Going Against the Grain: Vudoo Vu

From MIT graduate to R&B singer-songwriter, Vudoo‘s journey as musician is one that’s not typical of most. This California native chose to follow his passion, leaving behind a career in engineering for the pursuit of music. He previously performed at ATG’s inaugural Fashion for a Passion event and recently ¬†performed in the Kollaboration Artist Showcase.

Full Name:
Vudoo Vu :0)

San Jose, CA

Current City:
Los Angeles, CA

How did you get your start in music?

I’ve loved music all my life, but my involvement in it didn’t really begin until college. MIT was the only east coast school that I applied to, and it was done on a whim of sorts. I didn’t know much else outside California. Once I journeyed off to start a new life in college, I figured I’d try singing, because I really enjoyed doing that in the shower. After being rejected by nearly every acappella group I auditioned for, one group let me join: The MIT Logarhythms. Please, allow yourself to laugh. We were pretty awesome. =)

You have quite an interesting background — MIT student turned musician. What made you decide to change your course from an electrical engineer to taking a risk to pursue music?

I set out to become an electrical engineer, not because I had any real passion for it, I just knew it was the pragmatic thing to do. Especially at the world’s leading institution for that course of study. But halfway through, I yet again followed a whim and tried out for American Idol. I found myself secretly flying out to Austin, TX, where I slept on the street for several days to get a spot. Nine days later, I had found myself making it to Hollywood for the Top 100 and competing amongst other amazing singers and artists like Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken. Surrounded by people who were doing what they were passionate, it made me think why am I working so hard for something that generally makes me unhappy? The creativity and competitiveness of entertainment was much more invigorating. So upon my return to MIT after the Hollywood rounds, the seed had been planted to switch my life’s big plans.

What was the toughest part or decision about making the switch?

Really, the most painful part was dealing with the inevitable disappointment that would come from my family. Vietnamese families are large and word travels fast. While my peers, especially those at MIT, paraded my decision and what it stood for, my family saw it as a disgrace. My immediate family was among the least financially successful, so my acceptance to MIT was something everyone was very proud of. It would take many years for them to view my choice to do music as a serious and respectable endeavor.

Anyone who doubted you or obstacles? And if so how’d you overcome them?

You know, honestly, I paid little attention to the doubters and haters. I focused on the people who loved what I did, and just kept growing it all from there. The greatest obstacle has always been myself. The more I’ve learned to be aware of who I am, my strengths and my weaknesses, the greater success and happiness I’ve found. The key to that… is brutal honesty. Whether from friends and colleagues or from me, to grow and find clarity is always paramount in achieving success.

Who are your musical influences?

My early influences were countless nights of listening and admiring the music of Stevie Wonder. There was also Michael Jackson, Boyz II Men, Tevin Campbell, Donny Hathaway. My mama has always influenced me musically, either through the way she lives her life, or through her eclectic taste in music when she took me to school every day as a kid. French romance music, Elvis, Depeche Mode, my mama was even the first to introduce me to Robert Miles, who became staple stuff for those raver days.

You recently part-took in the Kollaboration A concert–what was your favorite moment and highlight of the event?

As a previous winner of Kollaboration in New York a few years ago, I was honored to be asked to perform at Kollaboration’s 10th year Anniversary show at the Shrine in LA. There were over 5,000 crazy people in the audience, and I had an absolute BLAST as the opening performance! I can’t say there was one favorite moment. So much excitement and amazing talent in the building, either performing or just there to support – Far East Movement, Clara Chung, Alfa Garcia, Wong Fu Productions, YouTube stars David Choi & Kina Grannis, several America’s Best Dance Crew teams, the list is outrageous!! And all the amazing dedication of the Kollaboration staff volunteers. The highlight was realizing how much could be accomplished with all of us supporting each other.

What’s your inspiration behind this upcoming album (and when is the intended release)?

It’s kind of a fascinating process my producers have been putting me through. I’m like a lab rat they do tests on! For example, one time, I was left to my own devices in a lounge with instruments that I didn’t even really know how to play, and after several weeks, I emerged with a small catalogue of songs that they asked me to try out on a tour set up just for experimentation. The inspiration has been intense periods of introspection. Naturally, what has been emerging… is this mix of R&B, Rock & Hip-hop. We are very excited about the direction!!! I am blessed to work with several multi-platinum producers right now, and we’ll be polishing off this stuff and done with an album in about 3 more months.

What advice would you give for someone who might be going through a decision like you did–whether to do the expected or unexpected?

I think it’s less about doing the expected versus unexpected, and more about doing something that you’re passionate about, and finding ways to continue to challenge yourself in that arena. When you stop doing the things that make you feel alive, you are dying. Life’s too short and unpredictable to waste on regrets and unfulfilled potential.

What can we expect of Vu in 2010?

World domination? Hahaha, no, not yet anyways. But I’ve been laying low for awhile for good reasons. Getting the formula and the machine just right. I say, go big or go home!!!! I am going to bet that this is the year I’ll be breaking out!!! I cannot wait to share my heart and my new music, full speed ahead in the 2nd half of this year!

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