I've been an award-winning writer and producer with several pop and electronic acts since 2004. I'm offering some of my top skills to you here: writing hooky toplines, arranging vocal harmonies, and tracking crispy male tenor vocals. My vocal sound is closest to Prince, Bruno Mars, and The Weeknd. Bonus: I'm a hell of a whistler.
Hey y'all! I'm Bao. I'm a very professional former advertising exec turned recording artist based in LA.
Currently I'm available for the following services:
* Topline writing: I focus on multiple catchy hooks per track for female and male vocalists. Think ABBA.
* Vocal arrangements: I specialize in vocal harmonies. Think The Beach Boys, Prince, D'Angelo.
* Male background or lead vocals: Three-octave tenor, plus falsetto. Similar in range to Bruno Mars.
* Whistling: I can copy what you've written or write original melodies.
I started my career with the San Francisco electro-pop band Ming & Ping in the early 2000s. I've also done dozens of remixes for indie and major label artists, have earned a few dozen song placements for global brands, and composed music for a film and games. My personal style is 80s inspired pop (The 1975, HAIM, Chromeo), but I have experience in several other genres including Minneapolis-style funk (Prince, Janet Jackson), Nu-Disco and Synthwave (Daft Punk, Satin Jackets, Anoraak). I also play guitar (especially Nile Rodgers-style funky guitar), bass, keys, and drums.
I'm focusing my time on my own acts, but open to discussing more in-depth collabs:
* Co-writing complete songs
* End-to-end production from your demo (Pop, electronic, indie, etc.)
* Scoring music for film, commercial, games
Send me a note through the contact button above.
Interview with BAO
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Absolutely both. The efficiency and flexibility of digital is a must in our industry today, but the organic feel of analog cannot be underestimated. Even if most listeners don't hear it, they will feel it.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: For topline writing, I will deliver at least three options. Most of the time I go beyond that and tell you which I think would work best to achieve your goals. For everything else, I will deliver within our agreed timeline and communicate regularly.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I think that creating art with other people is magical because it's basically a science of emotion and spirit and the communication of those things. What we do is on a higher level of existence than physical labor workers and knowledge workers. Our work product, music, is the fastest and most profound way to reach another person.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: 1. How long do you take? I usually turn around a project in two days and at maximum, three days. I like to spend time to absorb your project and put myself in your shoes, then your listener's shoes before I start producing anything. 2. Can you work on the rest of my EP/Album? Yes, let's talk so we can make it equitable for everyone. 3. Why do you have whistling as a service? Because it's an uncommon skill and I'm pretty good at it. I can do bends, vibratos, fast staccato notes while affecting the emotion of the whistling.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: The biggest misconception is that I'll receive your instructions, then deliver a final product. I usually like to communicate a little so I can feel how you approach your work, then give you several options that you can consider. Once we make a decision on the best path forward, I'll do a bit more work to fine-tune and deliver some bells and whistles.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: 1. What's your overall concept or goal with this piece? 2. How much or how little do you want to stay within the boundaries? 3. Why do you think I'm the right person for this project?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Your collaborators will really appreciate it if you can articulate the concept, goal, or mood that you're trying to achieve. A lot of the time, we can sense those things but it's really nice to have a 30-second elevator pitch about what your vision is. Having a quick pitch helps avoid misunderstandings and relieves the pressure of making assumptions.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: I don't believe fancy equipment makes better music, so I think I would have one decent mic, a small keyboard, and something to multi-track on such as an iPhone. Everything else is all around us.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I was a visual artist since my early childhood. I attended a magnet performing and visual arts high school. I then dabbled in music while attending a visual arts college, then a design college. I've worked as a designer and creative director for over a decade, where I honed my communication and editing skills. During that time, I also fronted an electronic pop band that has released six albums, gotten song placements in dozens of ads for global brands, and performed with Freezepop, Major Lazer, She Wants Revenge, and more. I currently work full-time as a songwriter, producer, film composer, and content creator. I'm able to get a lot done thanks to my publishing admin, Modern Works, who do the tiresome business part of the business.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I think my style is honest and thoughtful. That applies to my lyrics, melodies, and production. Everything should serve a purpose. I would describe the sound of my work as Phil Collins melodies with Jon Brion textures and The Weeknd grit.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I think my writing style would be a good fit for Ariana Grande because I hone in on emotion while also keeping things focused and memorable. I love her expressiveness, range in talent, and her vulnerability as an artist.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: This music production tip could also apply to music-making in general. If project timelines permit, I highly recommend trying another option even when you think you've got "the one." Whatever I'm working on, whether it be a kick drum sound or a vocal melody, I try to do some bonus ideas. This allows me to push myself beyond my comfort zone and even if I don't beat "the one," doing this gives me some interesting bonus material to play with.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I usually work on pop music that leans more electronic or dance. Secondly, I love working on pop music that veers into genres like R&B, funk, disco, and industrial. I do less work on pure rock or pure R&B, but they are genres I am familiar with writing and producing for. More recently I've worked on musical scores for short films that are in the vein of Trent Reznor and Jon Brion.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Because I have a background in a creative director in design and advertising, the strongest skill I bring to music is the ability to edit and curate through the lens of "user experience". I ask "How do we want to make people feel?" then cut until out things that don't help reach that goal or support the artist's character.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: Emotion, organization, and judicious editing so we're only left with the best of the best ideas.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: When writing toplines, I first listen to the track and learn as much as possible about its concept, its goals, and the song math in the songwriting. Then the main portion of the work is to improvise and simplify vocal ideas until I arrive at the most concise and memorable options. I'll listen to the various options and let my collaborators hear to see their gut reactions. We'll choose a winner and I'll do additional parts if needed. When tracking vocals, I plan the vocal parts and harmonies on paper or a list-making app. Then I will run through each part on loop and track all harmony layers to be comped and processed when completed. I usually do some bonus experimental tracks that delivered as optional. My production and songwriting processes vary depending on the genre.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I work in a spacious home studio with a minimalistic setup, using an 80% digital, 20% analog equipment. I have a treated 4'x4' vocal booth with a variety of AKG and Shure microphones fed into a Cloudlifter, then to a Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 interface and a few outboard tube processors. My primary monitors are JBL LSR4328. The rest of my studio includes acoustic and electric guitars and bass, tube amps, some Moog synths, and an Arturia Keystation.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: Musically, I'm most inspired by Prince and his ability to show a variety of emotions in his work, his multi-disciplinary talent, and his courage in pushing boundaries. Contemporary producers who I most identify with are Jon Brion, Trent Reznor, Imogen Heap, and Ariel Rechtshaid.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Most commonly, I write topline melodies and lyrics. I record and process the lead demo vocals, harmonies, and backing vocals in my home studio. Producers usually keep my backing vocals even when a different lead singer is added.