Byron Woo is an Oakland based hip-hop artist has released a number of singles this year, most recently, 'Trust Me' and 'Waiting For You'. Louder Than The Music chatted with Byron to hear how he became a musician, the inspiration behind his music, and his plans to record his first album.
For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?
Doing music was actually never part of my plans. I mean I’ve always enjoyed music and I’ve been rapping since I was in high school but it was never a dream of mine to become a musician. Previously, I worked in the music industry as a music video director and content creator. I started traveling and making videos for all sorts of clients and I found myself making a lot of music videos for upcoming and established hip hop artists. I was always surrounded by musicians and artists, so I guess you can say a lot my influence came from those surroundings. I remember times I would make a music video for an artist and then go home so inspired that I would write and make my own music. However, I never really shared it with anyone mostly because I was insecure about it. Rapping and making music just kind of became my own personal hobby that I would do when I need some escape.
Fast forward a few years, I became Christian, and at my church I would sometimes be asked to rap and perform. It was nothing too serious, just did it for my church. As I continued to do it, a lot of people kept telling me how much they liked my music. People even jokingly said if I ever made an album that they would buy it. But I started to really consider that maybe this music thing could be something that could bless a lot of people. I went back and forth a lot about it in my head because I honestly didn’t want take the attention away from God. If I was going to do this music thing then I knew I would have to do this in a way that would honor God. Around middle of 2019, my little sister went to the hospital for depression. It was such a dark time for me. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to let my sister know how much I loved her and especially how much God loved her, so I wrote a song for her and shared it with her, and it made her tear up. I think that’s when I realized how much power and influence music can have. Taking all things into consideration, with people jokingly egging me on to make music and to making that one song for my sister, that’s when I decided to start doing music.
Tell us about your recent singles 'Trust Me' and 'Waiting For You' and what the inspiration behind them was?
“Trust Me” is a reflection and my public and bold declaration that Jesus is the only way to life. I wrote it when the pandemic started making headlines and people started buying out everything at the grocery stores. It felt so chaotic and the whole time I just kept thinking how much the world just needs Jesus. I wrote this song for Christians and the non’s so that they would be reminded and know that more than any chaos going on in this world, that we can find rest and peace in the love of Christ. That’s why the song is entitled “Trust Me,” because God is calling to all of us to trust in Him no matter what. As proverbs says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” If there is anyone that we can trust, it’s God because He is a good God who loves us deeply.
My song “Waiting For You” is a reflection on my parents’ divorce when I was young. Growing up, their divorce really affected me and it was so hard for me to deal with. I wrote this song as a way to give to God my struggle and to also let other people who have felt any similar pains or gone through family strife know that there is a way out of that burden and pain. Trusting in God is the only way to experience true freedom and peace. I want people who listen to my music to experience my entire honesty and struggle as a Christian, because let’s face it, following God ain’t easy because of our self-absorption and our sins. But the Bible says in Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV), “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” “Waiting For You” is me doing exactly that and casting all my anxiety regarding this hardship growing up to Him alone. Hopefully people can relate and follow suit in my example and not be afraid to go to God with any worry or anxiety and lean of Him.
Do you have any plans to release more new music in the near future?
Currently I’m working on finishing my first album entitled “Less of Me, More of You.” You can expect that album to be dropping hopefully before the year ends and we head into 2021. I don’t have an exact date on that but I’m working hard on it. Shout out to my team, to Sean Choi (DJ/ Engineer), Ranen Chang (Design), and my wife Renee for helping me with this whole project. Praying it will bless many people.
What message would you like people to take from your music?
That God is a good God, who is for you and not against you. He only wants to prosper you, and grow you. He is trustworthy, and when you surrender to Him and walk in his Will, it is the best life you can ever ever live.
How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?
I take a lot of my influences from boom bap hip hop artists but I would say my style is a mix of boom bap, melodic soul, pop and R&B. Other then rapping, I love to sing so I love crafting my choruses with soulful singing bits.
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
Right now, I think it would be D. Smoke from Rhythm and Flow. I love his honesty in his music and the poetry. My sister Shelly introduced me to him on that show Rhythm and Flow. I don’t watch Netflix or TV but I was very impressed and inspired by his performances. Ever since then, I’ve been following his music and career trajectory after winning that show. He is so talented. I would also love to have a conversation with the guy and just get to know his mind. I feel like he is a very spiritual guy so it would be cool to delve into conversations about that.
How would you define success in your career as an artist?
Before I was Christian I would have said success is defined by reaching my goals - whether that’s making certain amount of income or being connected to some established people. But as a Christian now, my valued have changed. As an artist, I think success is defined by continued growth in my reliance on God. I want to think about how I am honoring God and how I am growing in my personal relationship with Him. As long as I am getting closer to God, that’s success to me.
What is your favorite album of all time?
2014 Forest Hills Drive
You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?
Ooh I’d have to say “What the World Will Never Take” by Hillsong United
What does the next year hold for you?
Don’t know. Hopefully more music, maybe some touring. Definitely more ministry work within my church wherever God leads.