Humans of Haverford: Tom Huangpu and his upcoming single, Fall For Me Too

Zach Kasuba, Contributor

 
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Strummer Kellett and Sam Isle

I sat down with Tom Huangpu, a senior at HHS.  Tom is an active member of the high school’s orchestra and chorus, in addition to being in Tri-M Music Honor Society. He’s committed to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he hopes to pursue his music career through writing and performing original songs. Tom has also expressed interest in someday teaching music himself. A skilled musician by all accounts, he’s releasing his first song, Fall For Me Too, on streaming platforms on Friday, February 18th.  We talked about that and more in this interview.

We’re in the orchestra room after finals. Tom arrives, ostensibly unprepared, but his demeanor belies a confident intelligence. That’s just the kind of person he is; he doesn’t need to prove himself, but when he does you’ll know.

 

Zach: How did you start playing music?

Tom: I started taking piano lessons probably when I was 6 or 7 or 8. I did that pretty intensely up until – how old are you in 4th grade?

Zach: 10?

Tom: 10? Ok. So I started playing violin in 4th grade, took private lessons for that, and stopped doing private lessons for piano. Did violin up until 10th grade. Then I did guitar lessons for a bit and yeah. That’s how I started.

Zach: Was there a moment during all that which really made you think “this is what I want to do as a career”?

Tom: No, not really. Until maybe a year or two ago I didn’t consciously do music because I was passionate about it, I more just did it. I had a natural talent for it, so I didn’t need to work that hard to get by.

Zach: You did it because you’ve always done it.

Tom: Yeah, pretty much. It was just something fun to do.

Zach: Was there a point where you began to think to yourself  “I’m actually really talented at this”?

Tom: I don’t know. I was first chair throughout middle school but I always knew in comparison to, like, good people, that didn’t really mean anything. I still think technically, in terms of skill I’m not incredibly talented, but songwriting is a different category, it’s more interpretive, so I think that’s where I’m most skilled.

Zach: That actually leads into my next question…

Tom: Perfect.

Zach: …I want to hear about your creative process. How do you write your songs?

Tom: Most of the time in my mind I’m thinking “I need to be more productive, I need to be writing more” but the only times I’ve really written songs are when an idea comes to me naturally or when I’m feeling something intense. Most of the time from there I write some sort of melody or instrumental first and then lyrics, but I’m trying to do the other way around too.

Zach: So you’d maybe say songs tend to come to you.

Tom: Yeah, definitely.

Strummer Kellett

Zach: Do you think you have a similar approach in how you produce your music?

Tom takes a moment to consider the question. He’s done the same for most of them; his answers are measured, but truthful. I got the sense that he wanted to give the best responses he could. It’s a symptom of an honest nature. 

Zach: Like, are you more the type to get an idea and run with it to get it done or are you more methodical, moving through each part of the process step by step as you go?

Tom: It’s probably more methodical. It’s hard to say just because I’m still pretty new to producing. I know what I want the song to sound and feel like, so for me I’m mostly playing around with stuff until I get that sound. The producing aspect is less “letting it come to me” than the songwriting. Songwriting is kinda like you’re putting together a puzzle, and then producing is more like coloring in a book. I already have all the lyrics, melody, basic progression and stuff after songwriting and producing is like adding some sugar and spice, or…

Zach: Like filling it out?

Tom: Yeah, like that.

Zach: What have you been working on lately?

Tom noticeably brightens. I’ve been around Tom since long before Fall For Me Too was even a thought, but the excitement he has for his creations never changes.

Tom: *Smiles* Actually, I have a song called Fall For Me Too that’s in the works! Well, really it’s done, but other parts are in the works, and it’ll be coming out soon. We’re recording a music video with OffTheScript Films and Nate Drew, directed by Katie Youn and myself.

Zach: What’s that been like, going through the process of releasing your own music for the first time?

Tom: It’s definitely really cool hearing my music become more radio quality, hearing it sound like that rather than just like a voice memo. Right now it feels pretty normal, but hopefully it’ll feel cooler once it actually releases.

Zach: And everything with recording the video, getting the cover art, how’s that?

Tom: It’s been good, it’s been very fun. The whole side of art and creativity that photography and film are in, I never really realized how cool it is until now. So it’s been fun.

Zach: What does Fall For Me Too mean to you?

Tom: How do you mean that? Like, literally what it means or what it’s about or…

Zach: You could tell me what it’s about-

Tom: I’m not gonna name drop anybody.

Zach: *we both laugh* I won’t make you say names. I guess I’m wondering what this song, as a story or a part of yourself you’re releasing into the world, what that means to you.

Tom: I was actually kinda thinking about this yesterday in the shower. The fact that I’m putting so much effort into this one song by producing it, getting it mixed, and then recording a full music video, a full production, all of that makes it seem – because this is a sad song – like I’m still upset or lingering on those feelings in the song. But when I wrote it it’s like the feelings went into the song. So I was upset prior to writing Fall For Me Too, but it’s become a song I enjoy now, rather than something I’m holding onto.

Zach: It’s almost like you released your feelings into the song.

Tom: And now it’s just a cool creative project I’m working on, yeah. Rather than something emotionally significant still.

There’s a silence as the room seems to exhale. He seems genuinely relieved. Making music is a cathartic experience, and I can tell that Tom knows this better than most. 

Zach: Is there anything else you want people to hear?

Tom: Presave Fall For Me Too once it’s out, and uhhh *laughs*, listen to it so much please!

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