“Somehow it always called me back”: August Wahh explores how the pull towards music can be felt even in a time like this
Steadily making her mark in the Philippine music scene is neo-soul singer-songwriter August Wahh. Having relocated from her hometown General Santos City to Manila, the direction of her life has been an answer to a deep and unbroken call to music. August has shared the stage with legendary trombonist Fred Wesley and Taylor McFerrin. She’s opened for one of the pioneers of neo-soul Erykah Badu, as well as the likes of Daniel Caesar and RAC. August’s voice blends tranquil moods and ethereal tones. While, her songwriting ability is simply evidence that music is her medium to unashamedly express her thoughts and innermost desires. In 2019, she shined alongside respected producer CRWN in a collaborative EP titled Labyrinth and has gone onto be recognised on Spotify’s RADAR program in March this year, which houses an array of international emerging artists.
Right now, the world faces the first ever pandemic in the digital age and the Philippines is among many nations, that have put in force a coronavirus lockdown. People all over the world remain in their homes, looking towards a future that is unknown, as life as we know it seems to be staying at a standstill.
In a world where some circumstances go beyond human control, what we do maintain control over is our outlook and how we perceive ourselves. A message that permeates August’s new single Elated, which acts as a timeless reminder to make the most of every moment.
Following the release of Elated at the end of last month. August caught up with INTHEWRITERSMIND for an email interview…
Hey August! What’s the time right now in the Philippines and how is your day going?
It’s 9pm now and my day went pretty well. Thanks for asking!
What would your normal daily routine be if there wasn’t a global lockdown?
To be honest – the same as my current routine, really. I don’t go out as much anymore. I’d wake up around 9 or 10.30am, have my “Coffee and Contemplation’s” and walk my dog. Most afternoons until early evening, I’ll write or make music or practice an instrument. The rest of the night is me just doing whatever feels good for my soul haha.
This sounds very relaxing. It’s good to hear how you integrate making music and creating into your day-to-day activities. So, can you tell us a bit about your childhood, adult life and how you found your way to music?
I grew up in a city called General Santos in the south of Philippines. There wasn’t really much art or music scene going on there growing up. I’ve always been artistic and I learned to trust my creativity at a very young age. My parents were pretty strict about going out, unless it was school or family related stuff. So, a lot of the time I would just write and draw, build houses for my pets or film skits with my siblings. I grew up around a lot of animals. Hiking and camping is a thing my family always did, so nature plays a very important role in my life and in my music.
My dad also trained me to sing. So, I definitely grew up with music. When I left my country to go to high school in the U.S., I had this newfound freedom and was out catching all the bands that would come and play in town. When I came back to the Philippines, I decided to major in Music Production in Manila. I met a lot of musicians while in school and the rest is history.
It’s interesting that music has various functions for different people. For some music offers hope, for others it acts as a form of escape…etc. What do you think the message of your new single Elated can offer for listeners in a time like this?
Elated is truly a song of self-acceptance. As cliché as that sounds, people have a hard time identifying what is truly authentic to them. It’s a song about honoring your own code – no matter where you’ve been and what you’ve been through. To continuously honor who you are and your evolution wherever you go.
You’ve said that Elated “was written on the spot”. Would you say that you have managed to get to a point in your career, where songwriting has become a fluid process for you? Or do you still have ‘writer’s block’?
Writer’s block is part of the fluidity, I feel. You’ll have days where you can’t grasp your emotions and thoughts. When that happens, I just let myself be. I find that when I sit down with it, it all comes flowing in the next few days. Also, if the music moves me, it’ll usually get me writing and singing.
That’s a refreshing perspective. What advice do you have for aspiring singers who struggle to write songs of their own? How can they discover their heart song?
I feel like you have to believe in something in order to write cohesively. Being authentic to your emotions, thoughts and being is key.
That’s definitely some key advice. Can you speak candidly about some of the obstacles you have had to face pursuing a career in music and whether you’ve managed to overcome them?
My family is very traditional, I’ve always been the oddball and also very stubborn. When I took my entrance exams to university, I purposely showed up late to the colleges my parents wanted me to go to. But, took the entrance exam to the school I wanted seriously, so that I could get in the music program (sorry mom and dad haha).
My mom wanted me to shift courses eventually and I finally agreed, just because I was so stressed. I remember having my transfer papers about to get signed by the Dean of the program I was trying to transfer to, but he wouldn’t sign it! He told me I needed to stay where I was and do music.
People judged me and made me feel so bad for being crazy passionate about music. I’ve probably heard it all from all sorts of people, who now I know weren’t aligned with what I really needed and wanted to do. I’ve quit music so many times, but somehow it always called me back.
“Somehow it always called me back”…that hits deep. Having released a collaborative EP called Labyrinth with CRWN in 2019 and your first solo release also last year. How would you describe your sound and the way your music is evolving?
It’s always hard to explain your own music, so I try not to. When I write and sing, I want it to hit a deep part in someone – somewhere in them. No matter what music I make, I want that to “inspire” something within that person.
You’ve given us an insight into your usual day-to-day activities. Could you tell us a bit about your life in lockdown in Manila? Are you finding it difficult to write songs and exercise your creativity in such a time as this? Or has it been a smooth process for you?
All I do these days is “non-stop create”.
Boredom is my best friend.
There has been a lot of conversation on social media concerning this next question. Do you think there is a specific way an artist should respond to this pandemic?
I think collectively, we’re all a bit agitated by the state our world is in. Artists bring people together through art, but of course we’re only human too. I feel like everyone is entitled to react however they want to. But for me, creating music gives me a sense of grounding and to actualize what’s really happening. These times are unprecedented. If I can help keep spirits and morale high – and somehow help keep my listeners grounded by sharing my music, then I’m happy to have contributed in that way.
That’s a good approach to have. What are you looking forward to having access to post-lockdown?
I’ve been cooped up in my home. I really miss the ocean, trees and mountains. I’m isolating myself in nature the moment this is over.
Have you found any new ways to stay connected with your fans during this period?
Social media once again, has bridged that gap more than ever.
In many ways! So, how would you describe the underground neo-soul scene in Manila? Do you know of any other artists residing in the city, that we should be adding to our playlists?
It’s thriving, definitely.
The Philippines is a melting pot of talented musicians just ready to dominate the music scene man. Yosha, CRWN, Tomcat, just to name a few. Also Stank Dank – very new and about to release music soon, but worth looking out for.
Noted! Finally, what would you like your legacy to be? How would you like people to remember you as both a musician and a person?
I want to be remembered for unapologetically being me. I want to be remembered as that person that danced to the beat of their own drum and celebrated life through art.