Genuine Love (NAMM Show 2017)

So lately I’ve been asking myself this question: What are you REALLY passionate about? 

The answer used to be so clear. I love singing and I want to make music until the end of my time (probably will still be singing in my grave). But honestly, self-doubt is one SOB (please excuse my language). Doubt in my vocal capabilities, doubt in my talents, doubt in my ability to excel, etc. It creeps in so suddenly that when I find myself drowning in it, I can’t seem to get out of it so easily.

Originally, this post was going to be another “review” of basically how cool the NAMM Show was this year. Instead I’d rather share all the great insight I learned from attending this year’s show. First off – me attending the NAMM show for the second year in a row has to be some sort of fate. I attended NAMM 2016 thanks to my handy connection with Titan Radio, but now that I no longer work there I wasn’t expecting to make my way into this year’s show. Well this year my parents decided it was time to get our piano tuned again. We got to talking to our tuner, who just so happens to be an exhibitor at NAMM, and he got us passes!

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No, my name is not Emily and that is not how you spell my name (LOL I honestly don’t know how that happened…), but I was super stoked to be at the biggest music trade show in the world. I had a blast at last year’s show and I wanted to inhale all the talent and wonderful musical vibes that filled the Anaheim Convention Center that weekend

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I have a notebook that I bought at last year’s show that I was super excited about because the sides were neon green and I will literally buy anything that is my favorite color. Since then, I’ve taken notes inside of it that include topics from self-help, meditation, yoga, music, and more. I brought it with me to add to the goodness.

Here’s a look inside that notebook, with the most important pieces of information I feel like I got from that weekend.

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“Ask yourself: Are you PASSIONATE? Go home & think… Do you love music? You need to love it to succeed in music.” -Richard Sussman 

That was the first thing I wrote down at the first seminar I attended at NAMM 2017. Holy crap, it was like a slap in the face, and totally ironic and incredibly perfect timing. I loved Mr. Sussman’s seminar for various reasons. First, because he made me realize that NOT EVERYONE need’s a degree to have a successful music career. He outlined this ever so clearly in his Powerpoint. Second, because he also talked about KARMA. Although I probably will get 100 NOs, I will get a YES.

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“WRITE A STORY” -Kevin Bruener, CD Baby

A lot of the times I find myself in extreme musical stump (like now lol). I loved this seminar because the speaker basically called out all the pop songs out there right now that lack real substance. Sometimes, digging deep to find that inspiration is extremely hard, but SOMETHING INTERESTING is bound to have happened/will happen in life that is worth writing about. And this pertains to anything, really. Photography, poetry, song-writing, blogging, teaching, etc.

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“Time goes by whether you do something or not… So do something.” -Bob Taylor

Okay, so blunt, and so obvious. But so true! Bob Taylor’s talk was especially inspiring to me because he wasn’t afraid to tell us how DIFFICULT it was and how LONG it took for him to reach success. He talked about not having electricity in his house cuz they couldn’t pay the bill (more than one month at a time), and how it was seriously a struggle to get Taylor Guitars to where it is now. But he knew he loved his craft and he did something about it. Obviously, it paid off pretty nicely.

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“George’s legacy: Never felt superior to other musicians who didn’t have classical training. Knew when to do nothing.” 

The late Sir George Martin is responsible for producing and engineering so many of The Beatles’ records. Him and the band were like bread and butter together – just perfect. This stood out to me because although he was such a musical genius, he was also so humble. I feel like a lot of us get caught up in the race to be the best, and it really clouds our judgement. Who knows what would have happened if George didn’t say YES to The Beatles … But thank God he did.

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“Hard work fueled by PASSION & education… Can’t stop applying that method after you make it.” -Kenny Aronoff

I’m quite guilty of this. After I have a taste of the satisfaction of a little success, I’ll get bored and quit/ lose all motivation to continue. I can say it happened with performing, guitar, piano, singing, radio, college, etc. But okay that’s enough self-loathing. I’m admitting this now so I can now say that phase of my life is OVER. I pledge to continue educating myself and to continue to perfect my craft every day of my life.

