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How Tùng Writes Modern-Day Fables in Both His Audio and Visual Arts

Tùng admits that he writes lyrics and sings based on imagery in his imagination. Listening to Tùng’s music or perusing his artworks, one might feel as if they’re being enticed into a poetic world that the musician has created. It’s a space of “a purple-hued heart and self,” as he describes himself in his online bio.

How to Create Tùng’s World

Tùng got his start in music in 2009 with some rap verses. In 2013, he taught himself the guitar and learned to write his own songs. His biggest influence is Damien Rice, Tùng says. He began sharing some of his own compositions in 2017 and collaborated with a number of other young musicians.

His oldest dream was to become an artist, but to “be practical,” he studied architecture, which has always been a cornerstone in his music. Tùng has a rather distinctive writing "ritual": “Before I write a song or design a space, I have to envisage a scene in my head, and I will lean on it to dig deeper when I write music. It could be anything: a painting, a fleeting moment, a glance, or even a montage from a film.”

Tùng’s routine consists of collecting quick sketches in his handbook, even when the visions don’t make sense, like “a mouse enters a bar and orders a pizza.” During the writing process, Tùng sticks to any emotion that pops up that is appropriate. This is how the musician constructs his own world, from an expository image, he dissects it and glues them together into a unifying concept.

Tùng does quick sketches to jot down his passing feelings and thoughts.

To strike a balance between what is in one's imagination and the finished product is a challenge for any artist. I couldn’t help but laugh in surprise looking at the credits for his music video because he wears a lot of hats. He writes, arranges and produces his own music and draws his own artwork. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to call Tùng a jack-of-all-trades.

Before arriving at the “knowing,” Tùng goes through many unknowns. Speaking of his album-making process, he confesses: “I honestly don’t know anything about how to make an album. To take the plunge was a challenge because I didn’t know anything. After deciding to make an album, I didn’t think about the finances, and even after it was finished, I struggled with how to get it online. I was honestly unaware.” But then, like an architect painstakingly crafting a house out of a blank canvas, he worked with what he had. Tùng made a list of what he could manage by himself, and what to seek outside help with. He participated in every step of the production, learning on the job and taking it baby step by baby step.

“This was where and when I learned how to produce my own album. It was [taken] when I crashed in a friend's living room for six months. Even I am amazed by my parasitic capability.”

26: Individualism

Tùng’s debut album is called “26: Individualism” — 26 is simply how old he was when the record came out, as he wanted to remember what he achieved during that period in time.

On the album cover, he drew a vertical neighborhood, so every resident can cohabitate, but still have their own space. On a similar note, the album is a collage of his own private moments, but it’s also a hope to connect with the outer world through music.

The album cover of "26: Individualism." 

With "26," one goes through a wide range of moods: cheer in ‘A Sad Song’ and ‘Ở Đây Lúc Này,’ woe in ‘Gummy Bear,’ desperation in ‘Có Con Chim Trên Cành Hát Về Tình Yêu,’ and contemplation in ‘Gam Màu Tím Ở Rìa Thế Giới.’ Tùng admits that he has no desire to enter the digital competition for stream or view statistics — he just wants to be his authentic self towards listeners.

Cần một năm để có một cái nôi / A year to have a cradle
Cần tận hai mươi năm để có một cái tôi / Twenty years to have an ego
Và cần một trăm năm để tin rằng / A hundred years just to believe
Cái tôi sau cùng cũng chỉ là cái nôi / That after all, an ego is just a cradle
—’Gam Màu Tím Ở Rìa Thế Giới’

Across platforms, Tùng introduces himself through a short phrase “Of a purple-hued heart and self.” This is also a lyric in the last track of the album, ‘Gam Màu Tím Ở Rìa Thế Giới’ (The Purple Hue at the Edge of the World). Tùng says that this song is the most accurate reflection of his current self. He’s spent a considerable amount of time self-reflecting and taking inventory of his own life. He learned to manage his own expectations, accept the black and white dichotomies of life, and even the gray areas. For Tùng, the world isn’t a spectrum of black and white, but red and blue. And in this frame of reference, the middle point is purple — the color of assurance, patience and acceptance of its place at the edge of the world, forgotten and put down. And Tùng can relate to that shade of purple during his 26.

The artwork Tùng created for 'Gam màu tím ở rìa thế giới' was used as the background for the music video.

In ‘Con Chim Trên Cành Hát Về Tình Yêu’ (On a Branch, a Bird Sings of Love), listeners can explore the “convoluted” but earnest composition process that Tùng follows. He divulges that this song’s demo is quite different from the album version. Tùng admits to spending so much time recording and re-recording this song, and every time it’s played, it changes a little. For Tùng, it’s a track that can grow with him. Even when he feels the most insecure about his voice, with this song, he doesn’t have to strive for technical perfection but can focus on delivery. Tùng believes that honest emotions will best reach out to the audience.

Initially, Tùng pictured the bird imagery to be an innocent figure in a fairy tale, but his team felt more adventurous wanted to do something more daring. In the music video, the bird is depicted as a raven.

Writing Music and Writing Stories

On his debut album, Tùng has his own vision of what his music is. To him, a record is an act of self-identifying, rather than a feeling. Despite not being completely satisfied with the results, he sees it as a personal milestone. Besides music, he tells me that since the end of last year, he’s been dabbling in writing “children’s stories, but not for children.” These fables, only taking place in the forest, revolve around animal characters like a mean-spirited bird, a dog, a herd of white sheep, a gnarly apple, a piglet, an off-tune frog, a wild daisy, etc.

Not seeking to surprise listeners, Tùng says that he’s simply experimenting with his music. Another album is brewing. His recent writings all have a tinge of rock in them, a different style from the debut album; this has surprised him, making even Tùng curious about what he’s discovering.

Quãng 8, which means "octave" in Vietnamese, is a series of articles on Vietnam's new generation of unique music personalities. Know an interesting musician and want to introduce them to our readers? Send us an email via [email protected] with your ideas.

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