What Music Means To Me: Jay Sakong


Composer, singer & core member of up & coming band, OWEL, Jay Sakong took some time recently to sit down with us at The Hook Journal & let us in to what music means to him!

We’ve got it all down below, so take a moment and enlighten yourself!

“For me music is the thing that can make mundane moments feel cinematic. A random smile from a stranger on a subway ride, perfectly timed with a song playing in your ear buds will make you remember why you're alive. And why it's good to be alive.

Music is a time machine that can teleport you back to moments that you may not have realized were so special while you were living it the first time. But there you are, able to relive it again and again like some kind of life hack/cheat code.

Music is a drug I use to give me my second wind while exercising, when I'm too out of breathe to even hum the melody I'm hearing.

It's a warm blanket for the days that you're down and a cool breeze for the days that you're up.

And all of that is just in regards to consuming it. Making it brings me a whole other layer of joy and purpose.

When it comes to creating, music is the children I may never have. So that if I end up an old man without ever having had a family, I can rest easier knowing that at least I put some part of myself into this world.

Really, music is just the primary avenue I take to create art. So maybe it's not just music that I'm specifically obsessed with, but more so just the act of creating. If my worst fear ever came true and I lost my hearing, perhaps I would pursue filmmaking or painting or the culinary arts. Whatever it is, I do believe that creating is just as vital to a human being as consuming. We must consume in order to nourish our bodies, but the act of creating will often nourish everything else.”

We’ve got lots more exciting content coming up, so stay tuned for more of What Music Means To Me, and music and life, generally!

Artist Interview - Alex Di Leo

Alex Di Leo - 70s car.JPG

The Hook recently had the opportunity to talk with singer/songwriter Alex Di Leo! Check out our interview with him below!

Dylan: Hey Alex, my name’s Dylan Young, I’m an artist myself who previously had gone the band route for a while, but since then, has recently transitioned into being a solo artist. With that in mind, I’m interested to hear your take on it.

Alex: Hey Dylan, So nice to meet you! Thanks so much for reaching out to me. 
Great to be talking to another artist.

Tell me about your writing process. As a solo artist, do you write alone? Do you collaborate with other writers or musicians? Do you write a song, then when you feel it’s ready to be recorded, bring it to a certain go-to producer you gel with? What’s your process?
Most of the time my songs are inspired through an idea/melody that randomly pops in my head. The best is when a great lyric comes with that random melo-dy. If that does not happen, I write the lyrics as I work on the song more. Most of the time I try to create the melodies for each part of the song before really focusing on the lyrics.

Most of this EP I wrote by myself with the exception of a few songs. I love collaborating with other artists, producers, and writers because I think each time you work with someone you learn something new.

 After I have all the melody, lyric, and arrangement I take it to the producer who I’m currently working with, which at the moment is Josh Diaz. From there we make scratch tracks if I haven't already done so. We make sure we like everything about it before we move onto any part of the production and after that..the magic begins.

Apparently your old band, Wyld Fly, was fairly successful. What happened to the group and why did you decide to go the solo artist route? What about it appeals to you? Is there anything you don’t like about going solo?

Wyld Fly definitely did some cool things in south Florida. The reason the group ended was because of the disagreements in musical direction we were going. I was the lead singer/frontman in the band and at most times I felt like I didn’t have a say in many of the band’s decisions. This led to me becoming a solo artist. It appealed to me because I’d have much more of a say in what I’d want to do. The only trouble I found going into this was trying to put a committed group of musicians together. It took me a while, but  things have changed and I have got an amazing group of musicians backing me up now and ready to go.

Do you miss being involved in a full band? How was making the transition from that world into being a solo artist?

I don’t really miss being involved in a full band. I think this was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my music career. It’s really helped me move along and find the sound and image that I had envisioned.

What can listeners expect for So We Go?

‘So We Go’ is about falling in love, the first time you laid eyes on your partner. Continu-ously wanting to feel that way you did when the "stars first collided”, that magical spark. That is a feeling only the two of you share together. Both taking the chance on possibly one of the greatest adventures of your lifetime. 

What’s the inspiration for your songs? Are you inspired by personal events? Do you just write to write? Is there an ex out there that kinda just messed you up? Where would you draw your creativity from? Sadness? Anger? Happiness? Etc.
Most of the songs on the EP lean towards a positive side and were inspired by a relationship that I’m currently in. There’s a couple songs that talk about the frustrations of being in a relationship, but they are in an encouraging way. I also find that when I travel, inspiration strikes and melodies and song ideas come easier to me. Maybe, it’s because I tend to be more relaxed and music and ideas seems to flow . 