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Now that I’ve joined the sea of people who share the same dream as me, I have to keep reminding myself that nothing is simply handed to anyone. My new journey will include a lot of disappointment, heartbreak, and long nights. But at the same time I know that it will all be worth it in the end. And I guess that’s love, right? It’s enduring that heartbreak with as much grace as you can, because you know that you couldn’t live without it/him/her/them/whatever you love. That being said, I will continue to genuinely love my new crazy journey until it’s over.

 

REVIEW: The King & I at the Pantages Theatre (1/3/2017)

While working at my college’s radio station for three years, I guess you can say I went on a “hiatus” from my musical roots. Don’t get me wrong, I loved discovering new music, immersing myself in every sort of indie, punk, electronic, hip-hop, underground, whatever-you-name-it music there is out there, but there was something always missing. I didn’t realize it until after I graduated – I missed Musical Theater. As an awkward, distressed pre-teen, Musical Theater helped put me on the right track. I find myself coming back to it now, starting the new year by watching a show at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater.

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I spent the last three weeks with my nephew, Johann, who is the epitome of a musical theater geek. Everything we talk about is either about singing and theater (and food), so hanging out with him really stimulated my love for the art again. Since he was in town from San Francisco, I promised him we’d catch a show while he was here. We ended up picking Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I, not really knowing what it was about, but excited for the amazing cast and the two incredible leads of the show. Johann, JR (our cousin), Josh (my boyfriend), and I spent the rest of the week talking about what we loved and didn’t love.

king-and-iPhoto courtesy of The Pantages Theater

In short, The King and I is a musical about Anna Leonowens, an English widow, who moves to Bangkok with her son to tutor the King’s many children and wives. The King and Anna butt heads in the beginning, but by the end of the show end up having deep respect for each other. Here’s what we concluded about the performance:

  1. The vocals were flawless. Every song was executed so smoothly, like their vocal chords were made of butter. Being able to sing high notes is one thing, but being able to sing high notes so delicately is another craft in itself. I was particularly impressed by Manna Nichols (Tuptim) and Kavin Panmeechao (Lun Tha) in their song “I Have Dreamed”. What begins as a light song escalades into a powerful duet between two lovers, so masterfully executed by the two performers.
  2. Our favorite scene: The Small House of Uncle Thomas. Johann and I listened to the original soundtrack before watching the show. I remember both of us saying “WHY IS THERE A 14-MINUTE SONG?!”. It turned out to be a 14-minute ballet, featuring the royal singers and dancers of the palace. I found myself chanting “Go, Eliza, go!”, as Lamae Caparas (Eliza) impressively hopped across the stage on one foot about twenty times. The choreography for this particular scene was unique and culturally stimulating.
  3. It’s an oldie, but still a goodie. The first Broadway performance of The King and I was in 1951. Times have changed, perceptions of race and ethnicity have changed, and in turn, the show has changed. For the national tour, changes were made to the production to make the show a lot less racist (for lack of better terms). However, I still wouldn’t suggest bringing a friend along to watch this show if they’re not familiar with musical theater and its early shows. It was Josh’s first show, and he loved the performers, but was still offended by the storyline and racism that it entailed.
  4. I am in love with Laura Michelle Kelly. I got to meet her after the show and the only thing I could muster up was, “You’re so amazing and I want to sing just like you one day.” Her response: “Oh no! You want to sound just like YOU, with your own unique voice!” Okay, best advice ever. But really, watching her on stage is truly inspiring. Even though I was sitting at the back of the theater, I was able to resonate with her character and the compassion she portrayed through playing Anna. img_6226Meeting the talented Laura Michelle Kelly.

