Singer-songwriter Marco Caliz has most definitely been building a name for himself in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he was born and raised. Ever since the debut of his first original song, “L-O-V-E”, he has been expanding his audience and inspiring others, just like other artists had inspired him to be who he is today. Just recently, I was able to catch up with this up-and-coming Californian music artist from Suisun City. The two of us had sat down for an extensive interview, during which he delivered the deets on his musical origins, the songwriting process, a potential record label, his greatest inspirations, and more.
When and why did you begin your career as a singer-songwriter? In what ways do you recognize that you’ve evolved as an artist since then?
I began my career as a hobby about the same time I entered the sub-world of guitar, which was about 8 years ago. I entered the world of music when I was just nine years old in elementary; I started off playing the tenor saxophone. As for singing I began singing the moment I was born! Came right out of the womb singing some Michael Jackson! [laughs] Just kidding, but I digress.
Singing and songwriting were more like hobbies for me because I always thought you would need to be discovered through American Idol to get connections until I began watching other artists on YouTube such as Alex Goot, Sam Tsui, Max Schneider, and even Timothy Delaghetto, also known as Traphik. If you haven’t heard of them, please check them out! Especially if you yourself wants to become an artist… I noticed that these guys had no labels, only their talents and YouTube, and through that they got labels, songs on iTunes, tours, and so on! That gave me the confidence to turn my hobby into career.
As I began my career I wasn’t very creative. I had a guitar, pencil, paper, and my mind, but I couldn’t seem to connect them all together. So with that I began re-watching all the artists that I’ve mentioned along with a couple other mainstream artists. Then there was one more; Ed Sheeran. Sheeran gave me the key to my song-writing, and you may be asking about that key and what it is. Before listening to Ed Sheeran, I wrote about things like money, sex, and having a good time, but all that didn’t really sit well with me. But while listening to Sheeran I realized what he was doing: he was singing from the heart from who he truly is.
He took situations from his life and put them on paper- and that’s when it clicked for me. I soon realized why my prior songs weren’t good enough for me! I mean let’s face it: if the song doesn’t sit right with you it won’t sit right with your audience. I was too busy trying too hard to make my music sound like those other artists who just talk about sex and money! Instead, I should’ve started writing from the heart. Be my own music as I like to say, and so with my clear understanding of writing from the heart, my lyrics grew with more substance and realness and emotion along with my guitar skills.
When you make music, it’s not for the money or the fame. Making music should be for your audience, the people you care about. Make people happy with your music and make them feel as if your music is actually speaking to them. And thats mainly why I decided to begin my career from a hobby. I want to make people happy or feel whatever emotion I would like them to feel through my music. Entertain them, find the words they would like to say to their loved ones, and who knows, maybe even win them the love of their life!
What is the songwriting process like for you? Do you jot down the lyrics first, or the actual music, or does it vary from song to song?
When it comes to the writing process… My God, is it a pain in the ass! [laughs] Usually, when I write a song it’ll be sometime in the hours of the night. I’ll be sitting there, possibly on the toilet- sorry for any wrong images -thinking of the past or what had occurred that day and how I am feeling about it, then suddenly that light-bulb surges in my head and I quickly finish what I am doing, whatever it may be, and I jot it down! But I don’t just jot it down, I begin to play the tune in my head, which then subconsciously leads me to picking up my guitar and jamming out the tune. Now mind you, this all takes place between the hours of 10pm and 3am… And that would be the normal routine of my songwriting.
Most times I won’t like the song and trash it all together and start over. Other times I complete half of it and save it for later just in case I get inspired again and would like to change it up, but that’s only when I get bored of it halfway through, and most times- and this is what makes the process so frustrating -I get total writer’s block as soon as I get an idea. When this happens, I just get so irritable. Nothing good comes to mind and I just begin to get down on myself. I even get doubts as to whether I could even make it in this business, but soon after I would just calm myself down, tell myself things like this happen, and doze off to dreamland.
A little side note about my music- it’s mostly about love. Who can blame me though, right? Anybody who has legit music has love everywhere in their songs even if it’s just an album filled with nothing but meeting someone, breaking up, not wanting to leave the person, etc. I don’t write about going clubbing, flying to hotspots, or having sex. That’s just too repetitive and I am not a mainstream rapper, or a part of the majority of the rappers out there, even.
The song in question here is “L-O-V-E”, which is available to view on YouTube as a performance with Dominic Tobola- What had lead to your performing the song with Dominic, and what was it like to perform an original song with a featured artist once the camera began recording? Do you still plan on performing with him or other friends from back home in the future, even once you hit bigger venues?
So the song “L-O-V-E” was my first ever original song, How it came about was actually pretty interesting. Dominic Tobola and I have been friends for many years now, and when he came by to hang out he brought his guitar with him, which he does almost everyday, and I saw some of the songs he has written over the years and let me tell you- he could be the next Bruno Mars. When he came by, we were catching up with a few friends from high school and we were talking about writing music, and I sort of bet him that I could write a song in less than 30 minutes. He agreed to the bet, so I quickly went to work.
Now out of the people that were there, two of my friends were and still are boyfriend and girlfriend so I give them most of the credit for helping me write this song, so I just quickly glanced at them and suddenly I just began writing. After I completed the song I checked the time to see that it only took me 10 minutes to write it- without editing of course. I performed it for the people there and they were astonished and told me it sounded pretty good. So that gave me the confidence to upload it on YouTube via the account ukemovementdj2 (Check it out!), and soon I got a couple views, a few thumbs up, and a couple encouraging comments! It made me feel accomplished on the inside and made me even more confident.
