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Reese Lansangan

Reese Lansangan

Meet Filipino singer-songwriter, Reese Lansangan.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Reese Lansangan. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a singer-songwriter, musician, artist, and author. My first love is music and nothing allows me to express my truest self other than through song. But I’m also very passionate about learning and literature among other things. I love reading and acquiring knowledge.  I just love nourishing my soul with words. I’m also a very positive person, and I believe in seeing the silver lining in every situation. I’m very ambitious and creative. I love pouring myself into every project I do. I get involved in all aspects of my work (to a fault, sometimes!) and I just love experimentation and getting my hands dirty in exploration. I have a genuine curiosity for the world.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

Quezon City is the only place I’ve lived in, and I love it. I think it’s perfectly balanced. It’s a busy city, yet filled with residential areas that make you think you still have some semblance of peace in you. It’s filled with a lot of trees and nature, even though major roads run right beside them. QC also has a lot of startup, experimental businesses especially in the food industry. We have lots of cheap places to eat, and traffic is not as bad (or so I’d like to believe) compared to other cities in Metro Manila! But don’t get me wrong, it’s still quite bad haha!

 

My first love is music and nothing allows me to express my truest self other than through song.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

Best: cheap & great food, friendliness, and warmth of people in general, multicultural, a lot of homegrown businesses, BITS OF NATURE!

Worst: Traffic is definitely the number one annoyance of Filipinos. Ask anyone!

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

exciting, tight-knit, full of opportunities (that’s 3 words in itself haha sorry)

 

How did you start your career in art?

I used to think that being a professional musician was so out of reach for me. I had this bucket list that I wrote when I was 13 years old, and one of the things on there was to “play my own gig”. It started becoming more real for me when I grew fond of watching a lot of budding singer-songwriters on Youtube. I was a very early lurker and caught the first wave of people who were just in their living rooms, recording original songs on their webcam. That’s when I figured that songwriting was probably something I could do, too, operating on the simple fact that I owned both a guitar and a camera. I was about to graduate high school during my time of dabbling with songwriting and recording my own tracks at home.

People in high school didn’t know I could sing. It’s a talent I’ve hidden for a very long time, as a product of my stage fright. When I entered college, I considered it as a time of self-reinvention and was encouraged to try out for my university’s music organization (Ateneo Musicians Pool). I got in and started opening myself up to small opportunities for performance. I met a bunch of amazingly talented people, and on my third year, my friend Vica and I thought of collaborating for a soloists’ night my org was having. We ended up writing a song over Yahoo Messenger chat (RIP!) and everything just snowballed from there. We became an indie-pop duo called Reese & Vica. Performing is something I’d gladly do for free, and that’s how it was in the early days of with Reese & Vica. We were two young girls balancing a night-life of gigs while still studying in college. On rare occasions, we’d just get a minimal talent fee for our efforts, but most days we just survived on free food and drinks. Even if I’ve been performing for years now, I’ll never forget the struggles of a young artist just doing things out of love. I’ll always look back with gratitude that I’m able to do this now and make a living out of it.

In 2013, I joined the Elements Music Camp as a solo artist. Elements is a prestigious, all-expense-paid camp for local singer-songwriters here in the Philippines. All the mentors in this camp are the pillars of the OPM (Original Pinoy Music) industry – and they encouraged me to record my own songs and put them out into the world. I never looked back since.

 

I used to think that being a professional musician was so out of reach for me. I had this bucket list that I wrote when I was 13 years old, and one of the things on there was to “play my own gig”

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

In the beginning, I think there was definitely a bit of resistance or worry on the part of my Mom, who’s only ever been supportive in all my pursuits. But a music career has suffered a reputation for being unreliable and unstable. Times are changing so fast for us now, that this is no longer true. Given the age of digital streaming and overnight online successes, you really start feeling invincible once you’re armed with your dreams and your discipline.

My Mom is 101% truly supportive of my career now. She’s my biggest critique too! She watches all of my Youtube uploads and rewatches my performances (which she records on her phone) over and over just to review how I did! Over the years (and with the many gigs of mine that she’s been to), she has seen the influence and power of music and how it uplifts the spirits and dreams of listeners, especially the younger ones. She’s so thankful when people express that love to me in different ways (fan art, letters, covers, showing up to my events, etc). For the youth, having someone to aspire to gives them hope. That responsibility of having influence, in any capacity, is something I don’t take lightly.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

I’d really love to travel the world with my music. I love women songwriters like Lucy Rose and Dodie Clark. Lucy Rose has toured South America by crashing on her fans’ couches in different cities. She’s not the biggest pop star on the planet, but she travels with a purpose and she fills up every bar with a couple of hundred people who know her inside and out. I love that kind of connection. Dodie Clark is a Youtuber I’ve been following for years, and she has toured America and the UK because of her Youtube influence. She started so young and unassuming, and her musical gifts and subscribers brought her to a world stage.

