At the Bar with Big Phony

Big Phony is the stage name of singer-songwriter & actor Bobby Choy (Ktown Cowboys). I completed this interview with him on August 3rd, 2010.

I first saw you on Ktown Cowboys. How did you get involved with that project?

The writer of Ktown Cowboys and comedian Danny Cho is a good friend of mine. One time we were at a cafe in Ktown and he told me he was writing something with me and some of our other friends in mind. I read it, laughed a lot. He asked me to be in it. I said "No! Get an Actor." He said, "You'll pretty much be playing yourself so it won't be too difficult." I said the character he wrote for me was "kind of a pussy." He said "Exactly!" There was no budget and since I wasn't working at the time I had no excuses to say no to a friend. Voila!

A "pussy"? You? Nuh-uh! But hilarious acting aside, music is actually your main medium. You made the commitment young. How did your family come to the decision to leave you on your own at the age of 14? How was that even made possible?

When I was younger my family moved around a lot so my parents made a deal with me that if I got into a good high school I could stay put for once. I was accepted to LaGuardia High School in NY, a performing arts high school (which the 80's movie and TV show "FAME" was based on!) so the deal was sealed. They just happen to be moving to Los Angeles around that time so they let me be. Not sure if that was even legal but it happened.

How long have you been playing the guitar now? And what other instruments do you play?

I've been playing nearly 20 years now? I'm not very good though, technically speaking. I'm mostly self taught and can't even name half the chords I play. I started playing my brother Eddy's guitar secretly to get better than him because he threatened my life if I ever touched it. That was maybe in the 6th or 7th grade? Can't remember. I dabble with other instruments but I'm no good at them. I can't even whistle, very well.

I’ve read about the artists who’ve influenced you. Could you tell me what drew you to this genre of music? What about it spoke to you?

I like artists like Aimee Mann and Elliott Smith because their use of words seem honest and artful. They strike me as not being lazy lyricists. That's what I strive to be. Something about Singer-Songwriters will always appeal to me. I love the raw form of most art.

You exude the utmost tranquility in your music. It’s consistent throughout your performances. Where does that come from?  What’s your composition process?

I was alone a lot when my parents left for Los Angeles (I was a loner at school) so I turned to music. Walls were thin in my apartment so I developed a "softer" quality to playing. One day I'd like to rock out though, live on private property and scream my head off whenever I please. A part of me feels a bit repressed. Haha. I write late at night or early in the morning when I'm most depressed and usually alone.

You song “Short Intermission” is on repeat in my car. I can’t stop listening to it; it’s haunting and lulling. Could you give me some background information on it?

I wrote that song in the dark at the dining room table a couple of years ago. It was maybe 2 in the morning and I wrote it in very little time. Sometimes that happens. That song is about needing to be alone sometimes to make sense of your life, I think.

How much, would you say, spirituality influences your music?

I'd say spirituality influences me mostly in the way I live, not so much in the content of my music but it isn't totally void of it. I feel like when I create art I'm doing something worth living for, I'm contributing something to the world and therefore I'm not a complete waste of space. For me, my belief in God enriches my life and the way I look at it.

I watched the MTV-K clip which discussed your desire for people to focus on your music, not your ethnicity. Do you find yourself having to politely “redirect” people in your career?

I used to feel strongly about hiding my ethnicity to force people to "face the music", so to speak. I feel less like that lately. I have no agenda really. I welcome anyone who cares to listen.

I mean, has your ethnicity even influenced your music at all? If so, how?

A little, but not a lot. I wrote a song called "A Country Apart" that somewhat deals with wishing I was "white", a little.

It appears you've since embraced your color. You’re a very good-looking man, so all-American aesthetics be damned. Now, how long have you been being playing professionally, and how did you get started?

Professionally I got started really late. I've been at it for 5 years now? It all started when I quit a job at a law firm I was at for 2 years. I was just unhappy and didn't see an end to it so I quit my job, took a loan from my brother Eddy, and 2 weeks later I was on a plane from Los Angeles to NY to record my first album. Haven't looked back since.

You? At a law firm? Seriously? Never saw that coming! So what advice do you have for young, struggling musicians of color who often themselves discouraged?

Be excellent at all you do. Don't be lazy, it shows in your work. Just because words rhyme doesn't make it good. Don't make us look bad! Find people you trust to tell you truthfully if you have something unique to offer the world, or the potential to reach that. Unless you're a fantastic multi-tasker don't try to do everything yourself. Focus on your craft! In & Out: best fast food burger on the planet, get some!

Your album, Kicking Punching Bags, dropped January, 2010. What are you working on now and what are your goals for the near future? What can fans expect to see and hear from you?

I have a boat load of unrecorded songs I'm trying to raise money to record. Near future plans involve me looking for money. Will release less albums and more singles and EP's. I'll most likely keep at it until my friends say I suck and I've become a waste of space.

Bobby, your music is truly beautiful, and you are an utter delight. Thank you so much for doing this.

Thanks for listening!!

Comments

  1. Was this interview in person? Like, I'm a shallow groupie bitch, but I must know so I can properly mourn not being there ;____;

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  2. Was this interview in person?

    I wish. There are so many more things I want to ask this very remarkable man.

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  3. Thank Goddess this wasn't in person, or else Ankh'd be arrested for tryna molest the man.

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  4. I would not have tried to molest the man!!!!

    Now, Rochelle on the other hand....

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  5. Who me? Nooooooo :3 I'd be so nervous that I'd just giggle and stammer a lot.

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  6. I have to check out more of his music. Identity can be a huge struggle and I'm glad he's made peace with himself.

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  7. "Bobby, your music is truly beautiful, and you are an utter delight. Thank you so much for doing this."

    just propose already o_O

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  8. I really like this dude. Adorable and unpretentious. In this day and age, that's pretty good. Great interview...

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  9. @ Lenoxave

    Identity can be a huge struggle and I'm glad he's made peace with himself.

    I wonder how he did it.

    @ MG

    His music is beautiful and conversing with him was a delight. He's pleasantly unusual.

    Now, just because you want to have the man's babies (and I know you do), doesn't automatically mean I do too.

    Besides...I don't want to have to fight Rochelle to the death. I have a feeling her fangirlism is devout enough to endow her with superhuman ability.

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  10. You guys crack me up, only because I turn into a squealing fangirl when it comes to Big Phony, too! It's just a little bit embarrassing. Good job on the interview. Thanks for this!

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  11. I like the part where they say he is playing himself and the character is kind of a pussy.

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