- Words Notion Staff
Notion meets multi-faceted, lo-fi artist keshi, who chats about being co-signed by BTS, the past year, his dream superpower, creative process, and more.
For Texan-Vietnamese artist, Casey Luong – better known as keshi – writing songs so smooth and syrupy you could lose yourself in them comes easy. The young musician has since shot to fame, amassing a devoted global fanbase with over a billion streams on his music worldwide.
Music was always a passion for the multi-talented creator. His grandfather’s guitar originally obsessed him, then he self-taught using a Vietnamese music book and YouTube tutorials. After high school, he became an oncology nurse, tending to patients diagnosed with cancer – but he was still dreaming of a career in music.
Entering a Reddit fan page competition put keshi on the map, as he was heaped with praise from fellow music lovers. He decided to take the plunge: lo-fi singles “over u” and “just friends” were instant hits on Spotify, swiftly followed by his breakout 2018 EP, ‘THE REAPER’.
keshi’s latest EP ‘always’ arrived last year, and he’s since topped it all off with his single “beside you”, which incredibly stacked up 3 million streams in under 3 days. Now it’s sitting at almost 19 million on Spotify alone.
Notion caught up with keshi about being co-signed by the biggest boyband in the world, BTS, his creative process, happy place, and much more.
How has the past year been for you artistically and personally? What impact did the pandemic have on you?
Artistically, I’d say that it’s given me the opportunity to really face my craft; the nature of this work is such that once the ball starts rolling, it never stops. It becomes hard to objectively reflect on your work and you don’t quite get a chance to catch your breath or re-evaluate whether you’re still sailing in the direction you initially set course on. The silver lining I see in the pause that happened the last year and a half is that I got to reset my course, in a way that a lot of people probably wish they could’ve at this really sensitive point in their career. Personally, it made me reconsider my priorities, and I remembered that the most important things to me were my loved ones and their safety.
How does it feel to have been cosigned by BTS? They’re arguably the biggest boyband in the world right now.
It’s the most validating thing in the world. It means something else when a group of people so immensely talented recognise you, it gives me the confidence I need to move forward in my own works sometimes you know. It reminds me that I have someone cheering me on, and not just anyone; it’s members from the biggest boyband in the world.
For people who might not be familiar with your music just yet, why should they listen to Keshi?
I like to make music that I personally find interesting to listen to, stuff that’s pop-leaning, with just a little bit of complexity here and there, but not enough to turn the listener off because of how unapproachable it could be. Whether I shake it up in the production, the melody, or the song structure, I like something here and there to catch the listener off guard a bit. I guess it’s all a subjective spectrum, but I think the new record is one that’ll make listeners, old and new alike, really tune in.
Give us a window into your writing process – how do you make a song?
It ultimately all starts with chords for me. Whether it begins on the guitar or the piano is up in the air, but chords are always number one. Voicing and substitutions are second because I don’t enjoy writing to the same progression that I have before (though it does become inevitable that I circle the block a couple of times). I start with melodies next, but it often comes hand in hand with a single sentence sentiment that I’ll sort of mumble out and it turns into the hook (often the first thing written when I start). From then on, I’ll import the idea into logic pro x and start arranging the track into a basic skeleton format of verse/pre/hook/end the whole shtick. The rest is give and take.
Do you have any sources of inspiration that may surprise people?
I wouldn’t think it surprising, but my main sources of inspiration come from my own experiences or experiences lent to me by my close friends, which I’ll live vicariously through and marinate in. I read a lot of manga and watch a lot of anime with my fiancé, which lends its own sort of inspiration, both music and sentiment-wise.
You have over a billion streams on your music. Do charts and streams matter to you? How do you quantify your own success?
Yeah, this is what I’m wrestling with right now actually. I never even dreamed it possible to pursue music as a full-time job, much less that I’d have over a billion streams worldwide. I’d say that streams matter because it lets on that people are enjoying the music, but the most important thing to me is – and has always been – making art that is true to myself. I think being able to do that for a long time is success to me.
What career goals do you still hope to achieve?
I guess the dream for me is to make an opus album that will outlive me; a classic. Holistic and perfect. That’s something that really hindered my initial steps on starting the record honestly. It’s a bit of a daunting standard to set for yourself when you set out to start: “OK, so you’re gonna make a classic.” I eventually was able to overcome the static, but it’s the ultimate goal for me nonetheless. Something like ‘continuum’, or ‘blond’.
What superpower would you love to have?
I had a conversation about this over dinner in Venice recently! We all agreed that teleportation would be the best one to have, though the power to control time was another contender on the table.
Are we alone in the universe?
It’s hard to imagine that we are, but if a tree falls down in the middle of the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Lastly, where’s your happy place?
Honestly, it’s at home in Texas; specifically in my office with my gaming computer, while I’m on discord with my boys in a Valorant competitive lobby.