In almost every article that is published on music in Vietnam, the name “Vu” is always paired with “The Prince of Vietnamese Indie Music.”
A few years ago, Vu’s breakthrough single, “La Lung” (Strange),” captivated his audience with an emotional outpouring of sweet and romantic lyrics coupled with his deep but gentle voice. It’s like the silent whisper of an angel telling you that everything will be alright. The song still has that effect every time he performs it live, and his entire audience will sing it along with him.
Since then, his follow up singles “Mua Mua Ngau Nam Canh” (Rainy Season with You), “Dong Kiem Em” (Finding You in Winter), and “Phut Ban Dau” (First Moment) have soared and further secured Vu’s place as one of the great music artists in Vietnam.
Coming from Hanoi, Vu started his music artistry about 7 years ago with a style that was both simple and delicate. Because his style and music broke away from what was common then, his songs stood out despite the lack of media support. Steadily, Vu carved his own way to success one step at a time, which included single-handedly organizing and promoting his own sold-out concert.
Billboard Vietnam had the opportunity to sit down with this gifted singer-songwriter for a rare one-on-one interview. Vu, wearing a John Mayer T-shirt, talks about the singer’s influence: “John Mayer is one of the few artists who handles media activities on his social network. If you follow John, you will know almost everything about him. John Mayer is not the type of person who is afraid to share about his life.
“And, John’s guitar playing ability is out of this world, with legends like Eric Clapton to B.B. King giving him the thumbs up. I think the fact that John is so open and comfortable around people leads to his freedom to do music however he likes.”
Another, possibly surprising, inspiration: Justin Bieber, due to how he got started. Bieber did not come from a wealthy family, and began by writing his own songs and busking on the street. Vu recalls thinking, “If he can do it, I can do it too” as he was making his way into the music industry.
During all the years Vu was studying in school, playing guitar was the only thing that brought him joy. Being soft-spoken and keeping mostly to himself, Vu did not share much with his family. Instead, he channeled his thoughts and feelings into his music. In that period, Vu wrote nearly 20 songs: the first was “G?i L?i Yêu Em” (Sending You My Love), then “Phut Ban Dau,” “La Lung” and “Dong Kiem Em.”
Vu fondly remembers what famous Vietnamese composer Quoc Trung said about him: “This guy dares to change. He is willing to move away from the pop ballad to venture into another style of music.”
“Hanh Tinh Song Song” (Parallel Planet) was a pivotal turning point where fans saw Vu step out of his comfort zone, in a style that was still simple yet soulful, with a touch of rock, and a sense of torment in his vocals. When it was released, some of his loyal fans were surprised and confused.
“I hate it when people are sad, and one takes advantage of this and releases sad ballads. I was determined to make a sad song but with joy,” Vu shared, explaining the song. “I don’t want young people to feel sad and depressed when they hear my music. It tires the soul. I want my music to stand out as the ‘sunshine after the rain’ moment among all the sad songs out there.”
“Michael Jackson would not be ‘The King of Pop’ if he only played guitar and sang about one thing all his life,” he continued. “As a pop artist, you can go with pop your entire life, but one has to vary the content, to sing about different things as well. This is the direction I am heading toward, to bring new colors into my music”.
Seven years after he started writing music, Vu released the album Vu Tru Song Song (“Parallel Universe”). The process was not easy: Some of the songs had to be rerecorded; the album’s release was delayed by a year; and, Vu had to sell his favorite guitar to raise money to complete the album.
Vu wants to bring Vietnamese music to the rest of the world, and in July, his first release with Warner Music Vietnam was distributed, called “Her Summer.”
Vu revealed that, at age 24, he plans to marry soon — “I have now found the love of my life, and therefore I am prepared to make this commitment now” — and to further his studies.