I guess you can say I enjoyed watching the show. Although we were worried about the pace of the show (knowing that the songs were all so soothing and relaxing compared to contemporary shows), it was engaging and quirky, and surprisingly upbeat in it’s own way.

For more information about the show and/or the Pantages, check out their website. For tickets to The King and I (which runs until January 21st!), go here.

 

TRAVEL: Keeping Your Memories Alive (Philippines/Bali Recap Video)

Traveling is truly one of the most transformational things people can do for themselves. Whether you travel near or far, there’s a guarantee you won’t feel the same or be the same. It’s been two months since I left Bali, and I still think and dream about it every day.

Thanks to technology, I have all my memories saved as a constant reminder every day to keep my transformation alive. Combined, the boys and I have thousands of photos from our trip and hours of footage recorded on Alvin’s GoPro. In addition, I have a day-to-day diary of my trip that I’ve documented via this blog, with very detailed (sometimes redundant) descriptions of what went on and how we were feeling.

So coming home, I made sure to do two things. First, make a photo album with all my favorite photos from our trip (which was really hard because I had so many pictures of monkeys and bowls of curry that I wanted to include). 200 photos definitely didn’t feel like enough to capture 6-weeks worth of travel, but my album turned out absolutely perfect. Second, make a travel video. I hadn’t dabbled in any video editing in years, but I was ready to tackle the project. I sifted through hours worth of footage and Alvin selfies, and was able to condense our trip into twelve minutes. Watching the video was like reliving a dream. I wasn’t sure it really happened or of the places we visited were real.

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Back to transformation… I’ll admit, it’s really easy to forget. I wanted to travel because I intended to find myself and recreate purpose within me. A month after being back home, I found myself already lost in my own confusion and self-doubt. Luckily, I took the time to put all the things I’ve learned and all the memories I’ve made into an album and a video. Every time I find myself in my own pit of negative thoughts, I come back to the great memories I made, not dwelling on the past, but using it as a reminder of how great my future can be.

For anyone traveling or planning on traveling, I highly recommend taking the time to put together an album with your favorite photos, or recording footage for you to show your friends and family when you get back home. And don’t procrastinate! The longer you wait, the more likely you’re never going to do it. So this should be the first thing you do when you get back from traveling. I promise it’ll be worth your time.

 

REVIEW: A Night Curated by Gilles Peterson feat. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, BADBADNOTGOOD, Nai Palm, Kamasi Washington, George Clinton and more.

A couple months ago I took my boyfriend on a date to see Hiatus Kaiyote, and then on another date to see BADBADNOTGOOD. Two of the best shows I’ve seen in the past couple of years. A few weeks ago, Josh told me to save September 28th in my calendar because he bought us tickets to a show. When I asked him what kind of show, he just said it was going to be “funky”. So I went with no expectations because I trust in his taste in music and I can never deny a night where funk is involved. Both of us really had no idea it was going to be so much more – basically a compilation of our last two concert dates on steroids.

Gilles Peterson is known for discovering and being a platform for emerging talent. He supports the artists he finds and helps them get discovered. Together with WeTransfer, he put on a sold-out show in Los Angeles at The Theater at Ace Hotel featuring many of the artists that he has supported and believed in.

The night opened up with BADBADNOTGOOD, who themselves are headline material. Featuring Chester Hansen on bass guitar, Alexander Sowinski on drums, Matthew A. Tavares on keys, and the newest member, Leland Whitty on saxophone. What’s so cool about these guys is that they look so absolutely normal. There’s nothing fabulous about them, as in they don’t feel they have to make a statement at all via their clothes and/or hairstyles as most musicians strive to. They put all their energy into their music, and on stage it comes out quite effortlessly. They’re basically the reason why new generations are going to fall in love with jazz again, and know that it’s okay to reinvent music.

img_5491BadBadNotGood at The Theater at Ace Hotel. 

