I am an unsigned singer/songwriter/producer. I make these videos to inspire, entertain, educate, and inform.
And so it goes that what musician David Choi simply writes on his YouTube “About” page radiates the best parts of his character: matter-of-factness, humbleness, positivity. He’s the same way in person; if you didn’t know any better, that he was possibly an ordinary, not-particularly-accomplished everyman seems entirely plausible, a reasonable assumption to make.
But 26-year-old David Choi of Orange County, California has achieved bits of extraordinary, no matter how much rebuke the unsmiling face that fit so well into his former persona may seem to counter that assessment. No, at 18, David Choi was hand-selected by David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust himself, to win the mercurial music legend’s Mashup musical contest. Shortly thereafter, he won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for teens, and shortly after that, he was signed to Warner Chappell Music as a songwriter and producer at the age of 19.
In 2006, Choi uploaded a video of himself singing “YouTube A Love Song” to the then-nascent video-sharing site, and as he’ll admit, things were never the same. Choi has since gone on to independently release three original albums; has had his songs played on multiple channels that include MTV, VH1, and Disney; made bank with companies like General Electric, Samsung and YesStyle; and has amassed over 939 thousand subscribers and 83 million views on his DavidChoiMusic YouTube channel. Extraordinary, right?
Currently writing a new album and making “one-off” performance stops across the world, David Choi welcomed me into his house to talk about how he starts his day (TMI?), whether being “David Choi” lands him instant dates, cover songs as a path to success on YouTube, and what he thought after eating durian for the first time.
For the interview in video format, please go to the last page.
What does a typical day look like for you?
David Choi: A typical day it’s all very random. When I’m on tour the typical day is wake up in the morning in a hotel, drive to the next location, sound check and do a show, meet and greet, go back to the hotel, sleep, wake up, do the same exact thing everyday. If it’s not a tour date I go on Twitter a lot; I go on Twitter, Facebook. Well, I should start in the morning: I wake up probably around 11 or 12, use the restroom, take a dump [laughs]. Take a dump, wake up, check my Twitter, Facebook, emails, answer emails, grab some lunch or make something, more of the same — I mean, all throughout the day. Working on videos, website, updates. At night I’ll probably usually just go hang out with friends generally, come back home, take a shower and go to sleep. Write some music sometimes depending on how I feel.
Anything that starts off with a dump is good. So, I had the pleasure of having dinner with you once at a random Mexican restaurant in the very middle of the night, and we were interrupted so many times by people who recognized you — how often does this happen? And honestly, does it ever get really old?
Does it get annoying? It can be annoying when I’m eating especially like what you witnessed, ‘cause you know I just want to spend time with friends and just hang out and be able to talk without someone coming up and kind of just — or in the middle of eating I’m taking a bite of something, and they’re like, “Hey David!” and I’m like, you know, “Let me just finish this.” But at the same time I’d rather have them come up than to sit at a table over here and stare at me, so it’s kind of, I don’t know, it’s an interesting situation. But I’d rather have them come up, say hi instead of staring at me eat. Does it happen often? It depends on where I am; yeah, depends on where. Sometimes it happens.
Here’s another thing I’m really curious about: you being David Choi, being a famous musician, does that get you a lot of dates?
Does it get me a lot of dates? One would think, one would think that you’d get a bunch of girls and stuff, but it’s not the case.
It’s not the case at all?
I think it’s tough. It’s tough for everybody, isn’t it?
Even for David Choi?
Yeah, I think so. I mean, at the same time I’m not the type of guy who goes out trying to get into girls’ pants and stuff, but yeah, I would rather have a girl approach me. I know it sounds like a wussy thing to say, but I don’t really like approaching that much. I just kind of like the more natural meet somebody, they say hi, and then we meet, we talk and we get to know each other, and then I’ll be like, you know, “Let’s hang out,” but for the most part I don’t really go up to girls and usually initiate.
Wouldn’t it be really intimidating to girls to come up to you? If one did come up to you and were like, “Oh my god, you’re David Choi, I love you, I love your songs, can we go on a date?” is that somebody you’d go on a date with, if they knew you like that?
Let’s go on a date? You know, no one’s ever asked me that. Have I become friends with someone from a situation like that? Yeah, I have. But no one’s ever asked me that. It would be pretty ballsy of a girl to do that to any guy I think, right? So if they ask, maybe I’d say yes, yeah.
So you heard it here first on NMR with David Choi. If you see David Choi and you love him, go ask him on a date immediately. He will say yes. That’s a promise. So you’re very down to earth, very humble it seems — do you have to work at not letting fame get to your head?
Do I have to work at not letting fame get to my head? Well, the question is, how are you supposed to be when you’re famous? That’s the question I ask myself when I get asked that question, sorry. Yeah, I don’t know. I just feel like the same person as I was before, except, I don’t know, people change. People hopefully become better people. That’s all I try to do, so yeah, I don’t know how fame would get to my head. I don’t think it’s possible because I wouldn’t even know what it means to do that.
You’ve done a lot of touring in the last two years. What are some of the things that you’ve learned from performing on stage?
The more and more shows you do — there are times when you have really horrible sound, times when you have good sound, and when you have good sound you don’t ever want to go back to the old sound, so when you get it it really makes you angry, because the sound on stage really affects the way your performance is. If they don’t have good monitors, the speaker you see in front that you listen to when you’re singing it really distorts everything, and it’s so much different from singing in an acoustic environment like this, acoustic guitar and singing into a mic, because the way you process it through your ears is completely different. So yeah, something I’ve learned was that good sound is important and for it to be consistent, but it never is, which shows in the YouTube videos of my live performances. I watch them sometimes, and I’m like, “This is horrible,” but it’s up there, and yeah it’s something I have to deal with. Also to kind of flip it around, the people in the audience don’t realize that I can hear everything and I see everything too. You see all these faces, and something that’s really interesting is when people yawn and things like that. While I’m singing, I’ll be looking in this direction and I’ll see a mouth open, and I look over here and I’m like, dang it, focus my attention elsewhere while trying to be in the moment of the music, so yeah I see everything. I see when people chatter and stuff, but at the same time I know that my music sometimes people listen to when they go to sleep, so it makes sense, so I’m not offended [laughs].
So you actually do notice individual reactions.
You hear everything. When I’m singing a song and I hear, “Hee hee hee,” I’m like immediately directed to that noise, and it’s probably the same with all the other performers; they notice that stuff.
But you don’t let it get to you?
Not really. Just kind of deal with it and just kind of convince yourself that it’s natural and they’re not bored even if they are.