And your issue that was important to you in the video was immigration reform. Exactly what is it that you want to see reformed?
You know, I’m going to be honest — there was a lot of stuff they were telling me to say. I thought immigration reform was good because there is a lot of my family still stuck in the Philippines. I think it’s crazy that it takes so long for them to even get a green card to visit when they’re just people crossing the borders and coming in here. I’m not like strict on it, I’m not a Republican or Democrat about it; I just want to see there be an easier process for them so they have the same opportunity my mom had to come here to America, because America is awesome. I’ve been to Southeast Asia, and especially the Philippines is a third world country, and they’re having a hard time. There is no middle class there; it’s like it’s really, really wealthy or really, really poor, and they’re literally right next to each other. You see like Makati, which is like a huge city and right next to it, not even a mile, probably a couple hundred feet, is a squatter’s area, you know what I mean? America is a land of opportunity, and I think we definitely should have an equal chance to be here.
Tell me about “Music Speaks.” Why are you so passionate about autism awareness?
Well, my nephew Nathan has autism. I have an older half-sister from my dad. Her name is Eileen — a lot of people don’t know that. She’s much older than I am, but she has a son and yeah, he was diagnosed when he was very young. I guess my sister thought he was deaf because he was not responding to a lot of things — when you call his name, for instance. But it turned out he had autism, and none of us really knew what that was. Yeah, this is our first relative with autism in our immediate circle. I have a lot of aunts and uncles in L.A. and things like that, so it’s a mystery still. A lot of people are still trying to solve the puzzle of autism. It’s referred to as a puzzle because it’s trying to put together the pieces and see what is really causing this and why it’s happening and stuff. I just wanted to figure out more about it and bring awareness to everybody else out there through my influence. It’s crazy seeing the numbers that I have, me being like, “Damn, what if I was just doing this for me?” That is the most selfish thing. When you see hundreds of thousands of people on their social networks and stuff, and to do something for the greater good is — I think it comes with — it’s a responsibility. I mean, I do it from the bottom of my heart when I want to, but I think, “Why not do that? To find something you are passionate about and do something for a good cause with the influence that you have.” So yeah, I started in 2009 the “Music Speaks” movement. It was just a movement back in the day, but as of June, we are an official organization and still filing right now for nonprofit status. We eventually want to make it more than just a concert, and I think what we are trying to do next year — which my plans are still very general — I do want to put on a little camp or a workshop for kids with autism to get in touch with their musicality, because my nephew gets extremely focused on one thing like a video game or something. He won’t be able to put it down, and when he’s singing music it is almost the same thing. I brought him up for some of my shows sometimes to sing, and he’s singing the lyrics, and he’s a normal kid. And to have that opportunity to be able to touch that music spot that every kid I know has would be great, so we want to do that next year, and I’m going to ask all my Music Speaks artists to come out, sing some songs and maybe go into different groups and share your music with them, have them play instruments. I think it would be great for us to reach out and not just put on concerts, which is cool as well, but when you’re actually going out and doing something — taking action — is the best tool of all when you’re hands-on. That’s what we want to do in the summer. I think it’s going to be cool. Next summer hopefully, hopefully.
What are some of the acts that you plan to have?
I would love to have everyone from this lineup, and anyone I ask to be part of Music Speaks is someone who I think embodies true music in its art and expressing yourself through music. Tori Kelly, Cameron, Mitchell, Mathai, there are so many great artists a part of this year’s lineup. I would love to ask them. Me and Tori have been making music, done a lot of videos for a good two, almost three, years now. It would be great to have it, because we know how we work and things like that. I think a lot of people would be up for the task — even the ones who haven’t been a part of Music Speaks. I am pretty sure they’ll be wanting to reach out as well. I think it’s important.
Do you have any upcoming tour dates?
Well, I guess just Music Speaks, which is November 3. I am also at the same time directing a concert at my church, which is two weeks later, the 17. It’s been tough because I’ve been going back and forth, and like with my parish community sharing with them for the choir concert and then with everybody else I’m sharing Music Speaks, and it’s tough because my typical Sunday is go to church in the morning, play piano, and sing. And after mass — which it ends at 12 — we have practice from 2 to 4 with a choir for the choir concert, and then from 6 to 9 is my choir practice for Music Speaks, so it’s been tough. I’ve even been getting confused in my mind about the music that we are doing and then these things, but yeah, that’s November 17 — church choir concert — it’s Moreno Valley at Saint Patrick’s.
Can anybody go?
Anybody can go. It’s just going to be a good night of music. I haven’t been really like pushing it yet because of Music Speaks, but I think it would be cool to get some of the community out to see what I really do. This is why I’m all the way out here in Riverside, because my family lives here, and my church is out here, so it would be cool for them to get a taste of what I do, which is outside of the whole internet thing.
Where can people get tickets for Music Speaks?
Music Speaks is just musicspeaks.org to get VIP tickets — which are still available — general admission $15, and it’s all for a good cause. They can go to the door to get tickets as well. Yeah, I think it’s going to be a success this year, and for the church concert you’ll see me posting about that as well. That is out here in Moreno Valley or Riverside. Moreno Valley is just a couple miles away — that’s where I grew up.
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Photography by Daniel Nguyen
Videographer #1: Justen Nguyen
Videographer #2: Craig Horn