Moments before the show started, I heard whispers of special guests being added to the bill. In addition to BBNG, artists such as Gaslamp Killer, Nai Palm of Hiatus Kaiyote, Bilal + The Sa-Ra Creative Partners, and Kamasi Washington graced the stage. But the big brain behind most of the compositions of the night was Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, who led the show with his violin and the 11-piece orchestra.

img_5492Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and the 11-piece orchestra. 

The night was filled with cacophonous goodness. Unforgettable xylophone solos, delicious tenor sax riffs, and percussion heaven… I can go on about what went RIGHT about this show. Bilal’s sweet falsetto put us all at ease. Nai Palm came out and melted our ear drums in the best way possible with her smooth yet powerful voice. Kamasi Washington came out with his saxophone to show his home city what music should sound like. And the crowd went absolutely nuts when the famous George Clinton came out on stage. All while the Miguel and the orchestra kept time and flowed through the night.

img_5493Kamasi Washington with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and the 11-piece orchestra.

What was so great about the night in general was the crowd that it attracted. There were real music lovers there. Not the snobby kind, but the kind of music appreciators who take in consideration all genres, all styles, and all people while putting together playlists. The people who care about what went into the music and not just the end product. So in a sense, this was a show put on by a curator (and a file exchanging service), for curators.

Post-Vacation and Putting my Dreams First (9/20/2016)

Coming back from vacation was hard. After six weeks of adventure and sunshine, coming back to little Walnut, CA put my internal clock and my mental state of mind in a rut. I was sleeping during the day and wide awake during the night. It was frustrating because the first thing I wanted to do when I got back home was start applying for jobs. For some reason, I felt like I didn’t quite have my life together, even though the whole point of  my trip to the Philippines and Bali was for me to have some clarity.

So I did a little purging. I painted the horrendous green and yellow walls of my room an off-white color. I nicely displayed all my new Balinese souvenirs throughout my room. I took down all my posters and artwork that I thought didn’t really speak to me anymore. The past two years, I’ve collected posters of concerts I’ve either worked on for Titan Radio or have attended to write reviews for. I used to display all my concert tickets on my cork board along with my backstage or press passes. And for some reason, they just didn’t speak to me like they used to, so I took them down and shoved them in my closet.

img_5378The horrendously green and yellows walls that used to plague my room.

I had no idea at the time, but in a sense it was me telling myself what I really wanted, and what I needed to do. But I didn’t see it, I just saw it as me getting rid of clutter in my room. So a week after I came back I finally started applying for jobs. I went in with the “as long as I apply to a shit-load of jobs, someone is bound to hire me” kind of mentality. I started applying to marketing jobs, event coordinating, social media, PR, basically anything that I had experience doing. I didn’t even bother to specifically apply to entertainment or music companies, which is what the last three years of my life has revolved around. I just wanted to work because I thought I had bills to pay and a car to buy.

One week later, a company called me in for an interview. Long story short, what I thought was going to be a creative marketing position turned out to be sales. I accepted the position initially, and ended up crying for the rest of the day. I blamed my small ink of depression on my mom, who pointed out if I went along with the job then I wouldn’t have time to sing anymore. I think the thought of not having time for singing put me in a state of angry shock. I realized this isn’t what I wanted to do at all. The next morning I called and declined the position. And from that point on, I decided I was going to be a Disney princess at Disneyland. I wasn’t going to put that small dream of mine in the backseat anymore. Am I going to be one for sure? I have no idea. I haven’t been to an audition in years. Do I care? No. Although the uncertainty is killing me, I just want to say that I tried.

I see my friends on Facebook, and I’m really proud of my friends who are working and doing what we all set out to do after college, but at the same time a little jealous. There’s still a little part of me that beats myself up about not “adulting” at this very moment. I’m always at a constant battle with my ego, one part telling me that I need to get my shit together and another part reminding me that I’m only 21-years-old with no bills to pay, so getting my shit together can wait. But my dreams can’t.

