NGO is a rising EDM producer from the San Francisco Bay Area who constantly rises through the ranks of the industry since starting his music career in 2016. Born as Calvin Ngo, NGO’s remix of Drake and Rihanna’s “Too Good” amassed over 15 million streams across all platforms. That remix later helped him go on a journey towards greater recognition in the EDM industry.
He later released a stunning remix of The Chainsmokers’ “All We Know” with Jaydon Lewis, which earned the admiration of The Chainsmokers themselves, as well as releasing equally masterful original singles such as “Somebody,” “Levitate,” and “Finesse“. NGO’s music has also earned himself an international following, particularly with BBC Radio 1 interviewing him twice. Here is One EDM’s exclusive interview with NGO, the Vietnamese-American producer (no relation to the interviewer) who just released his latest single, “Stay“, with Swedish artist Rasmus Wahlgren on October 16, 2020.
Kenny Ngo: Before asking you about your music, how have you been doing these past several months?
NGO: I’ve been doing good! With all of the time I have at home nowadays because of the pandemic, I think it really allowed me to regroup and focus again. Which really has been a blessing in disguise.
I felt like ever since I started producing, I was so caught up in trying to be “successful” that I started to forget who I was and became more detached from loved ones. Being able to get my priorities straight and everything back in line has been an amazing feeling.
Before you started your music career in 2016, what did you originally do and what was your life like?
I was just your average high school student before I started to make music more seriously. For instance, I played video games with friends, occasionally soccer as well. Music was just a passion of mine that I dabbled in.
I would always scour music blogs and SoundCloud to discover new songs and I would show them to all of my friends. In fact, I thought that producing was too big of a mountain to climb so I stuck with curating playlists until I decided to give it a go for myself.
Also in 2016, when you and Jayden Lewis created your remix of The Chainsmokers’ “All We Know”, did you expect the remix to achieve so many streams and acclaims?
Never in a million years would I have expected that remix to do as well as it did. Bootlegs/remixes were always fun to make because I liked the idea of being able to completely revamp how a track sounded, Jaydon and I probably wrapped up that remix in three-four days tops.
We sent to a few different YouTube curators we knew and TrapMusicHDTV picked it up and wanted to upload it. A few days after their upload, Trap Nation uploaded it as well and from there, the traction just picked up more and more and the whole thing was just crazy to see.
One of the groups who praised the remix were The Chainsmokers themselves. How did you react when you heard that they really liked the remix?
I was actually in my English class when I found out about them supporting it. Somebody had sent me a message telling me to check The Chainsmokers’s latest Instagram post.
I was shocked to hear the remix playing in the video’s background as a part of their highlight reel from shows and touring. I found out they used it in 2 separate promotional videos after that as well and it was surreal to see that remix get support from the original artists themselves as I was a huge fan of their stuff.
Since then, you have released original works like “Somebody”, “Levitate” and “Finesse” on record labels such as Spinnin’ and Cloudkid/Virgin Records. What do you think about your musical style now compared to what it was when you started in 2016?
I think I am still very much in the process of developing my style. I’ve become more open minded since 2016 as my music taste has broadened and I try to borrow bits and pieces from everything I like. Which includes punk, R&B, hip-hop, etc.
I used to think of myself strictly as an EDM producer but being stuck in the confines of just EDM led to me getting less inspired and producing music started to feel more like a chore. I started to just produce whatever I feel like making and that has been super liberating and ignited that spark again, the same one that make me want to produce in the first place.
The world-famous BBC Radio 1 has also interviewed you twice. What do you think about your name being known by millions of electronic music fans worldwide now? Especially since you currently have 65 million streams to date.
It is really motivating to see people react positively to my tracks and know that my music might have just made at least 1 person somewhere in the world happy for a second. I don’t consider myself any more special than fans, without them NGO would not be where it is today.
Speaking of international electronic music, you recently collaborated with Swedish artist Rasmus Wahlgren on the dance-pop jam, “Stay”. How was it like working with him?
He’s an incredible artist to work with and since this is his debut project, I think people will be seeing him around alot more after this release. He’s super talented and sounds so polished and experienced already, there’s no doubt in my mind that he will do big things in the future.
“Stay” has bittersweet lyrics about a breakup. Do you have any similar moments in your life that can relate to the track’s lyrics?
I have not experienced a heartbreak (knock on wood) unlike the stories told in the lyrics of Stay. I had my friend Haise help with some production and this track is very personal for him.
What I like about music is that even if the track does not relate to you on a personal level, there is a layer of storytelling that might allow you to into the world of the songwriter and let you tap into their mind and share their feelings or their pain.
If it wasn’t for COVID-19, did you have any touring plans for 2020? Were you planning to perform at festivals as well?
I have actually yet to play any shows so touring was not in the books for me in 2020. I have never became super interested in playing shows as I feel like.
Also, I don’t have a discography that I would work well for shows or that my music was not good enough to play out. A bit depressing, I know, but with this comeback, I hope to develop a stronger catalog that I am confident in and hope fans would want to hear more music from me!
Where is the one place outside the U.S. that you want to visit the most once COVID dies down?
I’ve always wanted to visit Korea or Japan because I feel like society there is structured so different from the U.S. that experiencing a culture shock like that would be insane. Maybe when it’s safe again, I can take a trip to one of those places!