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As An AANHPI Singer, Here’s How Johnny Huynh Is Challenging Pop Stereotypes

Johnny Huynh’s love of music has been with him since he was 4. After learning to sing and play the piano, his passion for music quickly grew. “Music is just a great way to express your emotions and a great stress relief from school,” Huynh tells Her Campus in an exclusive interview. “When I was going through elementary school, it was a great way to pass time.” 

These days, the 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Seattle is best known for covering hit songs on TikTok. In 2021, he decided to start sharing his musical talents regularly on the app. While he originally started out with only 500 followers, he soon grew a massive following after posting a cover of “In the Name of Love” by Martin Garrix and Bebe Rexha in July 2023. Today, he has over 4 million followers. 

“Doing TikTok was just my own passion project,” Huynh says. “I was just doing it for fun and one day I posted this video in this format where I just set a camera up and [sang] to it, and then one of the videos went super viral. From there, I was like, ‘Ok, let me just try posting every day and see what happens.’ I never had any intention of doing music full-time or blowing up on social media. It kind of all happened by accident and I was honestly just doing it for myself and seeing where it would go.” 


If I had a had a verse on SZA’s “Good Days” 😜 Love this song #SZA #singing #gooddays

♬ original sound – Johnny Huynh

His consistency definitely paid off. Since going viral on TikTok, Huynh has signed with Columbia Records, which represents huge artists like Beyoncé, Adele, Harry Styles, Halsey, and Hozier. Under Colombia Records, he’s released a few original songs, including “Cheater,” and “The One That Was Meant For Me.” Recently, Huynh dropped his brand-new single “GOOD AS YOU.” In contrast to his other tracks, which talk about romantic relationships,  “GOOD AS YOU” shows a different side to Huynh as he sings about a past friendship. 

I had the opportunity to speak to Huynh about the release of “GOOD AS YOU,” what AANHPI Heritage Month means to him as an Asian American artist, and how he’s able to balance his music career as a full-time college student.

The following responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Your new song, “GOOD AS YOU,” was written about a friendship you really cherished and is such a heartfelt tracks. What about this relationship inspired you to create such a personal song? 

Just the fact of how rare of a friend that I found in elementary school was. In your life, you only meet three or four true best friends. The fact that one left at such a young age was what resonated with me and was so impactful in my life. During that transition period, between elementary school and middle school, you really want to bring that best friend with you into the next phase of your life, but the fact that they had to move away to a different place was really difficult. Emotionally, it really resonated with me and was a huge portion of my early life.

On the topic of songwriting, can you walk me through what the process of writing a song is like for you? 

A lot of songs these days are about heartbreak or a breakup. I want to take unique spins on that or find different things — maybe it’s a relationship with a family member or my grandma or something personal I’m going through. Usually, it starts as a core idea, and then the producer starts playing cords just to see if it resonates with the things that I’m talking about. From there, we’ll hum a couple of melodies and start seeing which melodies feel like a hook or a verse. From there, we start filling in the words and making sure that they pair well with the feeling of the song. It usually ends up having like nine or 10 different versions of us just changing words around or the format of the song. That’s basically the whole songwriting process from beginning to end as far as I’ve experienced it. 

Would you say you typically come up with the lyrics or the melody first? 

Majority of the time, we come up with the melody first, because I think a strong melody always cuts through. Not to say the lyrics don’t matter that much, but the melody makes the song what it is. The melody is the thing that people remember. When people are humming, there are no lyrics, so if a melody is stuck in your head,that’s better than the lyrics being stuck in your head. That’s my approach on it. Having really impactful lyrics on top of that makes the song even better. 

With May being AANHPI Month, you posted a TikTok telling your followers to go support Asian artists. How does your heritage influence your art, or who you are as a person in general? 

Asian American heritage plays such a large role in my life. Even from a really young age, my mom used to do a lot of benefits for Buddhist temples, so my two older brothers and I would travel in like a Jonas Brothers group and we would play [music] to raise donations in the Seattle area just to give back to my community. Fast-forward to now in college, I’m in so many clubs that involve the Asian community. I’m Vietnamese, so I’m in the Vietnamese Student Association at my school. Every year, I always try to give back [by] doing community service at Chinese New Year events and eating out at local family-owned Asian American businesses. 

I always wanted to be an inspiration for other Asian Americans. The pop industry is very Caucasian-dominated right now, and just being that one Asian person trying to thread the needle into the pop scene is something I’m trying to do by not following into the stereotype of being a K-pop or a J-pop artist, but instead going for that American pop sound. 

Are there any Asian or Asian-American singers or public figures you look up to? 

There’s this guy named Keshi who makes really great music and then another guy named DPR Ian. [They] have great aesthetics and their music really resonates with the Asian community. 

As for public figures, a story that really inspires me has always been Jackie Chan. How he started in China doing a lot of Chinese films and then came to America, where he didn’t know that much English, and made his mark in a completely foreign territory and basically rose to the top of Hollywood being an Asian American was just super inspiring to me. 

You’re currently attending the University of Washington as a mechanical engineering major. How do you balance your studies with your music career?

At times I do get stressed out. Currently, my sleep schedule is a little messed up because I post content every day and I’m recording and I have homework and exams. What it really comes down to is staying organized. My academic background has really helped with that. The past two summers, I interned at SpaceX and I was working fifty-hour weeks. While I was there, I [was] building those really strong organizational skills that helped me out a lot. 

Do you have anything coming up soon or that you’re looking forward to? 

This upcoming record I have coming out in June, which I’m really excited about, is a bit more rock-inspired. There are some big drums on it and it pairs really well with the raspiness of my voice, so I’m super excited about that. These next 5 or 6 months, I’m going to be working towards my first big project. I’m going to be dropping new music very consistently. Hopefully, everybody’s excited for how versatile I am and I just want to show people what a Johnny Huynh song sounds like. It’s such a surreal process. 

What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for aspiring singers or songwriters who might be afraid to put themselves out there? 

Being yourself is such a simple piece of advice, but so many people are afraid to show their whole personality online. The thing that resonates with an audience is how much you relate to them. I’m just like any other college kid and I just started posting videos for fun and now I’m here. No matter where you are, always stay true to yourself and [don’t] be afraid of judgment. Whether it’s music or social media wise… staying true to yourself and not being afraid of judgment is my main piece of advice.

Born and raised in Arizona, Kayleigh Shaw is a Her Campus National Writer. She mainly writes for the Culture section, primarily focused on the latest entertainment news, but will occasionally write about life and career, giving advice to a wide array of readers. Outside of Her Campus, Kayleigh was also a part of Rod Pulido’s Street Team for his debut novel, Chasing Pacquiao and completed social media challenges to promote the book. She also hopes to one day write for Screen Rant and Comic Book Resources. where she will continue to use her love of all things pop culture to her advantage. She also graduated from Glendale Community College in May 2022 with an Associate's Degree in English. When Kayleigh's not working on journalism pieces, she can be found writing poems and short stories, reading, watching TikToks, listening to their favorite podcasts, listening and dancing to Sabrina Carpenter and Taylor Swift, watching movies and TV shows on Netflix and Hulu (while crying over fictional characters and relationships.) She would live in a library and avoid the rest of the world if she could. She also drinks coffee like a Gilmore and often goes down rabbit holes researching their hyper fixations.