, last question! You must know a lot of languages since you have to travel a lot. How many languages do you know?
I am fluent in English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and I am working on my Japanese right now. I have to speak in Japanese when I talk to the media in Japan. Oh, I also learned French and Italian when I was younger. I can still read the words, but I can’t really make a meaning out of what I am saying though.
Is it okay if I ask you a question? Is this one of those interviews where everything I say isn’t even what it will be on the article? Are you going to quote me on a couple of words and add nonsense like, “I decided to sing because I like”…crocodiles?
Here you have it everyone—an exclusive interview with Jonathan Wong and what do you know? The real reason why he started singing was because he likes crocodiles!
You can follow him on twitter or download his App if you have an iPhone, iPod, or iPad for his latest updates. You can purchase his E-Book, Beyond, through Android Market and Apple App Store.