JP Sunga Returns With Poignant and Personal New Single – Full Interview

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JP SungaWaterloo singer/songwriter JP Sunga is making a long awaited return to music with his latest single In My Bones, which will be part of a new album designed to leave a legacy for his children.

Back in the early 2000’s Sunga left a promising music career to spend more time with his family and hasn’t returned until recently.

It looks like JP is back and ready to take on the world once again. Your new single gets released in 5 hours. So tell me about the song?
Oh my goodness, I am so excited. The song is called In My Bones and it is essentially an anthem for overcoming self-doubt. At least that’s how I see it. For me, it represents a lot of things. This is the third single off of my forthcoming full length album that I’m working on and it’s set to be released later this year. I like to look at this song as a centerpiece of that album, because it took me a while to get to this point to release this album, I’ve actually been doing music for quite a long time.

But I struggled with a lot of things, including a lot of self-doubt and for me, it even comes to the point where when I perform, I almost hear these voices in real time kind of saying, oh, you can’t do this. No, no one wants to hear this and it’s a real struggle for me sometimes.

But I’ve come a long way since then and I’m still working on it, but definitely in a much better spot. I wanted to write this song to drown out all of those worries and all the doubts, to remind myself that yes, I can do this and I will do it and to celebrate that ability to commit to this goal and then something to look forward to crushing later on. So that’s what the songs are about.

In My Bones really amplifies the internal pressures of self doubt – is there any doubt as we sit here hours away from the song’s debut?
Absolutely not, I’m actually really proud of this piece, both the song and the music video that’s coming out. It was just true to the nature of, pushing through all the obstacles. To produce a video during a pandemic has its own challenges and even at almost the last minute we were faced with changes and things that could have actually negatively impacted the production of the video, but we managed through it and here we are, it’s gonna be released in just a few hours. So I’m so excited. I’m so proud of this piece.

You said you battle with self-doubts yourself. So what do you do to overcome it?
So I can see that there’s not an exact formula or anything. For me, there are a number of different factors that came into play and one of which is just having an amazing support network around you and for me, that’s my family. They’re behind me, 200%. Especially my wife, they’re my biggest sort of cheerleaders, I’ve got three kids and anything that has to do with my music, they’re rooting for me at the top of their lungs and I put that in the back of my mind to help remind me that, I’m doing this to fulfill spots in my own soul in my heart. But there’s also, a group of people who really believe in what I’m doing and want to see me succeed and that to me, helps to back away a lot of those confidence issues.

That is certainly a very common problem, especially during this pandemic, how has the pandemic affected you?
The pandemic has really made me realize the important things in life. It has really brought into focus what really matters and for me that is being surrounded with the people that you love and a lot of the other things and stresses that we used to worry about, all that really doesn’t matter at the end of the day. I have my family here to keep me stabilized and to keep my head on straight.

The pandemic has affected the production of my album, actually. I was initially slated to release the album last year, but when everything hit in March, that really put a stop to a lot of things and so the pandemic was also about trying to think outside of the box and be creative about how to still be able to work towards your goal, even though you don’t have necessarily all of the means and the resources to accomplish that.

With my producer, we tried to pivot to some virtual sessions, and it isn’t as productive because there’s something about being in the same room as your producer, where you can really feed off of each other’s thoughts, and you can make changes and tweaks and add things in real time. Whereas when you’re working virtually, you kind of missed that connection and instead of using that as an excuse to be saying, well, we just can’t do it, we worked with what we had, and we push through, and I did manage to still release another song during the pandemic and then also complete the single In My Bones, in the midst of this pandemic.

So, it’s really taught me to be more creative in finding solutions to deal with some issues.

In the In My Bones video there are a couple different scenarios being played out. Why were those specific scenarios chosen?
The thought behind that was really when I shared my vision, with my director Nick, we had actually the same vision, even without communicating that to each other and the feel of the song really brought about a lot of imagery about athletes and training that grind, and so when we talked about the video, and how we wanted to pick some of that, it was dictated by the fact that we were in a pandemic.

