In Conversation with Wesley Woo
My name is Wesley Woo,
I front an Oakland based
funk and soul band called
What absolutely excites you right now? — Right now, I’m really excited about songwriting. I think it comes and goes depending on the weather, haha. But I’m really into the idea of creating something new for the world.
When you’re alone, what track do you usually find yourself singing? — Hah. Prince. Anything Prince.
What does it mean to be in between cultures? — I grew up in a very predominantly white suburb of the SF Bay Area. The idols and icons that I grew up with were mostly black icons (Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, The Temptations) because there were no Asian American icons to look up to. I feel like our generation has an opportunity to change this experience though, as representation for Asian Americans in media changes (this is dope).
How does being an ABC shape the way you think of your relationships? — It’s a constant battle, for sure. Just the idea of an Asian American dude leading a funk band puts folks in disbelief most nights. So most nights we put on shows, it starts with disproving those preconceived notions, then we can play the damn show.
What are some of the blessings that come with being an ABC? — Community. Ours has a built in community, purely just by being Asian. This is our greatest asset.
What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced as an ABC? — Literally every show has to start with disproving the room’s expectations. Last summer we were billed as “Chinatown Funk” for no real reason, other than the fact that we’re Asian. People think I’m making this stuff up. Seriously.
Cultural identity and upbringing is a great way to start deeper conversations. Why do you think most people engage or disengage with these topics? — I think it has a lot to do with personal experience. We generalize our experiences based on our cultural heritage, but really everyone’s experience is different. In the end lots of people in the Asian American community shy away from these conversations because they worry that their experience is not truly genuine in some way (that’s a ridiculous notion, by the way).
What is the driving force in your life? — Music. Always, music. I live for the feeling of getting on stage, playing songs for people. We play the same songs 2-3 times a week and even on our worst night (and there have definitely been some tough gigs), I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
What is a book that you think people definitely need to get into and why? — Questlove’s autobiography. That guy was struggling for decades before he got famous. What a crazy life he’s led, already.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to your previous self? — Remember to set goals for yourself. And remember to acknowledge when you reach them. Cause if you’re chasing a moving target, you’ll never be satisfied.