…And soon after, I started covers with Dominic. But after all that, I stopped due to schooling and life itself, but then I joined a hula group called Pili Aloha Ohana O’tea Feti’i based out of Fairfield. The reason why I joined was because my uncle who was one of the main drummers had passed away before our big yearly recital, so I decided to step in as one of the drummers. I miss my uncle and I hope I did him proud for covering for him. I am also blessed that I got the opportunity because that helped me out with my music a bit more.
Anyway, when the yearly recital came up the group asked Dominic and I to perform for intermission, we accepted and played a few songs such as “Girl I Wanna Lay You Down”, “Cool Down”, and “Ehu Girl”. We were a hit with the crowd and even with the whole hula group! That is also recorded, but I do not know if it is on YouTube.
After that performance I again put my career on hold for school. As months passed, I graduated high school, got into San Francisco State University with a major in Criminal Justice, and am now in the Army ROTC Program- Yes, I am a military cadet -surprise! During my first year of college I met up with my friends Randy and Dominic along with some new friends: Tremone Fucles and Roderick Gittens. One surprising thing that we all have in common is our ability in music. Sometimes we would go to where there was heavy foot traffic and just perform for people to brighten their day and hopefully get discovered! We then found a room in one of the dorm halls that had a piano, and we used that room to make music and write things out.
Soon after, Dominic, Randy and I began writing music again, and soon after that we decided that we wanted to become a music group. Think about it, three best friends going into the music business together. Sounds like a Beatles situation there doesn’t it? [laughs] Just kidding!
A couple months into the school year Dominic met a girl who ran her own segment on the school’s radio segment and asked us to perform. Of course, we agreed and performed a few songs ranging from artists like Iron and Wine, Dirty Heads, and Jack Johnson. Around that time I fell for a girl and wrote her a song. unfortunately the girl and I didn’t work out as well as I would have liked, but thanks to her I wrote yet another original song titled “Hula Girl”. I hope to upload that song as well. I also performed that original at the radio station. After all was said and done we were asked to return for another performance.
At the same time Randy was talking to a guy named Cassidy who said he could help us out with our cause and said he can record us at his studio! We were enthralled and agreed to his offer. So watch out for a song or two coming this year! And you asked if there were other artists back home that I would like to collab with, in fact there are a couple. One guy is named Joseph Wilkes- you can search him up on YouTube -another is named Joy Acuyong, and I believe she is also on YouTube. They are both incredible artists in their own right! And no matter how big the venues get, I will always have time to do a few covers with friends here and there.
Who are some other artists that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Some other artists I would like to collab with? Hmm… Well, I would be dreaming, but I would love to do a song with Frank Ocean, Ed Sheeran, and an up-and-coming a cappella group headed by my friend Kevin Redrico named LVL5! Check out LVL5 on YouTube! They are amazing!
Well, maybe you’ll be able to achieve that someday! I hear that you are going to try and sign on with a record label sometime soon! Can you tell us more about that?
As for the record label, it’s quite funny. Cassidy, who is the same guy that will help us record, also launched his own record label! I can’t say much more about it now, but in the future I will reveal more! What I can say is that I wrote a special song for the occasion and I hope it’ll be enough to get me signed with them. The song is called “Lose”. The backstory of the song is that we all have that somebody that we would like to get away from- a past lover -but somehow we get drawn back to them over and over again even when we do resist, so this is my song to all those who have felt what I have felt.
Since you have a potential record deal now, one could only assume that you’re hoping to record in the studio. How would you describe the “sound” of the original studio music that you plan on releasing?
When it comes to the original sound in the studio I can only tell you that it has to be my sound. I can’t copy other artists or it won’t sit right or sound remotely emotional because it won’t be my emotions. I plan on releasing music that tells a story while transmitting all my emotion into every sound. I believe to be a good artist with substance, you need stories in your music, and like I’ve said over and over again, music that talks about sex, drugs, and club life may be good and all, but soon it’ll start to get old and lose all of its meaning. All you could do with that kind of music is dance to it. With my original sound, you can listen to it over and over again while imagining a story in your mind.
Concerning that original sound, we’ve seen you play the ukulele and the guitar. Are there any other instruments that you know how to play, or would like to learn to play in the future, and incorporate into your music?
Along with the ukulele and guitar, I can play the bass and saxophone. I also play the Tahitian drums. I even taught myself how to play normal drum sets and different percussions, and the piano. I even mess around with GarageBand here and there to get some Frank Ocean vibes moving!
And just who or what inspires you to keep pursuing your dreams of becoming a signed artist? What is your greatest inspiration?
My inspiration comes from many places: my friends, family, life situations… But nobody inspires me more than Ed Sheeran. He literally came from nothing then he worked his way up the ladder to get where he is today. So I owe it all to him for making me want to work hard with my music. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be like Ed Sheeran, I just want to be just as successful, if not more than him, with my music!
Before we wrap this up, any favorite songs of yours that are currently on your rotation?
Oh boy... Right now I always listen to “Lego House” by Ed Sheeran, some songs by Iration, and even some country music by Brad Paisley and Josh Turner.
In ten years, where do you see yourself, in terms of your career as a music artist?
In ten years I see myself still writing music, still performing for anybody who would like to see me, and just living my life with or without a record deal.
Any closing statements?
My closing statement would be for all those other aspiring artists. Don’t let the masses tell you what your music should be like. Be your own music and write your own songs! So what if majority of the people like Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, or Justin Bieber? Those are the people who don’t even try to listen to the song, just the beat of it. Make your songs right for you and for the people YOU want to perform for, because writing music for people has no rules. Do what you want with it. BE YOU!
Also, if you’d like to follow my daily adventures while I’m writing music or just out with friends, follow me on Instagram at marcopono and follow me on Vine at Marco Caliz! Thanks, guys!