We had the good fortune of connecting with Kyle Zhu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kyle, other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
I wouldn’t say I’m successful, yet.
I chose to start my piano teaching business as a freelancer, and this has lead me to down a path of difficult decisions. I’m currently solely responsible for all my finances and clients, but it’s helped me learn to assess myself periodically as a musician pursuing a career in music. My work hours give me a ton of flexibility in seriously pursuing music production, and this has allowed me to grow way more than if I were stuck at a desk job from 9-5 during the weekdays.
There’s been constant self-doubt since I started, but I’m learning to trust myself more in the decisions I make day-to-day. It has lead me to meet some wonderful friends and people in the music community, and I’m finally feeling more comfortable in my own skin as a music producer and teacher. It’s okay to doubt yourself, just don’t forget to trust your gut once in a while. I probably would’ve laughed at the idea of becoming a piano teacher growing up, but it’s been rewarding and has taught me way more than college ever did.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m still honestly a bit confused about what my style is, but I like to think of it as a big mix of my biggest influences in music. I like to take some aspects of my favorite genres, and mix them together into different tracks to get some unexpected results. For example, I’ll use house drums with hip hop 808’s, along with future bass chords and pop melodies on top. This kind of thinking and genre-mixing really helps define my sound, and hopefully comes across in the music that I make.
I’ve definitely learned that my production can often be too busy or excessive, but I think it’s something that I love about the music that I listen to, and I’ve learned to embrace it (to an extent, of course). I’m a sucker for both heavy and melodic music, so I try to make sure that every song has a bit of both ends.
It’s been a battle trying to get to this point, and I still learn something new every time I listen to the music that other people make. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make just one genre, since my love for experimenting keeps me jumping around and tackling new genre mixtures. In the end, I’m trying to make something that you’ve never heard before.
I just want you guys to know that there will always be something to overcome in music production, and I hope to keep overcoming these obstacles as I learn and develop my sound. There’s always gonna be someone better than you, so just keep doing your best and have faith in what you’re trying to do.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh man, there’s this mexican restaurant called Mi Ranchito just north of Mira Mesa that has this crazy seafood burrito. They blend their own salsa’s, and the owners are super kind and friendly every time I go. I end up taking all of my friends here when they visit San Diego, and we just can’t get enough of this place.
I also go to this place called Pho Cow Cali pretty often, since it’s right next to my place. Our friends love going here when they visit, and I’d recommend getting the Bun Bo Hue if you’re into traditional Viet food.
Other than that, I would definitely make a beach trip with friends as well as a grocery run to H Mart so that we can make some hotpot at home. Nothing beats hanging out at home with some good friends; it’s all about that good food, good company and good times.
I’m not a huge fan of drinking other than an occasional beer here and there, but I know that San Diego is famous for breweries so we’d probably go out and make a trip to Ballast Point or something.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have to give recognition to my friends and family that have supported me so far, since they keep me sane and have helped motivate me every time I got cold feet. I think seeing my older brother Kevin pursue his dreams in VFX really gave that initial push towards this career, and I can’t thank him enough for always believing in me. My friend groups from college and high school have always been there to listen and support the music I’ve made, so thank you so much for listening even when my music was horrible (thanks, ya’ll).
Lately, I’ve found motivation in my friends that are doing music seriously, so I’m gonna try to shout out some of them in no particular order:
Albert (MMIC), Nathan (DIALYUP), Cameron (Stedîcam), Deen (djsnextdoor), Leta (Leta He), and Justin & Daniel (INIMINI). I’m sure there are many more, but I just wanted to say thank you for having my back and giving me the motivation to push further!
Also, shoutout to Backroom Records and our entire team, we’ve been working hard at our new record label that we’ve launched recently and got a lot more coming soon!
Jennie Nguyen Denise Nguyen