Perspective and philosophy on the art of jazz: why it important to me and why I love it.Read More
After only playing six songs, I was already left feeling drained. Red Rock Café’s rich crimson walls which stood backdrop to my performance now perfectly mirrored my inner feelings of emotional exhaustion and fluster. And to think, it was only a short set of 15 minutes. I began to pack up my equipment, making space for the next performer, when suddenly my ears perked up to the jeers of the crowd---were they booing me? I thought everything went smoothly and my set seemed to leave the audience somewhat bedazzled. No, it was, in reality, the loving chant of “Woo!” that filled the quaint upstairs of the café, warmly welcoming the presence of the next musician. It was not long before the next band set up, preparing to reward the room for their wholehearted embrace.
Wesley Woo is the model of a polished performer. His stage presence is that of a veteran beyond his years, and the presentation of his craft reflects the years of hard work promoting and creating. Drawing influences from Motown, blues, alternative 90s rock, and even country, Wesley Woo blends different elements of his musical experience into a melodic and complex masterpiece, with all the components coalescing together seamlessly.
I have been fortunate enough to share the stage with him, witnessing first hand the energy he brings to the performances. Like a train chugging down the track, there is a constant driving force behind his performance, ever carrying the audience forward into a helpless toe-tapping frenzy. And though the energy pushes forward, there are never any hints that the performance will derail off of that perfect groove. While much of this quality can be attributed to Wesley’s unwavering stage presence, much of that credit can also go to his backing band whose members are all solid and versatile musicians in their own right. If Wesley Woo is the conductor of this train barreling down the tracks, it is his crew, consisting of Tommy P., Rachel Schmitz, and Ben Peterson, that help maintain the power that this band has to captivate an audience.
Recently, after returning from his tour through the Southwestern desert region on his way to SXSW (South by Southwest Music Festival), I had a chance to talk with him. Wesley revealed some insight on his background, his craft, his creative process, and his ambitions.
[How long you've been active performing?]
“I picked up the guitar when I was about 16 playing a lot of SRV/Eric Clapton/Hendrix Blues Rock, because I thought it would be cool to break it out at parties. Turns out it doesn't work that way since EVERYONE knows how to play the first two bars of "Tears in Heaven," but I guess I never looked back from there.”
[How did you decide that you were going to sing and create original music?]
“I didn't actually start learning to sing until about five years ago, after my first couple of bands crashed and burned pretty hard. It sort of came out of a necessity, where I didn't really have the vocal technique to sing covers, so I wrote my own songs. Cause those were the only melodies I could figure out how to sing, basically. After another four years of voice lessons and several (SEVERAL) years of REAL rough recordings/gigs/shows, I guess somewhere along the way I learned how to sing and write songs? I call it the school of ‘get-it-right-eventually.’”
[From your own experience as a musician, what has inspired you to become what you are today?]
“I studied Classical and Jazz Guitar at UC Berkeley for about four years before I realized that the music I really wanted to write and play were grounded in songwriting. Since then I've been heavy into a lot of ambient indie rock with my new band "Wesley Woo Band," along the lines of Jonsi/Sigueroa-Coldplay-early U2 Joshua Tree-esque stuff. Basically I'm really into reverb right now. “
[As a musician myself, I always am curious about each persons’ creative process when they are putting together new songs. How do you go about writing new songs?]
“That tends to vary a lot. Lately I've been putting some time into writing new music for this Funk band side project I'm working on, which has involved a lot of collaborative songwriting. It's pretty interesting diving into that kind of creative process, because you have to find the balance between bringing concrete ideas to the table, and knowing when to just shut up and play. The kinds of songs you get have really surprised me though. I love letting other musician's intuitions take over in the creative process, where you end up with a lot of really cool natural instinct that would have never come up otherwise.”
[What are some new developments you have discovered in trying further your art?]
“Over the last year, I've been working on setting up a crowdfunded video campaign for Youtube and Facebook via the Patreon.com platform. I launched the campaign earlier this week (which is terrifying, PS. Fingers crossed. I really hope I didn't just waste a year of my life).
