Monét Ngo (full name: Monét Chánh Ngô) is a Vietnamese-American artist. He found his passion for music slowly and naturally. Monét admitted that, when he was young, he hated playing piano, but enjoyed playing guitar and rapping. The liberation from making sounds and happiness from writing songs have motivated Monét to pursue music.
Monét has recently released his debut single "Lonestar". The song is a mixture of indie rock and punk with a clear affinity for R&B and pop melodies. Moreover, "Lonestar" impresses listeners with its simple yet meaningful lyrics.
In an exclusive interview with Vietcetera, Monét Ngo talked about music, passion, youth ambitions, and loneliness. In his life and music, he has given up so much to grow and become resilient.
We can’t help but think of Claude Monet with your screen name. Did that happen by chance or does it have a connection with the artist?
Monet Ngo is actually also my full birth name. My parents named me after the artist because Claude Monet was their favorite. I think naturally, my parents were just attracted to the tranquil sceneries in a lot of Claude Monet’s work.
Do you think your music is influenced by Claude Monet's impressionism?
I definitely think there are some ways I could connect my music to Claude’s impressionism, but in the same way that a lot of music artists can relate to impressionism. Impressionism is about capturing the feeling of a certain moment or place in time and that’s something I'm constantly trying to do with my music. I can pinpoint the exact moment that a lot of my songs were based. I’ve noticed that when I create songs based on tangible real-life experiences, I feel much more connected to them and more compelled to turn them into something special that encapsulates a defining moment in my life.
How did you get into music?
I played piano growing up, but I've always hated it. I think that was only because of the rigid nature that was imposed on me as a child. I think what I truly enjoyed as a young child was just messing around on the piano making sounds that were pleasing to my ear. I recall being very young, messing around on the piano, making incoherent songs that just made sense to me.
Eventually, I took up the guitar and noticed a similar feeling from improvising and creating sounds on my own. I felt a similar feeling when I started rapping, creating words and melodies out of thin air. The release I get from improvisation and creating sounds at the moment has always been my driving factor to create music.
When did you realize you want to pursue a career in music?
I think a lot of people know what they really want to do with their lives, it just takes courage and the right circumstances to go for it. It was a very gradual and natural process of deciding to choose music over anything in my life. I don’t think there was a defining moment, but many scattered moments over years and years that made me see the role music played in my life. When I reflect on my childhood, I see many signs that told me music is my path, it just took me a while to connect the dots and follow those patterns.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced your decision to become an artist?
I have friends who really inspire me to push my art for, but I don’t think anyone else influences my decision to become an artist other than me. My parents did name me after an artist so I feel like it was only fate that I would follow that through.
It is known that you are a teacher during the day and a musician at night. Which do you want to prioritize at the moment?
Teaching and music go hand in hand for me in that they are both tools to accomplish my goal of leaving a mark on this world. I’ve never wanted to die feeling like I didn’t do anything on this Earth. I think music and teaching are ways that I can leave the most positive impact. Ideally, at this place in my life, I'd love to do music full time and focus on it, but I wouldn’t say that I've given up on my dream of teaching. Maybe one day, when I'm older, I can continue my path of being a teacher, but for now, music is what my heart wants.
In life and music, what is that one thing one should let go to succeed?
Fear has to be given up. That doesn’t mean you cannot be scared, but you cannot be scared to fail. You cannot be scared of what you were meant to do. The truth is you are always going to fail and lose no matter what so you might as well learn from it and take everything as a lesson.
I think at the same time you have to be gentle with yourself. You cannot hold onto past mistakes and let them have a grip on your life. But at the same time, be firm with yourself so you can hold yourself accountable to improve.
There are some days when I put a lot of pressure on myself to make something artistically compelling and I think that often drains me. On those days, I have to remind myself to be gentle. There are also days when I’m not putting in enough work to improve and on those days I have to be firm. It’s a constant balancing act.
So what do you have to keep?
What has to be kept is love and passion. The world always needs people who are doing what they love to inspire others to innovate and continue to keep telling their unique stories.
Do you think removing something from your life can bring new meaning to your journey?
I definitely think it’s important to withdraw from anything in life that affects you negatively. I think keeping yourself disciplined teaches you a lot about yourself.
In your latest single, you depict the main character as Lonestar. What are your thoughts on loneliness?
I think growing up can feel very lonely. In some ways, it’s more inclusive than in the past, but I think in a lot of ways it’s just as lonely as it was back then. Social media is supposed to keep us connected, but I think it is a double-edged sword that also numbs us from real connections. I hope that kids can feel less alone in this world when they listen to my song.
In the same song, you wrote, “So I went through the valley searching for answers/ But I found nothing at all.” Can you share the story behind these lyrics?
These lines of the song are about my anxiety about the future, feeling like I'm getting too old to make music or to follow my dreams. I worry that I've wasted too much time in the past and now I have to face the consequences.
These lyrics in a prophetic way also depict my future journey of moving to Los Angeles and pursuing my music career. I know that I'll be searching for something in this LA valley, but I'm not sure if this plight will truly make me happy or satisfied in the end.
Besides unloading the frustration and disappointment you have to face, what other stories do you want to share through your music?
There are many personal stories I'm conveying in my songs. I hope that everyone who listens can create their own stories and memories when listening to my work. The main message I'd like to convey through my music is that it’s okay and you are not alone.
What’s next for Monét Ngo?
I’m dropping a "Lonestar" music video, two singles in the following months, and an eight-song EP. I think if you are expecting my next songs to be similar to Lonestar, you are mistaken. It’s going to be something completely fresh, new, and unexpected.