Most people would agree that music is a universal language. It connects almost everyone, whether they understand the lyrics or not. The melodic rhythm reverberates through the soul, touching everyone’s core on some level. Such is the impact of music in the life of Baguio-based musician and singer Ian Paolo Acosta. In an interview with the Philippine Canadian Inquirer, Ian shares his music and life.
PCI: How did you start out as a singer/musician?
Ian: I started singing with a small choir I co-pioneered when I was a freshman in college, and fell in love with the acoustic guitar on my sophomore year. I did not sing and play professionally until 2006, when a female vocalist and I performed regularly at the Overtones Jazz Lounge in Baguio City. I bought a jazz guitar and found myself listening to blues and jazz, writing songs of my own in the process.
PCI: Who are your musical influences?
Ian: I’ve no particular influence when it comes to my singing, but I recall listening to a lot of Gary Valenciano, especially his Soul Full album, and admiring his vocal technique. I love listening to and studying the all-time greatest jazz guitar players, especially Joe Pass and George Benson. I really loved listening to Antoine Dufour as well and Andy McKee. Today, I listen to a lot of neo soul such as those coming from Erykah Badu and Robert Glasper, and a ton from many of my friends’ music here in the Philippines. Much of my music, even my singing and songwriting, is centered on where I am in terms of playing guitar.
PCI: You were a part of the prestigious Elements Music Camp last year. How did that experience affect your music/career?
Ian: It’s such a great honor to be recognized by the biggest names in the Filipino music industry. To me, it served as more of an affirmation – that singing and songwriting is my calling, and that I should continue pursuing my passion. [Through Elements Music Camp,] I now have the opportunity to share my music, collaborate with the best, and perhaps [get enough exposure] to find people who’d be willing to invest in my music.
PCI: Have you experienced any setbacks in your life as a musician? If yes, how did you overcome them?
Ian: For a time I got burned out from playing music. The community here in Baguio isn’t much yet attuned to listening to original music and prefers musicians to cover hit songs. My joy in music came back when I started writing songs again. I then set goals for my music, such as looking for other musicians to collaborate with and saving up for a studio recording of my songs so I can release an EP. Those ‘real’ goals sort of put perspective and direction to my passion.
PCI: What’s your ultimate goal with your music/career?
Ian: My ultimate goal is quite simple: it is for my artistic expression to become my profession for life. I just want to make music and hopefully make a decent living out of it. I want to record and release an album for my fellow Filipinos and people around the world to hear.
PCI: What are your thoughts about OPM today?
Ian: I think Filipino music is so diverse and dynamic that it is so much (massively much) more than what you hear in the radio or watch in TV. You can hear a lot of different genres and different lyrical discourses that tell the Filipino story from thousands of perspectives. I think the problem is that the mainstream public doesn’t see it this way because there hasn’t recently been enough effort exerted on the part of producers and investors towards going out from the ‘stereotypical’ OPM, which to date is just a mix of pop, ballad, and rock sang by people with pretty faces. Some people [say] that ‘OPM is dead’. These people have not seen the entirety of OPM.
PCI: What are your tips for aspiring musicians?
Ian: Hone your craft – keep on practicing even when people tell you you’re already good. Take advantage of technology – the internet is a powerful tool. Have as many influences in music as possible – so that you won’t sound like any of them.
Ian was one of the 60 campers at the esteemed Elements Music Camp in 2012, besting almost 4,000 candidates all over the Philippines. Out of the 60 campers, he made it to the 11 Screener’s Choice, and then made it to Maestro Ryan Cayabyab’s personal choice of 5 campers.
You can catch Ian on July 27, 7:00 PM at Ayala Technohub in Camp John Hay, Baguio City. He also performs every Thursday at the Purple Lounge in Baguio City.
For more information about his music, photos, and upcoming events, check out his website by clicking here.
Photos and video links courtesy of Ian Paolo Acosta.