Campus Profile: JJ Wong

Year: Senior

Zodiac Sign: Aries

Hometown: Old Bridge, NJ

Favorite food: Ice Cream and Pizza–I have the diet of a 12-year-old.

Fun Fact: I really like cats, and it is not a fun fact, Paola, it is a very serious fact.

Hobbies: I write music, trail run, nap in strange places, lick people’s elbows when they’re not looking, etc.

What is the strangest place you've napped?

Oh, I have a few. Probably on top of an elementary school, or on top of an already napping friend.

How did you get on top of the building?

Oh, I mean climbing buildings was just something we did all the time. It usually consisted of a series of hops and complicated physical maneuvering with the help of garbage cans and random water pipelines attached to the side of the walls. Looking back, real dangerous, pretty sure I had a friend who broke both of his ankles at the same time one night; we didn't know how to get him down.

Well on that note, tell me about your music! When did you start writing?

I started when I was 10 years old, the summer before moving to middle school. I spent all of my summers as a kid in Calgary, Alberta visiting my family and for the most part, my only friend was my brother. That summer, though, my brother didn’t come along and it was just my mom, grandma, and me. I ended up feeling really isolated and experienced, what I would say, for the first time in my life, looking back, were depressive tendencies. But through that and the ever present boredom, I ended up teaching myself guitar with my brother’s Yamaha laying around and doodling songs on a notebook. Pretty sure I have around three notebooks from that summer alone with awful songs.

And how many notebooks of songs do you have now?

I have a box of around 20 back home and five I always keep on me with my most meaningful songs. I think [since] starting this school year, I would say I have around three-fourths of a notebook done. A lot of the songs don’t meet quality standards, though, so I have a lot of half-written remnants and dead bones of songs that eventually might get Frankenstein’d into other songs when they end up being relevant. I also have around 40 unused melodies on my voice memo app on my phone so I kinda smash them together at times when I’m really feeling something.

Is songwriting something you want to pursue professionally?

Oh, you bet!

Have you done anything to start?

I’ve been playing in bands on the East Coast since I was around 15. The band that I lead in high school was called Little Pintos and we had a good amount of local success and built a good amount of buzz around us. We recorded an EP the summer after my freshman year where we got noticed by a subsidiary of Columbia records on Twitter. We basically chose not to pursue it because I was leaving and really felt that I needed to mature more and focus on development. So now, I’ve recorded three EPs alone with my own equipment on this coast; just learning the ropes to doing things myself and honing my craft. I intern at Nettwerk music and [have made] some amazing connections and am able to give demos to folks around the industry. But honestly, I’m less interested in getting signed and more interested in being able to do cross-promotion for music around local communities; I feel a duty to create musical spaces to give voice to minority opinions. So I’m planning on setting up shows back home in Jersey for art to have an open forum between religious, racial, ethnic boundaries, etc. because I think the folks that need to speak the most often find that voice in art and it kind of, for the most part, always is loudest and most powerful in abstractions of reality, which is art in a nutshell.

What has been the most valuable thing you've learned from your internship?

Humility, 100%. Every single day God kind of puts me in my place and helps me realize how connected everything really is. I walk around to everyone in the office and try to listen to what they’re doing and it's honestly amazing how much work goes on to running a creative community and I really respect the commitment that goes into developing emotionally valuable material, finances, and promotions. It's realizing that everyone has a story and life completely outside of the context of my own; v humbling, as the kids say.

Where do you want to be in 10 years?

Hopefully, I'll have made an extensive discography that people can relate to and get through some hard times [with]. And be able to say that I've created more of a space for the underdog opinions that we don't hear in music.

What are your immediate plans post-graduation? 

Going back to the Jerz, and doing local touring and community-building, stuff like that. At least for now, maybe [I'll] teach English in France for a break.

Follow JJ on Spotify!