 

I’ve reconciled with the fact that I probably don’t want to be WORLD FAMOUS. I want to have a hold of my life, my personal time, and my privacy. These are very important to me. But I do want to have a purpose. I want to focus on growing small and deep in international spaces too because I carry Filipino talent with me. On a personal note, I want to create meaningful connections with my listeners. I want to be able to remember them by name as best I can and recognize when they come to my shows. I want to have time to talk to them and thank them for their efforts. Instead of searching for a wide blanket of success and notoriety (which some people are truly destined for!), I’d love to nurture deep relationships because I think those are the things that will make me feel more fulfilled and at peace with myself.

 

Instead of searching for a wide blanket of success and notoriety (which some people are truly destined for!), I’d love to nurture deep relationships because I think those are the things that will make me feel more fulfilled and at peace with myself.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

I have way too many favorite female musicians but I’ve always been consistent in saying that Imogen Heap is one big inspiration. She is a mad scientist that walks among us. More than her songwriting, it’s her creativity and her desire to REALLY CONNECT her music to her listeners that’s so powerful and awe-inspiring. It’s how she fully embraces technology and marries that to tradition that makes her music uniquely her own. She also involves her audience in her own music creation (for example, she crowdsourced hundreds of words, lyrics, images, and sound clips from social media to create her record). I love that she is so attuned with herself and the many people that support her, and I know there are so many things I could learn from her. I actually watched her in concert this year and spent some hours in a creative workshop with her – so I got to pick her brain a little. It was truly an unforgettable moment.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

We are mostly women in my family, and I grew up very close to my numerous cousins. I just have one younger sister, and my dad passed away very early in my life, so I only ever know how to be around girls! The women in my family are strong, ambitious, creative, compassionate. My aunts (and my mom included) – they all underwent struggles in their younger years, both familial and economic. But they all have risen above, and are devoted to their work and passions. Family is something we all prioritize. Every time we have milestones, we are all there for one another. I am often with my cousins, and as we grow older, we make it a point to see more of one another. That bond of family is something that we all grew up with and never want to take for granted.

My mom specifically is a picture of strength and resilience. We lost dad in a car accident we were all in back in 2000. All of a sudden, she was left to manage our two businesses while raising two growing girls all on her own. But we never felt deprived. We never felt like we struggled, even though emotionally, she was distraught. Up until now, we experience these little luxuries of traveling and eating out because of the life she has built for us, even without my dad.

 

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

Since I grew up with my cousins, I definitely had a role model in one of them. My cousin Meghan was six years older than I was, but I slept beside her in her twin bed every weekend. I was Grade 4 when she was in her first year of college, taking up Fine Arts. I was a witness to all her school projects and just thought it was the coolest thing to go to school for art. I knew then that I’d take the same degree when the time comes (and I did!).

She was the first women in our family to really forge her own path. After graduating, she went to New Zealand for further studies, despite our conservative family background. She went there, almost on a whim, and got everything that she wanted because of her tenacity and her ability to make good connections. She’s now a professional artist and painter in Auckland.

She has influenced me a lot, not only by leading me into my artistic path but also in her personal philosophies. She’s very grounded and mature – never focusing on external forces she cannot control. She taught me how to pay attention to my mindset and how a shift in perspective changes everything.

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

In the past, society has sort of put a male mold to being a professional musician. The patriarchal model expects prodigies to be dudes just like the great and revered musicians that came before: The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, etc. When females do get the spotlight, the industry expects them to conform, have a certain “acceptable” look and image, and perform sexually charged music – discounting individuality and heart of the women behind them. I’m fortunate that I haven’t had any glaring negative experience brought about by my being a woman. I’m lucky that the people I’m surrounded by are respectful and regard talent as talent. Since I’m an independent musician, I work with a very small team and maybe not being behind a corporate machinery is one factor why I haven’t felt disregarded or set aside. I’m very sure not everyone is as lucky…

Granted, I want to continue forging my own path as a WOMAN in the music industry. I want to be an artist living in my own terms. I value my freedom in being able to express myself creatively, which is why I work so hard on not just my songwriting craft, but also my Youtube channel. I edit all my videos (unless stated otherwise) and I conceptualize / produce / co-direct / edit my own music videos. I think sometimes there is a struggle to be heard or to be respected as a woman in a patriarchal society, but I’m happy to see that times are changing, bit by bit. More women are speaking up about their personal struggles, and everyone is a bit more aware of injustices and abuse brought about by gender biases. No matter what gender you are though, I believe credibility comes with determination and kindness. I think if you work hard and be gracious, respect will follow. (or maybe I’m just an idealist…haha!)

 

Follow every single thing that sparks your interest and see where it leads you.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

Follow every single thing that sparks your interest and see where it leads you. It’s okay to love many things. It’s okay to fall out of love, too. It’s okay to change. Just keep being brave, keep doing what you love. I wish you well, my friend <3

 

 

Photos courtesy of: Shaira Luna (Photo 1), Kimberlee Balmes (Photo 2), Karen Dela Fuente (Photo 3), Gerard Lopez, (Photo 4), Karen Dela Fuente (Photo 5), Karen Dela Fuente (Photo 6), Denice Lansangan (Photo 7).

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