So it’s not like we could take athletes that were in big group settings or teams, because we obviously couldn’t be around people. We also thought it would be more effective to focus on athletes where they can be alone in their elements and we can focus in on their journey and their struggle and it’d be more introspective in that sense.

I wouldn’t consider myself a runner. But I have been picking it up and I was doing that at the time that we were talking about the video and I threw the idea out there and Nick thought that it would be great to have me featured as the runner and then I can provide the narration to the other characters.

Visually, we like the idea of having a kickboxer in there because they can be filmed on the road, in training, and then, we can be creative about, how she sees things during the fights, without actually being in a fight with somebody else.

We were able to incorporate that and when we’re thinking about what other type of disciplines of athletes there could be, we want to take a different angle, and do something more artistic, so that’s why we went with the dancer, there’s so much that you can tell in movements. Nick and I had worked on my first single, “Listen To Your Heart”, and that featured a dancer.

So we really enjoy capturing that on video and so we thought that would be a great other choice to choose for another character, somebody who’s a dancer who’s training for a big performance and yes, these three characters essentially all follow the same kind of journey where they know what they’re capable of. They still reach a point where they question themselves and their abilities and then eventually, finally, getting through all of that, and succeeding and crushing their goals at the end.

You touched on it, that not only does this new video, but also your other video, Listen To Your Heart, feature dancers, is dancing part of your life?
I’m not a professional dancer or anything. When I was younger, I did a lot of dancing, nothing trained. But yeah, I’m such a huge music fan in general and dance was a big part of that. I grew up in the 80s and the 90s and pop/jazz style dancing that was all the rage, so I’m totally into all of that. I have such respect for the dance world and I always loved and I gravitate towards videos, where a story is depicted through dance. So I’m just a big fan, but definitely not a trained dancer myself.

Are the three new songs you’ve released in the last year or so part of a new album?
Yes, they are. So it’s my full length debut album and hopefully, if all the plans go through, I should be able to release it by the end of this year.

JP Sunga - In My BonesWhat should we expect from the new album?
The album is a legacy piece that I’m leaving for my kids. At this point in my life, because I’m on the older side, I guess. I’m not necessarily out there trying to chase pop stardom or anything. But I’m doing something to really cross a dream of mine off of my bucket list and also to be able to leave something for my kids that really represents me as an artist.

As I approached the age of 40, I came to a realization that if something were to happen to me, I would have nothing to really leave them for them to understand who I was as an artist and that really left a hole in my heart. I knew that it would have been a huge regret for me and so I knew that I could no longer make excuses.

It was something I needed to do and I wanted to do with the support of my wife, I was able to commit to this project, and even though I just get, a couple hours every week to pick at the project, I’m still working towards that goal. So it’s still, not for nothing and the album itself, I like to look at the songs, like love letters to my kids.

So there’s going to be messages in there that did probably won’t understand now because they’re so young, but when they grow up, there’s going to be things that are gonna come to their realization about what I was trying to convey to them and it’s an album that deals with the themes of the mental health, of love and just positivity and the importance of pursuing goals and dreams and to persevere through any obstacles that will come up in your life, because it’s inevitable, you will come across obstacles, but to just push through them and to follow your heart. That’s what the album is just a lot of life lessons that I’d like to pass on to my kids.

Will your kids or your wife, be making an appearance on the album?
That’s a good question. So right now, no, I don’t have any plans for them to appear on it. But my wife actually is a classical flautist. So if there’s an opportunity, maybe, now that you’ve put that in my head, I’ll be sure to credit you for it. But as much as that would be a cool idea, I think it’d be equally cool to have much of it as a surprise to them when it’s released and be able to gift it to them as my legacy piece.

For those that may not know about you, or your music, can you briefly describe your career and goals?
This is gonna be probably a different answer than you would get from a typical artists out there. I’m not a full time musician. But I do want to share my music out with the world and I am very lucky and grateful to be in a position in my life, where I’m able to fund and provide myself the resources to accomplish that.

