American lo-fi producer Keshi on his album Skeletons and selling out his first tour in the U.S.

American lo-fi producer Keshi on his album Skeletons and selling out his first tour in the U.S.

Sound mind

Text: Evan Mua

At the centre of a thriving lo-fi music scene, which has spawned the likes of chart-topping artiste Joji, is Casey Luong, a young producer from Houston who goes by the moniker, Keshi. Keshi's musical influences range from Joji to the country inflections of John Mayer.

He was signed to Island Records earlier this year, and has released his first EP, Skeletons. We caught up with him in Singapore to find out more about his music-making journey.

You just wrapped up a sold-out tour in the US. What were some of the highlights?
It was crazy. It's one thing to have an engaged following on social media and seeing 'likes' and comments online, but it's a totally different ball game when you are present with 350 people in a room screaming back at you. I had no idea how loud 350 people could be.

It was a dream come true honestly. I always wanted to go on tour and play shows. It sold out in less than 10 days. I got to see my fans face-to-face for the first time, hear their stories, give them hugs, and thank them for listening. It was the greatest experience of my life so far.

You were a nurse before you became a musician. How did it feel taking the big jump from nursing to making music full-time?
As an oncology nurse, I dealt with cancer patients. I did it for two years. It was frustrating but rewarding. It certainly gave me a lot of perspective. When I transitioned to become a full-time musician, it felt like I was finally given the chance to be in my own skin.

I've read about the song that you won your first Reddit competition with, and the song that got you a pair of Air Jordans. Are there any other songs that hold some kind of significance?
I won the Reddit competition with "if you're not the one for me who is". I was still very much in a lo-fi headspace at that time. I remember consciously wanting to transition out of it and move to a space where I was doing more lyrically dense music. I had written "2 Soon", but I was afraid to put it out because it was very different from all my old material. When it took off when I released it, it affirmed that I needed to move forward in this direction.

I believe that you were signed to the record label earlier this year. Congratulations! What kind of impact does that have on your music-making process?
Thank you! I was signed in April. At the moment, it's still very early. They've trusted me. I feel that the best songs are going to come from me alone. I'm so used to doing everything by myself anyways. I write for myself; I produce for myself; I sing on all the tracks and play all the instruments. Being with Island Records is great, because it's nice to have a family that supports you.

Lo-fi music has been trending for some time. Why do you think that is?
I believe that it's because it shows people that music doesn't have sound crisp and proper. There's certainly a certain appeal to having music sound raw, old, or nostalgic. Overly produced mainstream music isn't necessarily bad. Lo-fi music has shown that music can be whatever you want it to be. There's an element of freedom to it.

Are there any tips that you'd give to other budding Asian musicians?
I believe that someone should be listened to based on the quality of their music alone. To all musicians, I would say keep creating as much as you can. Do not share your music too early too. Listen to it carefully and judge it as objectively as you can before you decide to release it. It's about having consistency in the quality of music you make.

Listen to Keshi's first EP Skeletons on Apple Music and all other digital music streaming platforms.