The Vocal Company Blog

Humans of A Cappella: Tat Tong

Posted by Max Kuchenreuther on Sep 28, 2017 2:15:00 PM
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Meet Tat Tong. Hailing from Singapore, Tat Tong might just be the one of the most successful Asian producers in the world. After studying composition at the Yamaha Music Foundation and Computer Science at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, Tong looked to the future and broke away from that life to become a full-time producer in 2011. While at Cornell, he was a member of the male-identified ensemble, Last Call. With over sixty Top 20 Hits worldwide, 20 number-one hits, and a 20x Platinum discography, Tong is absolutely a force to be reckoned with in mainstream music. In 2014, Tong co-wrote and produced South African-Australian Troye Sivan's breakout single, "Happy Little Pill," off of Sivan's third EP, TRXYE, smashing iTunes charts at number one in 55 countries and certifying Gold in Australia. Tong is also a staple clinician and instructor at several Next Level seminars, most recently NLSWAGACA in 2016. We got a chance to pick Tat's brain and talk about how vocal music has influenced his artistry today.

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What is the role of the voice in music? 
As humans, we're naturally most sensitive to vocals (and things that mimic a vocal - a cello, for instance) because that's how we communicate with each other.  So to me, the voice represents the most primal and immediate way that music sends a message to, and resonates with the listener.
"Tears" opb Clean Bandit, from Metamorphosis, NLSWAGACA 2016
How does your background in vocal music influence your production and artistry today? 
The vocal is still the most important element in mainstream pop music, no matter where in the world it's released.  It's the emotive core of any song, and if it's not on point, nothing else in the production matters.  I always feel fortunate to have spent my formative years in the a cappella scene, which forced me to make a lot of mistakes early on, and develop a deep sensitivity to the nuances of the human vocal in the process.  And I'm still applying the lessons I learned during that time - how to stack and blend vocals, how to create tasty harmonies, how to balance perfection and imperfection in a lead vocal, and most importantly, how to get the singer (whether myself or someone else) to feel vulnerable yet safe at the same time.
"Happy Little Pill" by Troye Sivan, from TRXYE, (C) 2014 EMI Recorded Music Australia
For more about Tat Tong and his work, check out this article from The Straits Times. Check back in a couple weeks for our next spotlight on Humans of A Cappella.

Interview provided by AJ Marino of The Vocal Company.

Topics: Humans of A Cappella