Casey Luong—better known as Keshi—made his first foray into the music scene on Soundcloud in 2017, when he released soul-baring original songs to an online audience that quickly caught on onto his potential. Luong, who was then an oncology nurse, soon snagged a label deal.
Luong found himself bearing the weight of two worlds: balancing the stress of his nine to five while flying from Houston to New York for label meetings. It took a particularly bad day at work for him to realise that music was a passion he was willing to take a risk for. “I handed in my resignation the next day, and the rest is history. I signed with Island records that same week,” Luong shares.
As one of music’s most prominent rising voices, the 27-year-old Vietnamese-American alt-R&B star has stealth hits like ‘2 soon’ and ‘beside you’ in his repertoire, each one a display of his dreamy vocals and signature falsetto with an undulating lo-fi beat in the background. His real superpower, of course, is his immense lyricism—conveying visceral emotion difficult to put into words.
Between earning over a billion streams on Spotify, releasing a bold debut album and selling out a global tour, Luong is on the precipice of worldwide stardom. But fame and success aside, the greatest part of the job for him remains meeting and performing for his fans. “I’m very proud to be able to play my music for people. It’s been very fulfilling and surreal to go from making music in a bedroom to being on stage in front of thousands of people.” Here, the musician opens up about kicking off the Asian leg of his tour, his passion for connecting with people through music and the artists he hopes to collaborate with.
Both the title track of your debut album and your world tour are entitled ‘Hell/Heaven’. What does this title mean to you?
Simply put, Hell/Heaven sums up my music career. On one end, I get to live out my dream and play music for the people who enjoy and feel a sense of connection to my lyrics, which has been nothing short of amazing. But the job also comes with its downsides. Back home in Texas, it’s hard for me to go out without being recognised. I’m more than happy to see my fans while I’m out and about, but it’s been difficult for me to draw the line between my public and private lives. There are times when I crave the normalcy I used to know prior to being an artist, but I understand that fame comes with trade-offs, and I’m immensely grateful to my fans for all the love they shower me with.
“Knowing that someone connected with my music is honestly the greatest compliment I could ever receive”
What do you love most about touring?
Hearing my fans scream. Having about twenty thousand people screaming at you is louder than anything you could ever imagine. Being on stage and having that excitement directed at you is crazy. There’s this burst of energy that surges through me—it’s just a surreal experience.
How has touring helped you grow as an entertainer?
Touring has helped to cement my confidence. Being an artist no longer feels like a fleeting opportunity that may escape from my grasp, which truthfully was how I felt about my career when I first started out. Now, I feel a strong connection with my fans. Seeing them and knowing they’re here to stay puts my mind at ease, which helps my creative process. Instead of focusing my energy worrying about uncertainty, I’m able to channel my time into fine-tuning my music.
Which songs are you most excited to perform on tour?
This always changes, but my current favourite is ‘Angel’. I love performing ‘Angel’ live—a fact I only realised recently. Nothing beats the guitar solo where I’m just able to shred to my heart’s content. In a way, it soothes the inner guitar-nerd in me and brings me back to the good old days when I would rock out alone in my bedroom. Being able to live out my rockstar dream through that song sends me to my happy place.
You have a great ability to move and inspire people through your lyrics. How do you feel about the fact that your music resonates with your audience so strongly?
Knowing that someone connected with my music is honestly the greatest compliment I could ever receive. Feeling like I was able to inspire others to create art of their own, or be the driver to help people push themselves to new heights brings me so much joy. It’s very humbling.
If you had an opportunity to collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
It would have to be either John Mayer or Dean, I love them both and they’re my heroes. I wouldn’t be where I am today without either of them. Funnily enough, I did get the chance to meet Dean at a rap festival in Korea right before his performance, back when I wasn’t known as Keshi. That was the first time I was truly starstruck and tongue-tied. He was just so handsome and smelt amazing. It would be a great honour if I could work with him in the future.