TRAVEL: My Day in Teresa, Rizal (Philippines 8/28/2016)

I knew my trip wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t spend any time with my family. I had the blessing of seeing my nephew, Joshua, even just briefly when I was in Manila. God blessed me with one more day in the Philippines and a wonderful family who gathered to see me that day.

Alvin and I arrived in the Philippines from Bali at 2:30AM. Exhausted, we made it to Z Hostel at around 3:30, and were in bed by 4AM. A few hours later, my Kuya Jun and Kuya Bing picked me up and took me to Teresa, Rizal where my family is from. We stopped by a flower shop in Antipolo first where I picked out flowers for my Lola and Lolo’s bouquet. He showed me the church nearby that was celebrating mass, with people pouring out of all sides of the church. Supposedly people come from all over to celebrate here on Sunday. We walked around the mall that was right across the street, which was also filled with people enjoying their day off.

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When I got to the house in Teresa, immediately heard my Tito Boying chanting “Holly! Holly! Holly!” I hugged and kissed everyone. It was about a year and a half since I’d last seen them. My nephew Chino was just a small baby when I first met him, and was now talking, playing, and walking. My nephew Sancho was incredibly taller than both me and his mom, Ateh Sheila. And Bianca who is only ten was just as tall as me now. We ate lunch precisely around 12. They asked if I was vegetarian and I joked (partially) and said I loved meat too much. Good thing I’m not vegetarian because we had the most delicious menudo, barbecue, fish, and gulay for lunch. After we ate lunch and then ate a little more, we went to visit my Lolo and Lola at the cemetery. I always get really teary just thinking about her (as I am while writing this), so I braced myself and was just happy that I could be there again. It was raining so we didn’t stay long, but long enough for us to adorn her with flowers. say a prayer, and sing a verse of Amazing Grace.

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On our way back, my Ateh Ting had us stop by a food stand with Filipino street food, which I had been wanting to try but weary because of my previous case of Bali Belly. The food was delicious! We bought cheese sticks (my favorite), deep fried quail eggs, and fish balls. We devoured it all at the house and shortly after bought even more food for me to try.

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Of course, I had to hit food coma eventually, so I took a nap in the living room sitting with some of my nieces and nephews. I woke up to the sound of more food! Pili Pili, deep fried yam things, are supposedly my mom’s favorite and are definitely my new favorite now. Ateh Melinda was making them fresh in the kitchen. My mouth is watering thinking about them right now. I sat back at the dining room table chatting with Ateh Dang, Ateh Jojo, and Ateh Ting about their travel ventures and about all the wonderful destinations there are in the Philippines.

I completely forgot it was Sunday but was happy when Ateh Sheila said they would be attending the 6PM mass. We walked about five minutes to St. Rose of Lima (who is also my patron saint) and attended mass. The music was beautiful and most of the mass was said in English. The gospel and homily were in Tagalog and I tried really hard to understand – luckily Ateh Sheila helped me out with that. We went back to the house for dinner and ate more cake. I had lots of pasalubong and snacks waiting for me. I’ve been snacking on all day on my way back to Los Angeles. They packed me some baon for the road, and I said goodbye to all my family and my Mama Ellen next door. We went back to Makati and stopped by my nephew Josh’s house to pick up more pasalubong and say goodbye and happy 20th birthday to him too.

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My Kuya Jigs, Ateh Jojo, and Ateh Ting dropped me back of at Z Hostel. I thanked them for arranging the wonderful day that I had with my family. It really was the perfect way to end my trip. Although I had loads of fun traveling and moving around the Philippines and Bali, seeing my family provided some much needed grounding and love for me that prepared me for going back home.

I spent the rest of my night on the rooftop of Z Hostel, where there so happens to be a rooftop bar with a stunning view of Manila. Alvin introduced me to his new friends that he ended up spending the day drinking with. They were super nice and told me that I was Jennifer Aniston with a tan (which may possibly be the nicest compliment I’ve ever gotten). We all stayed up until 2AM drinking Red Horse and listening to amazing acoustic covers. It was like my last day of traveling couldn’t have ended any better.

