This summer, Andy Kong takes his fans on a trip down the California coast with the release of his new single, “Westfalia”. This smooth, relaxing summer breeze single will make you wanna take a road trip and hit the beach.
Blending influences across genres and decades, singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist, Andy Kong broke through with his emotive Meteor Showers EP in 2015. Released independently, this personal collection of tunes garnered 10 million streams on Spotify thanks to a vocal fan base and attention from music blogs.
Kong self-produces every song from start to finish, making each of them true to his vision and voice. He continued to refine his blend of folk, pop and electronic influences when he released three singles — “Wildfire,” “Harbor in a Hurricane” and “Just Friends” on his newly formed label, Ephany Records in 2018.
Ahmad: I have heard that you had a crazy path musically, can you give us insight on how you got to where you are now?
Andy Kong: I mean the path has been pretty crazy in that I’ve been obsessed with music since I was 5 years old. That is when I started piano lessons before picking up the guitar, alto sax, drums, bass… a lot of different instruments. I grew up in a really musical family and started songwriting when I was 10 or so. When I was 13, I got a Boss Digital Recorder and started recording and producing my own stuff. I was that kid who was always passing out new demos to friends at school.
While in college at UC Berkeley, I recorded an album in my dorm room. I would then sell at shows around the area and after graduating. Immediately after, I started organizing my own tours up and down the US. I never really had a “real job” since I went all-in on music and have always been very DIY. In between performing, I built out a studio here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I then launched my record label and media company, Ephany, to elevate things further. Even though my team has gotten a little bit bigger, I still approach everything with the same experimental DIY approach.
Ahmad: Not many independent artists stream as well as you, what is your secret?
Andy Kong: I always tell my artist friends that these streaming services are reflections… Lots of them are like walled-off castles where it’s hard to have any influence or control with them directly. The best thing you can do is to make a lot of noise outside of them. Then your streaming numbers will reflect all the effort you’re putting into everything else.
If people are talking about you and your music anywhere, that will influence your streaming numbers. That is because that’s where people go now to really listen to their favorite artists over and over again. The quality of the music is obviously the most essential part of everything. Once you get a little traction, if people love your tunes, then the streaming algorithm recognizes that. They will put songs in their system of custom-generated playlists and radio stations which is also huge for streaming numbers.
Times change, and what worked for one person probably won’t work precisely the same for someone else, but here’s exactly what I did back in 2015 that kicked off my streaming numbers. I released my Meteor Showers EP in May of that year and got minimal traction outside of my immediate existing fans. After it had been out for a few months, I sat down and found every single blog on Hypemachine that featured music similar to mine, and I individually wrote each one of them a friendly email about my tunes.
After writing 300 or so, one blog did a feature, then another did a function. Then someone somewhere heard it and played it on KCRW, and this snowball continued until finally a couple of months. After that the streaming services started to reflect this momentum. It really comes down to making the best music you possibly can and then grinding. A plan and vision, and the universe will reward you for it — if you really put 100% of your heart and soul towards something you will always get something in return… it’s the balance of life.
Ahmad: You produce all of your own records, is it difficult to do it all?
Andy Kong: Haha, yes, it is incredibly difficult. But also so worth it for me. By doing everything myself, it has forced me to be continually improving my craft over the years… it’s equally exhilarating and terrifying that everything is on my shoulders. With music, there are no excuses to what makes a great song — it either is, or it isn’t. And, no matter how much you will it to be something if you’re not willing or able to go deep enough to take a song to where it needs to go, it will never get there.
It will never resonate with people the way you, the artist, feel like it should. Producing music is a crazy process since you’re basically bottling up a “sensation” that becomes the soundtrack to people’s lives. It’s not something we can see or touch like most things in the world. It’s something we hear and feel. So, it has to ring true on a deeper level, or it will never work. In my opinion, there’s nothing that has ever been, or will ever be, as universal to humankind than music… and it’s not lost on me how cool it is that I get to share my music and have it mean something to people around the world.