25 Nov 2020
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Geoff Ong - Interview with Geoff Ong

15 Nov 2020 // An interview by Gaby Ivanov-Giraldo

Geoff Ong wants to be a Pop star for dorks. He made catchy and compelling pop music, the kind that gets stuck in your head and leaves you humming for days. A jack of all trades (singer, songwriter, musician, producer and more!) Geoff has been a part of Auckland’s music scene for the better part of six years. His penchant for pop has earned him the respect of his musical peers and seen him amass a fanbase of discerning music aficionados.

Muzic.net.nz's Gaby spoke to Geoff about the past year, his favourite artists, plans for the future and much, much more:

Hi there Geoff! Tell us a bit about your time in 2020? You’re releasing your first debut album Maybe It’ll Be Alright! Congrats! The singles I Don’t Know, Into Into You, and Over and Over Again have all been released this year. What have been your most fun recordings, writing sessions or live performances recently that you’d like to share? 

Hey Gaby! 2020 has been a really weird year... I was lucky that lockdown coincided with a big wave of creative inspiration for me, so I was able to create a bunch of stuff! Also, I am double lucky that I have a little studio setup in my room at home, so I was able to keep writing/recording/producing/etc. without needing to go into a studio! Shooting the music videos for I Don't Know and Into Into You was super fun, I feel like I was able to explore two quite different aspects of filmmaking with each one. I Don't Know is very surreal and very VFX-heavy, while Into Into You was more old-school and focused on getting cool stuff captured in-camera. I feel like the whole album-making process overall has been great. At the start of the year I decided that I wanted to release an album, without really being certain that I would be able to pull it off... And now that it's done I feel like I have a bit more confidence in my ability to reach goals that I set for myself, even if they're a bit ambitious.

At what age did music become a big interest of yours, and what were the first instruments you played? 

I started taking piano lessons when I was really young, and absolutely HATED it. Part of me wishes I had continued with it but I think I wouldn't really have discovered a love for music if I had. I'm a big believer in everything happening in its right time. I picked up guitar when I was about 13, and that's what sparked music as a passion for me!

Who were your favourite artists growing up?

Oh man, a lot. My Dad had a great collection of music from his time living in London in the 1970’s! I remember him showing me everything from Tom Petty to Joni Mitchell and Led Zeppelin to Aretha Franklin. It was like having a time capsule of that particular era of music, and I’m still learning even now how much of an influence that classic songcraft has had on my music. I learned to sing by singing along to Boyz II Men albums in the car which probably has a lot of influence on the way my voice sounds. And I listened to a lot of Max Martin's pop stuff as a kid too - I still go back to some of those songs to see how those hooks are crafted.

You’ve made some great memories travelling and living overseas that, no doubt, have inspired your music a lot. Most notably, after your scholarship to Berklee School of Music in Boston, the Boston EP was created. What was it like calling another place home for a while? 

Honestly, it was absolutely incredible. I still really miss Boston, and I will always hold my memories of living there closely. It's so hard to condense that experience into a few sentences! It was such a heightened period of my life, everything felt like it was moving in slow motion and yet at a million miles an hour at the same time. 

Furthermore, what were the most memorable steps you took to allow this journey to push your creative boundaries?

I think just being open to meeting new people and forming new connections and having new experiences. I said 'yes' to basically every opportunity that I was offered there, which led to all sorts of amazing opportunities - playing at SXSW, doing a writing session with the guy who wrote the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing, and touring the East Coast from Massachusetts to Virginia and back.

A lot of your lyrics are very genuine, and speak for our current times. Would you say writing lyrics from scratch, or song writing 'in the moment', is easier for you than writing with premeditated resources? 

Songwriting takes me a very long time normally - especially with lyrics. I think it's really important that my songs communicate something meaningful and have depth for the listener to discover. So often it takes me a few rewrites until I'm happy with the song! So, I guess I do write 'in the moment', but that moment tends to be a very long one lol.

When you're not making music, what do you like to do? 

I think spending time with people I love is the most important thing for me. Other than that, I love photography and filmmaking! Also, I watch a lot of nerdy YouTube videos. 

Who are your dream collaborators to work with and why?

I would love to write a song with Phoebe Bridgers. Or take stage performance lessons from Bruno Mars.

Your influence on pop music is admirable because it’s authentic and resonates with others. However, more notably for me, I love how you write lyrics about vulnerability. This is a game changer in pop as it builds strong connections. Some themes can be easier to resonate with, but being honest is brave. What's your idea behind bringing vulnerability into your music, and what do you seek to show your audience?

Ahh thank you! I've always really enjoyed the sounds of pop music and the songwriting and lyrical depth of folk and indie music. So basically, I'm trying to smoosh those two things together and make something that can do both! It's really cool to see this becoming a trend in pop music lately - I'm hearing loads of pop artists who are being vulnerable and honest in their writing. I think bringing those tougher conversations about mental health into the mainstream via music is really important.

So, you studied mechanical engineering in Auckland. That's unique for an artist. Do you find that helpful in the production side of things? And, if so, how? 

I think the biggest benefit it's had for me is in learning to manage a project. There's loads of crossover between music and engineering - just trying to figure out the scope of a project, what steps you need to take to get it finished, how long it's going to take to do them... It's all a mutually beneficial experience.

You've got a lot to give us, Geoff! What are your plans for the future? 

Great question! To be honest I haven't thought very far beyond this album - it's been pretty all-consuming! Over New Year's I'm going to take a break and recalibrate and try and set out some goals for 2021 and beyond, so we'll see. Thanks so much for doing this interview with me :)

 

About Geoff Ong

Geoff Ong wants to be a pop star for dorks. “I love all the sounds and melodies of pop music, but I never really felt like I was cool enough to relate to the people performing it,” he says. “I figure there must be other people out there who feel the same way – my music is for them.”

Geoff’s 2018 single, Fingerprints, a shimmering slice of soulful indie pop, was recorded in his bedroom in Kingsland, with production, mixing and mastering by Phil Levine of the illustrious Igloo Music Studios in Los Angeles, who won two Grammy Awards for their work on 2016’s box office hit, La La Land.

Fingerprints made an immediate impact, peaking at #3 on the Hot NZ Singles Chart and #25 on the overall Hot Singles Top 40 Chart. It was also featured on ZM, The Edge, The Edge TV, and Radio New Zealand.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Geoff Ong

Releases

Maybe It'll Be Alright
Year: 2020
Type: Album
The Boston EP
Year: 2015
Type: EP
Streetlights
Year: 2014
Type: EP
The Snorlax Mixtape
Year: 2014
Type: EP
Pictures
Year: 2011
Type: EP

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NZ Top 10 Singles

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