How would you describe your sound in 5 words?

Melodic Alternative/Indie/Rock/Pop

I read that you went through 4 previous production sessions in making So We Go, which as anyone who’s made a record before can consider a grueling process. Why don’t you talk about that a bit? What went “wrong” the first four times? Was each time with a different producer? Were there any mistakes you might have made that in hindsight, now know to avoid? etc.

In mid 2014 I recorded a few songs Saigon Kick lead singer, Matt Kramer. This production sounded more like American/folk and was coming out a little too much in the bluegrass style then what I was imagining.

I didn’t record anything again until the beginning of 2015. I went up to the House of Blues in Nashville with a local producer,  Mike Puwal from Insane Clown Possy and Phil Richiardi. We went in aiming for an alternative pop, The Fray, Coldplay sound. But they ended up leaning a little more towards mainstream country which wasn’t the direction I was aiming for either. Not saying I don’t like country. 

I started another recording production with another a local singer-songwriter from     Miami Jim Camacho and a producer, Jodi Marr from Nashville. Still aiming for a similar sound I decided to go for another three songs and they sounded a little closer but still, not there. They were more of an Adult/Contemporary sound.

Towards the end of 2015 I did another few recordings with StreetRunner, a Pop/R&B producer who’s worked with Eminem, Lil Wayne, and a few other well known rappers. We spent around  4-5 months in the studio. After all that time I realized the direction was a little closer to what I’d been looking for, but since most of the instrumentation was coming from within the computer and the way it was done, it sounded too..stiff and like it was lacking feeling. 

Throughout that same time I had started an alternative dance side project with my close friend, lead guitarist from my previous band, called Cold Summer. When I’d take a break from my solo stuff we’d meet up during late nights to work on this one song which we also called “Cold Summer.” We actually released the single in April of this year, 2016. We were in the midst of recording another but haven’t gotten back to it since..

 Finally, in January of 2016 I started another recording production with Joshua Diaz, lead singer of Kids and now guitar player for Further Seems Forever, who I’d met November of the previous year. I felt that we had really clicked. I showed him a few of the things I’d recorded throughout the last couple years and told him what I was going for. He said he knew exactly what it was. So I decided to shoot for three more. But these felt different from all the others from the very             beginning. All the other productions I’d done were in high end top of the line studios, even though Josh’s studio was a small quaint wooden cabin with a vintage board, I felt different about these. Throughout that time I’d asked Josh to join the project and he’s been the bass player since. In mid April we had finished the first three, they turned out so great we decided to do another three which were finished in early June which complete the first EP, “So We Go”

There were definitely some mistakes made a long the way through this process. But to be honest, I think making mistakes is one of the best things anyone can do,  especially as an artist. I think it really helps you identify yourself even more.

What do you wish to achieve? Like, what are your goals with pursuing music? Your dreams. What motivates you to wake up in the morning and go after this? Was there some sort of a-ha! moment or experience that led to this pursuit?

My goal is to share my music with as many people as possible and hope to make them feel something in some sort of way. Soon I’ll play festivals and climb the ladder in that aspect and eventually grow to the arenas. This has always been my mind set and is constantly reinforced every time I create a melody and get goosebumps from it.

What’s your musical background? 

No one in my family has a musical background. The way I got into music was through my Grandma. For my 10th birthday, my Grandma  gave me an acoustic guitar. At the time, she had started dating a guy who was involved in music and I think he was a great influence on the idea. 
Shortly after I started taking lessons and found out my friend also played. We decided to put a little group together around the age of 13 and this really inspired something greater.

What’s your current top 5 bands/artists you’ve been into?

Coldplay, Ben Rector, Walk The Moon, Vance Joy, One Republic

Do you have any advice for people considering going into music?

Truly make sure this is something that feeds your soul and gives you a high.

Anything you want to say about So We Go?

Releasing my debut EP is definitely the highlight of the last 3 years. I’m beyond excited to share the positive vibes and stories that relate to a period in my life. I think because I’ve done 4 other recording productions to get to this sound I was looking for, I’ve truly come to appreciate the journey and outcome even more. I’m constantly thinking of how short our lives are and how important it is to experience new things, take risks, and to not be afraid of what could go wrong, but what could go right, and that’s what helped evolve the concept of So We Go.

My new single "I've Been Waiting" is now on Spotify, Apple Music, and all other streaming services! Follow me there!

A huge thanks to writer Dylan Young & Alex Di Leo for this really awesome interview. Check out Di Leo's track "Make It Easier" above! For more, check out Alex Di Leo's social media links below!

Alex Di Leo: // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // YouTube // Soundcloud