What is there to know about CryWolffs! Violin?
I started learning violin at the age of four and learned traditional and classical music. However, it was not until after college that I really started performing. I went to college for a Fine Arts degree but after graduating, I started playing at open mics. Open mics gave me a space to try things out, get used to performing for a crowd, and meet other artists so after a while I started getting gigs. I would say my style of violin is pretty straight forward and direct. I have a heavy classical Baroque-ish influence, but I also have mixed in some Celtic inflections.
How has being part of Kollaboration helped?
Being part of Kollaboration helped me focus my path. Before, I was kind of drifting through music and just playing any show I could beg my way into. After taking part in Kollaboration, I was able to forge new connections with local Bay Area Asian organizations and I was able to really start giving back to the greater Asian community. I am very proud to be an Asian Pacific Islander artist and Kollaboration really gave me a stage to be one. More than anything though, Kollaboration was an important performing experience. Before Kollaboration, I had played many shows but I had never played a gig that was so well put-together. On the day of, we had a red carpet, photographers, a meet-and-greet. It was really amazing and something I had never experienced before.
Who inspires or influences you as an artist/performer?
There are plenty of artists out there who are professionally working in the music industry that I admire, like Paul Dateh, Nuttin' But Stringz, and Black Violin, however I always find my peers to be a bigger inspiration. I always meet amazing musicians and performers at shows and open mics, and I always have more drive and creative spirit after hanging out with other musicians backstage. I find that when I listen to all the famous people, I say to myself, “That's amazing” and “they are really great,” but that's about it. When I hear one of my fellow musicians, I actually have the urge to go home and make more of my own music. Professionals and masters are great to listen to, admire and venerate, but I find that real people and my musical colleagues are the ones who truly inspire me to actually make music.
How has being Asian American affected you as a performer?
I think it is hard for anyone to be a performer in today's day and age. I would say it is hard for Asians to be in the entertainment industry...but in truth, the entertainment industry is hard for anyone. Since I operate mainly with API organizations and events, I do not usually bump into the racial impasse as some of my peers have had to deal with. However, I do often have rather surprised audiences when I get up onstage and start playing hip-hop, R&B, or EDM violin. I definitely do not look the part nor do I make any attempt to look street/hard/DJ/etc. because, frankly, I am not. Personally, I do not like my audiences to know what to expect. I am there to play music and the way I look should have no bearing on my abilities or musical leanings as a musician. I believe that neither the color of my skin nor my wardrobe needs to be any indicator to what I am about to perform onstage. In all honesty, I take great pleasure in messing around with the preconceptions and visual cues of audiences.
How do you feel the Asian American music scene has changed since you performed?
Asians are certainly permeating the entertainment industry more and more. You see more APIs in movies (sure they are not leads, but we have to start somewhere). It's nice to see an Asian in a movie every now and again who’s not replaying some tired old stereotype of the mythic sage/exotic woman/emasculated male/etc. While these archetypes are certainly distasteful aspects of our history as Asians in America, to deny the archetypes of sage/martial artist/concubine would be denying an, albeit distasteful, element of our API story.
Even so, Asians are inching towards being portrayed as more and more “human.” Perhaps not fully humanized as of yet but we certainly are moving towards a point where we can be portrayed as human in lieu of being any one of the facets of “Asian-tude.” I must tip my hat to all the strong-willed Asian American actors, artists, musicians, dancers, models, designers, and popular figures out there that are constantly reminding the greater American community that there are more facets to this diamond.
What trends in today’s music do you like or dislike?
I respect the choices musicians make when playing music and it doesn't particularly matter what the genre is. I respect all choices made, even though some may be a little abrasive or nonsensical to me. I may not understand it or it may not move me, but that's not really the grounds in my opinion to dislike it. I hear “hip hop is dead” and that “EDM is made by pushing a button,” and I often have to wade through the mire of ridiculous feuds and beef between musicians on social media. Personally, I always thought that music was supposed to change. By all means, if your generation's music is something you love, hold on to it dearly. That's what music is there for! But music is ALSO a living and breathing thing. It is going to change and as technology progresses, so will music. So, do I like or dislike anything? Not particularly. I'm kind of just here for the ride and it certainly has been a fascinating one.
