Blog

Nono Chen – School of Losers

 

ARTIST NAME: Nono Chen

 

SONG TITLE: School of Losers

 

ALBUM TITLE: School of Losers

 

RELEASE DATE: Feb. 27, 2019

 

GENRE: Latin Pop

 

Facebook

 

Instagram

 

iTunes

 

Spotify

 

Website

 

Nono Chen is a Chinese singer-songwriter, producer, media composer, arranger, and pianist based in New York City.

 

Nono started her stylistic expansion and sonic exploration under the influence of artists like Jacob Collier, Bruno Mars, and Dua Lipa.

 

Her husky voice tells her personal stories over a remarkable variety of genres and styles.

 

Her innovative and unpredictable musical moves often take her audience on an exciting and unique journey.

 

Nono began playing piano at the age of four and was trained in classical composition at Shanghai Music Middle School.

 

She went to Berklee College of Music in 2017 and completed her bachelor’s degree in Contemporary Writing and Production in 2019.

 

She is now a Songwriting master student at New York University.

 

Nono was named as a Mentee in the 2019 Society of Composers & Lyricists’ Mentor Program.

 

She was the recipient of the 2018 American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers’ Ray and Jon Charles Scholarship for Vocal Arranging, the 2019 Berklee Contemporary Writing and Production Achievement Award, and NYU’s 2019-20 Paul Simon Scholarship.

 

She was nominated to be the 2020 NYU Songwriting Scholar. She was selected to participate in the upcoming 2020 Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project in June.

.

.

.

Discuss your music career.

I think I was born with music gene. My mom is a kindergarten teacher, and she plays piano and sings very well. I believe music has always been her dream and that’s why she has been so dedicated in developing my talent ever since the very first day she saw the “musician” inside of me.

 

I started playing piano when I was four and got into Shanghai Music Middle School at the age of eleven. I studied classical composition for six years there and it was during that time that I realized how much I love songwriting (which I kept mostly to myself since it’s a classical institution and songwriting was not in the curriculum). I only applied for one college (and luckily, I got in) because I wanted to study contemporary music and focus on songwriting so bad! So, I came to the U.S. in 2017 and studied at Berklee College of Music for two years and got my bachelor’s degree in Contemporary Writing and Production (still not Songwriting!). The time I spent at Berklee really built me as a multifaceted musician. I played piano in ensembles of different styles such as jazz, pop/R&B and Brazilian. I was selected to arrange for large-scale shows and got on stage to conduct. I wrote A LOT of songs and learned how to produce and mix them. But still, I hadn’t taken any formal Songwriting classes at that point yet.

 

Finally, moving into graduate school, I chose my “dream major” Songwriting. I’m now studying in the Songwriting master program at New York University and I’m trying to absorb as much as I can. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of uncertainties to my future planning. I’m just going with the flow now and see where opportunities land, either staying in the U.S. or going back to China is fine with me at this point.

.

.

.

Brief us on how to impress fans during a live performance.

I started playing full live shows after I moved to New York City last year.

 

For me, I don’t like the idea of impressing someone. It is distractive to think about it as a performer, especially for the more intimate shows I’m doing. If the music is good, it will impress people automatically. So… it’s my songs’ job to impress not me (does it even make sense? lol). I always ask myself to be honest and humble, and try to be the best “projector” of my art.

.

.

.

List the names of your biggest supporters.

Mom, mom, mom (kidding lol). Top of the list is my mom. She is the one I can turn to in any circumstances…

 

I am forever grateful for the professors I met in the U.S. Just to name a few; I met Bill Elliott when I first started at Berklee. I was feeling drowned in an ocean full of talented people. Bill was the first encouraging voice that said to me: “you will shine like a star one day.” I still go to his words every time I need sources of confidence from outside.

 

The department chair of Songwriting at NYU Phil Galdston took me under his arm in my first semester. Every private lesson I had with him was mind-blowing. I could see myself progressing and growing quickly as a songwriter under his influence. He also introduced me to many opportunities such as taking a lead role in a student-run Songwriting club.

.

.

.

Explain what has motivated you so far in your music career.

