Watch: Keshi took on our Complete The Lyrics challenge, spoke about his latest album 'Bandaids' and more
From Casey with love
It's not very often that a figure comes into your life and impacts you in a massive way. That's the thing about music. It's not unusual to discover news artistes and fall deeply in love with their music, especially at specific junctures of existence. The tunes heal and resonate—and it's safe to say that Keshi's music does exactly that for many around the world.
Born on 4 November 1994 in Houston, Texas, Keshi (also known as Casey Luong) is a singer-songwriter that's gaining traction—EP by EP, track by track. He taught himself to play the guitar at the age of 12 after his grandfather gave him a "flat classical guitar". During school, he learned production on GarageBand and took on the role as a registered nurse after high school, when he began to release self-composed songs.
They include an early composition called If You’re Not The One For Me Who Is, which he entered it into a competition on a Joji Reddit fan page. Records such as Over U and Just Friends made waves on Spotify and have generated over 43 million streams on the platform so far.
His debut EP came in 2018 when he released The Reaper; containing songs such as Like I Need U, 2 Soon, and I Swear I'll Never Leave Again. Skeletons, his first EP after signing with Island Records, arrived in 2019. The project featured tracks like Atlas, Skeletons, Summer, and Xoxosos. With more than 150 million global streams on Spotify and growing, the John Mayer-inspired musician has made a name for himself as one to watch (and listen to)—not just in the lo-fi hip hop genre, but in music as a whole.
In 2020, Keshi finally released his much-anticipated EP, Bandaids—building on the success of Skeletons. The EP includes Less Of You, Alright, Blue, Right Here, and Bandaids.
Flight and travelling are now restricted amid coronavirus concerns but that did not stop Keshi from meeting his fans. We had the opportunity to speak to him during his virtual promo tour to Malaysia. In addition to playing a fun game with Keshi (watch the video below), he also spoke about new music, the future, and what inspires him.
1. Have you always been into music, and what got you started in song production?
I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t really start developing my own taste for it until I was around 15 years old. Until then, I was just listening to whoever around me was listening to at the time.
As for song production, I started learning around 2016 to 2017 when lofi hip hop was having its big boom. For some reason, I didn’t really inquire as to how modern music was recorded and produced until I got more into hip hop. I think—beforehand—I was really honed into how to write music instead.
2. Who are your musical influences growing up, and who inspires you now?
It really varied for me, but the timeline goes like this: Drake Bell, All Time Low, nevershoutnever, Jason Mraz, Maroon 5, John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, Drake, Bryson Tiller, Frank Ocean, Dean, Joji, and now—here we are.
3. How would you describe your sound, and does being Asian-American shape your identity as an artist?
I’d describe it as alternative pop; a fusion of a previously learned songwriting from my John Mayer-obsessed era with a newfound production style influenced by lofi hiphop and moody trap R&B. As for my artistry, I’ve only ever wanted to make art I was proud of and I don’t think it really has much to do with my ethnicity.
4. When did you decide to make the shift from working as a registered nurse to doing music full time?
When I became brave enough to take the leap—which was when Keshi started to grow after the release of the Reaper EP. Had a rough day at work and thought “it’s now or never”. Put in my resignation the next day.
5. You released Skeletons last year to great success—with brilliant tracks like Atlas and Summer. What was your inspiration for the EP?
My music is always kind of like my personal diary; it documents what I was going through at the time. I was fresh out of college and struggling to find a path to make for myself (Atlas), an old flame hit me up out of the blue (Summer), and I couldn’t stand the dissonance in my heart (Skeletons).
6. Do you have a favourite song off the EP and why?
I think it’d have to be xoxosos. I just love the production on it, from the effects on the vocals to the guitar harmonies that pluck throughout the background.
7. A massive congratulations on Bandaids! What would you say is the biggest difference between Bandaids and Skeletons?
Thank you very much! I’d say the biggest difference is in my growth as a producer. I’m always trying to find different ways to learn. I had the opportunity to meet with many different writers and producers during the making of Bandaids. While nothing we collaborated on made it onto the final record, I was able to learn so much from their workflow and ultimately—those techniques helped me finish the record.
8. Your songs are always so vulnerable and tracks like Less Of You and Alright are clear examples of that. Have you always been so open about your emotions and do you have any advice for anyone who has difficulties opening up in their work?
I feel like I’ve always been a romantic at heart. I think I just like marinating in my feelings, and finding beautiful ways to articulate it. I don’t think there’s any advice I could give other than to be honest. Your feelings will always resonate when you’re honest. Why dress things up when you’re trying to relate to someone?
9. What are you proudest of so far out of all your achievements?
Honestly, I think the music is what I’m the most proud of. The fans, the streams, the worldwide-ness of it all is so insane to me. I’m so grateful for all of it. But in the end, I make music for myself, and that’s what I hold dearest.
10. What would you say are the pros and cons of being a self-producer?
I think the biggest pro is that you’re able to articulate exactly what your vision is without having to compromise with having someone else try to do it for you. The biggest con is that you don’t know what you don’t know. I feel like ideas are so vast, you know?
You want to be able to make the greatest thing you can, but sometimes it seems impossible when you’re only one person—self-taught at that. But in the end, I think it’s a strength. You can see it as a knowledge; the ability to navigate yourself through any session a little more confidently.
11. Finally, do you have a message of hope for everyone going through the pandemic right now?
It may not be right around the horizon, but this will pass too. I look forward to the day where I can finally comfortably roam outside my house and see all my friends again. I hope everyone out there is staying healthy and safe.
Although the singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist isn't physically here in Malaysia, his passion for music and infectious personality are apparent from our brief moment with him. As fans wait for more from Keshi, they are now blessed with Bandaids. What are your favourite songs by Keshi?
For our conversation with Jeremy Zucker, click here.