If you could perform with one famous artist, who would it be?
This may sound strange but if I could perform with anyone, it would probably be Bill Bailey. If you haven't heard of him, he is a British comedian whose sketches include music. Wanting to play with a comedian may sound a bit strange but let me justify myself by saying he is a truly astounding musician. He is immeasurably good. But more importantly, he approaches music in a profoundly intelligent and witty way. When I watch one of his sketches, I see him re-evaluating both music and musical instruments in a cultural, historical and anthropological fashion and he will either tip his hat to a genre or swap it out for something else completely. Ever hear Scarborough Fair in German played as Rammstein? It's completely magical. Want to hear metal played on a bicycle horn piano? It's both surprising and satisfying. How about listening to an entire orchestra play and as you strip the different instruments away, you find out the Oboes have been surreptitiously playing “How Deep is Your Love” by the Bee Gees. There is something hilarious but also something magical about that.
Yes, he is a comedian but he is also an absolutely phenomenal artist with a completely original approach to musical performance and I feel it would not only be a deep learning experience to perform with him onstage but also just plain fun.
What does it mean for you to “Kollaborate” with other performers?
Any kind of collaboration is always difficult for me. Not saying I do not like teaming up with people, however, I am a soloist and I have worked in solitude for my entire music career. When faced with collaboration, I always find it difficult to meld with a group most specifically because it is always hard to figure out where the violin should fit in the mix or how to arrange it so the violin is not overpowering. “Kollaborations” have always been a difficult thing for me but certainly good learning experiences. It forces me to work with people instead of me just working alone, as I am so accustomed to doing.
What can we expect from your “Kollaboration” with SanFran6 this year?
I am excited to be working with SanFran6 this year. They are all very talented and work so well as a group and we have some great songs and popular songs in the works. What happens when you add an instrumental soloist to an a capella group?
How has the Bay Area shaped your music?
The Bay Area has a great music scene but I would say that my music was possible because the Bay is okay with “weird” acts. Oddball acts like mine can sometimes be very hard to effectively put into a show, but I am very lucky that there is a multitude of shows in the Bay Area that are perfectly okay with having some multi-genre pop violin before their headliner. Oddity is no stranger to the Bay Area and for that I am grateful.
What does it mean for you to call the Bay Area your home?
As stated above, The Bay is perfectly fine with weird and I can be an oddball and not get criticized for it, which is nice.
Do you have any words or advice for people who are considering whether or not to pursue their passion in entertainment?
I think everyone should, in one way or another, pursue their passion. It is your passion. What is life without your passion? That being said, you can pursue a passion without having it engulf your entire life. You can still pick up a guitar and play at an open mic and become “open mic famous.” You can record yourself singing and shoot for YouTube stardom. However, if you are thinking about pursuing your passion as a line of work, just remember that you are turning your passion into work. Yes, it is still your passion and yes, you will still love every moment of it, but in order to make it work for you, it will take a level of dedication and focus that I feel a lot of people may underestimate. You take one of your loves and you have to pour yourself into it (just like anything you love), but you have to manage it like your work (just like any job).
Also, it is important to keep in mind what your audience is hearing/seeing. We can make art for ourselves all we want and there is nothing wrong with that but there needs to be some point where your mind and the audiences senses intersect. If you are getting onstage and you do not offer the audience something palatable, it may be difficult to get your feet off the ground. That is not to say you need to change the art you are making, but engineering a successful distribution method is also a factor in performance.
What can we look forward to from you?
I have a few cover songs up on iTunes, Google Play, Loudr, and Spotify and hopefully I will post up more soon. You can keep see my music links as well as art projects on my website: http://crywolffs.wix.com/crywolffs