I always think music is a MUST in my life. It is my medicine for any negative thoughts and emotions. It literally makes me healthier and whole as a human being. I must do music if I want to be happy and alive.

.

.

.

Discuss your experience as an artist.

I never thought about myself as an artist before I started graduate school last year. I have been releasing songs for years, but I never put the “artist” title on my head because my goal is to be a songwriter behind the scene. Then I met many other songwriters that have the same mindset in graduate school, and they all call themselves artists! I guess I am one then:). I’m a perfectionist when it comes to being a songwriter but not as an artist. Maybe it’s because of what my goal is.

 

Being an artist means an initial outlet for me to put my music out there for the world to hear. I’m totally open to having other artists performing my songs (of course they need to be better than me).

.

.

.

Discuss the story behind the song.

The message in “School of Losers” is really speaking to me personally. I’m a workaholic + perfectionist. I need a bigger heart when it comes to mistakes and failures. I want this song to be fun to listen to and at the same time to deliver an important message to my listeners. No one can master life; we all suck, to some degree. You can either give yourself a hard time every day (yeah that’s how frequently we as human suck), or laugh at it, put a positive spin on it and really learn to accept and love your imperfections. I wrote this song to keep reminding myself that.

.

.

.

Tell us the greatest piece of advice someone has given you as an artist.

One time I was really stressed out on the promotion of my new single and my friend Bella Human, who is an amazing singer-songwriter, told me that: “no one cares about what you put out there.” It is so true! The world is overwhelmed with new content every day and I am most likely the only and loudest critical voice for my music. I can control the satisfaction of one audience only, which is ME, so I should be thinking more about how happy I am with my music than it is for others since they’re out of my control.

.

.

.

Tell us what you will improve or change in your music.

I’m so used to write, sing, produce, and literally do everything myself.

 

I would love to explore more collaborations in the future.

.

.

.

List the blogs that have supported you so far.

“School of Losers” appeared in Washington Square News’s “Weekly Radio Roundup” on April 3 and was shared by Find A Song Blog on April 20.

.

.

.

Discuss your best mood during a performance.

When my song brought back all the vivid memories.

.

.

.

List your best artists with reasons.

Jacob Collier: When I think about Jacob I think about creativity. He is such a musical genius and a harmonic monster. I started to think out of the box and really push my limit as a songwriter sonically and stylistically after listening to his music.

 

Joni Mitchell: Her lyrics are pure poems. The combination of her words is amazing. She was the one that really convinced me that lyrics can make a song.

.

.

.

Discuss your songwriting and recording.

The writing process for “School of Losers” is pretty similar to how most of my songs are done. I wrote it all by myself. The music of the hook (melody + harmony) is always the first thing on my paper. I didn’t have a story or a narrative before that. Everything started with the hook.

 

After I had the hook, I left my piano and sat with a pen and paper to come up with the theme and the story. Knowing what I wanted to say made the rest of the song flow out easily.

 

Producing this song was one of the biggest reasons behind my investment on a baby Taylor guitar even if I could only strum like an elementary kid. I remember that it took me a whole afternoon to record myself on guitar for this track. There were hundreds of takes divided into each individual chord because I simply couldn’t change chord patterns fast enough! On top of that, I was being super ambitious to record two different takes to pan them hard right and left to create a broader stereo image. I’m a big fan of background vocals. Adding BGV is the most exciting thing for me as a producer.

 

This song was the first one for me to incorporate “unpitched sounds” such as kissing sound and exhalation sound. I started to use BGV not only as a melodic accompaniment but also as a percussive instrument and SFX.

 

This song was my first experiment on Latin pop I had so much fun creating it from the start to the end.

.

.

.

State your artist’s name and elaborate on it.

Nono was an English name I gave to myself at eleven. I had to come up with a name for my English class in middle school and I didn’t want to settle on a “meaningless” one. My family nickname is “Nunu” in Chinese, so I simply thought of a sound-alike in English!

.

.

.

 

State the title of the song and the meaning.

“School of Losers” is my hope for future educations. People are getting wealthier but less happy nowadays. I think we need to redefine success and its correlation to happiness. I believe our education system should not only teach students how to succeed…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.