TRAVEL: Our Last Days in Bali (Uluwatu, Bali 8/25-8/27/2016)

During the beginning of our trip, we didn’t make it down south to Uluwatu where I really wanted to check out a yoga studio. Luckily, Alvin and I had three full days to kill before our flight back to Manila and decided to stay there. We found a cute hostel called Bali Golden Elephant. A little reluctant at first due to bad reviews on hostelworld.com, I booked anyways since it was cheap and my funds had dwindled. As usual, it was a little hard to for our taxi to find, but we found it hidden like a gem in southern Bali. I ended up loving my stay at this hostel. It was clean, the rooms were very new and nice, staff was very helpful, and we ended up making some great friends. 

We spent our last three days beach hopping. After we already experienced the soft, sandy beaches in El Nido, Philippines during the beginning of our trip, it made the beaches in Bali seem just okay. We visited four beaches and all were very rocky and full of tourists. The weather was beautiful though and I enjoyed getting to read, soak up all the sun I could, watching the surfers catch insane waves, and watching the sun set every night. 


Although I was unimpressed with the beaches, I am very happy to say that I was able to finally practice more yoga. I found Uluwatu Surf Villas online and saw pictures of their beautiful outdoor yoga studio. I thought I missed my chance to take a class there in the beginning of our trip, but I was lucky to spent my last two mornings on the island practicing yoga and enjoying what may be the most memorable classes I’ve taken. I picked a spot facing the ocean and let the energies of the ocean and the surrounding jungle guide me. 


I always know that “your vibe attracts your tribe”. It’s so great knowing that you can travel across the world and meet like-minded and spirited people. We spent our last two days with our new friends Gabriele and Elisabeth, who are from Quebec and have been traveling throughout the Philippines and Bali just like we did. Our last day together we spent on the beach again, sunburning and earthing. We went to the Uluwatu Temple which is always packed with tourists. We walked around the direction temple’s trail, looking down at the ocean and over the cliffs. It was funny watching them interact with the monkeys and get their glasses stolen (but also sad when they realized all hope was lost in getting them back). We continued to the furthest east side of the trail and saw that there weren’t any people there. At the end was a beautiful reward waiting for us, possibly one of the best views I’ve ever seen. Over the cliff, water formations and waves crashing created colors of teal, white, and different shades of blue. I haven’t seen anything like it before. We watched the sunset and noticed how the water was shining red, orange, yellow, blue, pink, and almost every color imaginable. 


The last few days, Alvin and I were eating on a budget, eating sandwiches and boiled eggs instead of going out to eat. We found a small warung one of the nights and ate yummy home-style cooking with curry and veggies. Surprisingly, I wasn’t sick of having curry six times in a row, and I knew I had to have one last curry meal before leaving. We ate at Curry in Bali, which had the most delicious Indian curry I’ve ever had. The owner George, was a very talkative and personable Indian man who was very passionate about his culinary escapades. I ordered chai masala and the beef curry, which came with Indian style bread. I left the restaurant excited to actually travel to India one day to try all the curry! 

As sad as I was to leave the island, I couldn’t help but be extremely happy. Elisabeth told us we weren’t leaving, but we were just going somewhere else. We said goodbye to our new friends, and to the island that has been our home these three short weeks. I already miss the smell of incense, the roosters everywhere, the clanging of Balinese instruments, the mie and nasi goreng (fried noodles and rice), the lush rice terraces, and most importantly the people. If I could take a little bit of passion that they have for their culture, and apply it to my every day life I think days would be much more meaningful. Sure, I bought lots of great souvenirs, but what I’m taking back home with me from this trip is so much more than material. 

Suksma, Bali! Saya rindu kamu, until next time!