Basically the idea is, the crowdfunding contributions funnel toward supporting my band's ongoing expenses, like rehearsal space leases, travel expenses, etc. etc., because let's face it. It's gotten pretty hard for a musician to make a decent buck these days. You can read more about it at http://www.Patreon.com/WesleyWooMusic”
[Is there a video/media/link you want me to highlight to give readers a better understanding of your music and personality?]
“Yeah! I'm pretty much the most awkward self-promoter ever, but check out our new music video! It's narrated in stick figures, and I'm kind of a huge fan of it right now.”
"The Truth Is" (Official Music Video) - Wesley Woo
Whether you are captivated by the singing behind his patented “Woo” face, or addicted to the irresistible charm of his music videos, it is clear that Wesley Woo is an talented artist worth watching out for. Keep an ear out for this up and coming artist. A promising future awaits him.
Become a Patron of Wesley Woo:
Like Wesley Woo on Facebook:
...and we're halfway through April.
It has been an exciting month filled with adventure and realizations of new goals. The main focus this month was the finalization of my students' recital material as well as organizing the repertoire and lineup. I'm happy to say that much of the songs have been finalized and it's going to be an exciting and diverse set of music chock-full of ensemble work, classical, jazz, pop, rock, musicals, as well as original material. I am lucky to have a group of students so individualistic and unique in their own goals. Showcasing their hard work is always a treat for me.
Potential new projects
After some brainstorming during the month of March, I have come up with this crazy idea to start a web series that will play out like a talk show. It will be structured as such, with each episode featuring an artist, whether it is music, spoken word, art, or even cooking. The purpose of this video series is to highlight local talent by showcasing their work, introduce people to their background via interview, and unveiling a different side of them as they participate in a jam session with me. The aim is to have legitimate production and quality, which I have gotten a better grasp of due to consultation from Michael Ochnicki. Now with all that said, I have decided to put this project on hold, due to the logistics of taking on such a huge endeavor. I am hoping to lay the groundwork for this series, but have decided to put it aside for another project.
One of the discussions that I often have with my guitar teaching colleagues at the music school I work at is that no guitar method book is perfect in terms of introducing concepts, teaching at a reasonable pace, and introducing different repertoire. Though it may seem like a huge endeavor, I feel the lack of perfect material opens the opportunity to write a method book geared towards my teaching style and philosophy. Now I'm not looking to sell or publish this on a large scale yet, but at the very least, I can assign it to my students and they can purchase it from me. This project will take some considerable work because it will require that I explore every method book available as well as needing consultation from teachers and writers alike. As the pieces of this project come together, I will start releasing more information. More on that later.
What do I write about?
I want to make these updates and blog posts more exciting, incorporating reader participation in conjunction with my own updates. In order to better involve readers, I am asking that everybody/anybody message me with topics that would interesting for me to discuss. This could regard the topic of music theory, composition, practicing, opinions of songs or anything music related. Beyond that, I would also be more than happy to discuss other topics, such as hobbies, travels, or anything else that would pique interest. I am open to any prompt. Please message me through facebook or through my website regarding topics to discuss.
Also, please go to the lesson section and check out my Featured Student.
After years of playing music and teaching nonstop, I felt it was time to create a website to increase my exposure and give a place for people to learn more about me. The intent is that I began to reach out to a wider audience, increasing my already large student base, as well as creating more performance opportunities for me. After some networking I am hoping that my gigging business will slowly catch up to my teaching.
On this website, you will be able listen to new recordings, view pictures, and learn more about any shows I may be performing at. If you have any tips, I am more than happy to listen to them! I am always about progressing and making things better. With all my new found free time, I have been working to improve my own personal teaching business. Besides creating a website, I have created a newsletter system for my students hoping to feature their hard earned skills.
I appreciate you stopping by and reading this. Stay tuned! I may have an exciting summer project in development soon! More information on that as the pieces start to fall in place.