In terms of my goals, I do want to continue sharing my music out with the world as much as I can. Once this album is out there, that wont be the end. I still have a lot of songs in my head. I’m a songwriter. So I’m constantly writing. I’ve got so many songs. But, will I release another album? I’m not sure. It could be an EP next, or could just be a whole slew of singles. But either way, I still plan on producing music and putting it out there and sharing it with the world.

JP SungaThis last year has been part of a vibrant return to music. Why did you take a break from your career as it was building up momentum?
One of the biggest things was, I was faced with the passing of my mother. So she had passed away from cancer. That really put me in this spiral and I didn’t really understand or know it was happening at that point. When I look back at it, it’s clearly there, the timelines really aligned with what I was going through. But I ended up really shying away from the stage and performing music wise. Again, because I’m a writer, I’m still always writing in the background. But because of my confidence issues, I never really was, the most confident performer out there and so when my mom passed, I just allowed myself to retreat, and to stay there. Then what followed after that was actually a writer’s block and so, as a songwriter, now, I wasn’t even doing that much and so it was very discouraging and so musically, I wasn’t in a great place and what I found was that it wasn’t even really at the top of my mind, because at that time, we were starting to grow our family and so I had a lot of the distractions of having kids. At my day job, that career starting to flourish, so I wasn’t really active in music and it wasn’t until later, when the kids started to get bigger, that I started finding more time for myself, I was starting to find new inspiration to write from and that was because of my kids and my family. Slowly that writer’s block, started lifting away, and I was writing more. We are now committed to the album project and I have done several performances over the past few years. So I’m starting to learn how to get over that part of my journey. So that’s how we’ve arrived here at this stage of this revival of my music.

It sounds like family and children mean the world to you.
They’re everything.

What made right now the perfect time to return to music and make your debut album?
A lot of it is really the whole getting older factor. One of the things that happens, I guess, when you age is that you start to realize that you’re not going to live forever and the idea of having that legacy piece is so important to me as an artist and as a person. As each day passes, it’s always another day, closer to,  not being able to do it and it’s really important for me to finish this project, as soon as I can. Not saying that something’s gonna happen soon, but you just never know and so now that I’m in it, and now that I’m doing it, I’m just so focused and determined to finish it. Why is it important? It’s because I really want to make sure that I complete this project, and I do it in a way that truly represents me and I’m putting my 200% in it. Because I don’t want to just put out anything. I want to make sure it’s done properly and right. I am so lucky to be working with an amazing Producer Sam Hillifer. I’ve known him through some circles in the community and I’m so grateful to be working with him because he’s really been able to take my music to that next level and I’m so proud of our work.

It sounds like you’re trying to make a statement with this album?
Yeah. In terms of, there being a lot of life lessons in it, the statements for me are more important that they’re going to be eventually heard by my kids. Now, how that has resonated outside of my bubble. It’s amazing, so far three singles have been put out there. The response has been just incredible and that’s great and I’m so thankful and it means a lot when it can resonate that deeply with other people. But, at the end of the day, it’s more about making sure that my kids understand the statement that I’m  trying to make.

What lies ahead in 2021 as we wait for the world to slow down the virus.
If we ever get back to being able to have concerts again, that’ll be the next thing I want to continue working on is learning to get back at performing with other people in front of live audiences. Even now, I’ve done some virtual things, and it isn’t the same. But for me, it’ll be about learning to get back to performing. It also be about fine tuning my skills and one thing that I kind of dipped into, over the past couple years is, vocal lessons and that was really an eye opener to me and I that is something that I am interested in diving deeper into later on, so maybe later this year and releasing and finishing the album. That would be the big goal of the year and even leading up to the full album release. I’m aiming to have a couple more single releases from the album. Kind of releasing half of the album as singles and then finally dropping the entire thing at the end of the year. That’s the plan right now. Those are the goals for 2021.

Keep a look out for more music from JP Sunga: www.jpsunga.com

Photo: Lawrence O. Fajardo
Photo: Lawrence O. Fajardo
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