What does it mean to feel pride – to feel love? Not just romantic desire, but an all-encompassing love built around acceptance and unconditional respect? For 24-year-old indie/alternative artist NoSo, they seek out the answers in their work.
If you’re a guitar enthusiast or familiar with the L.A. music scene, you may already know the name Baek Hwong. Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs before moving to California as a teenager, Hwong cut their teeth at the competitive Thornton School of Music at USC, where they studied guitar and songwriting and began to develop their own unique playstyle.
After originally pursuing the path of more instrumental players like Tommy Emmanuel, Hwong realized in college that their writing was quickly manifesting itself in new, more personal ways: in lyrics, arrangements, songs that begged to be sung and fully realized.
Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs before moving to California as a teenager, NoSo is shorthand for North/South: a nod to their Korean heritage, and the inane origin question (“Which Korea are you from?”) that so many Korean Americans inevitably face at some point in their lives. Hwong’s writing often indirectly grapples with the insecurities and frustrations that can arise from the Asian American experience. Their writing feels like a balm for the alienated.
Hwong writes and records much of their work alone in their bedroom, studying any non-guitar instruments they weren’t as proficient with in order to make it happen. On the fluttery new single “Suburbia,” they move between a heart-rending chorus and diaristic lyrics about golden Oreos and power-walking moms with the grace of a seasoned screenwriter, sprinkling in the small but vivid details that place you in the heart of the story.
Just as there is no singular Asian American experience, there is no singular LGBTQ experience. Hwong, a queer non-binary person, remembers that the first time they realized they were attracted to women was when they wrote a romantic song with femme pronouns. They don’t remember ever explicitly coming out in public; from the start, their declaration of themselves to the world at large has always been through music.