With only his keyboard and the talent he acquired from PLNU, Nick Leng set out to take the electronic music world by storm.
His debut EP, “Tunnels and Planes,” received five stars on iTunes and well over 300,000 views on SoundCloud.
“Over the last couple years I realized that music was something I wanted push at to make my career and I’m really excited that I’m possibly getting a shot at it,” Leng said.
Leng, 21, was born in South Africa but moved to Petaluma in Northern California when he was 8 years old. Leng was a junior majoring in music last semester, but decided to take this semester off to pursue his music career in Los Angeles. Although it was a challenging choice to leave, Leng knew it was best for his career.
“While I was at school, I was working hard at my solo project, and it was kind of hard to juggle both,” Leng said. “I always had it in the back of my mind to take off a little bit of school to push my music and do more shows, and towards the end of the semester things started getting a little more serious and I decided to take the plunge and take some time off.”
Leng believes that his passion and drive for a successful music career is worth the potential risk of taking time off.
“For all I know, I could be making a mistake and wasting some months, but doing music and having a career in it has been my dream ever since I was small, and, when I think about it, I am the only one that can stop me from pursuing my dreams,” Leng said. “I think, at least for the time being, that I’m doing the right thing.”
Leng became fascinated with music when he was young.
“I remember in South Africa playing with the volume on a classical radio station and bringing it in and out rapidly and being fascinated by ‘cropped’ sound,” Leng said. “I used to want to go to bed early so that I could imagine and dream of playing on stage in front of crowds of people.”
By the age of 14, Leng was already producing music but it was not until his freshman year at PLNU that he took it seriously. He tried getting his name out there by sending his work to different blogs. Finally, during Leng’s sophomore year, he was approached by a music manager Chris Danks, a PLNU alumnus.
“He’s stupidly connected, and any success I have had, I attribute to that guy,” Leng said.
On Jan. 30, 2015, Leng’s new EP, “Tunnels and Planes,” was released.
“So far, it has been received really well and it has got the attention of some people which I have looked up to in the music world for years,” Leng said. “I’m seriously so excited for what is in store for this year.”
Vice Media’s electronic and music culture arm, Thump, published an article called “Nick Leng Makes Dance and Indie Music Hold Hands in ‘Tunnels and Planes’” by Rachael DAmore. She suggests the education and training Leng received in school has benefited his music career.
“It’s often hotly debated―whether professional training or education have any weight in the quality of an electronic artist’s music,” DAmore said. “While we feel that the pendulum swings both ways equally, Nick Leng is an example of professional training being an advantage, a definite advantage.”
Leng attributes his music education to his professors, Paul Kenyon and Bill Clemmons.
Clemmons, a professor of music and the department co-chair, himself said that the depth and vastness of Leng’s talent at a young age will separate him in a “crowded marketplace.”
“I had a chance to see and hear some of Nick’s compositions as they were forming and he really is an amazing talent,” Clemmons said. “It is not just his ability with the software–which is really, really good–but he can actually sit down at an acoustic piano and spin out really interesting music without the need for any electronics. This is a real gift and will open doors for him.”
The title track of his EP was started in Bobby B’s.
“I remember sitting at that table looking out at Caf Lane and coming up [with] little vocal chops and [a] chord sequence,” Leng said.
“Leaves” is Leng’s favorite track. He wanted to give this song a unique sound.
“For ‘Leaves,’ I tried to create something that would allow me to get lost in my own mind, and even though it has a beat which is quite present, I wanted to make something that gives one the same feeling you get when you listen to some slow ambient music.”
Leng’s most popular track, “Inside Your Mind,” featuring Carmody, has received almost 300,000 views on SoundCloud. Leng said those around him gave him the inspiration for this track.
“The lyrics were inspired by some conversations I’ve had with some people who were going through some deep depression in their life. I tried to lyrically capture the feeling of [being] lost and alone and living inside your mind,” Leng said.
Aside from performing at PLNU events such as Musoffee and Lomapalooza, Leng has played small gigs throughout San Diego. Leng is currently in contact with some booking agents such as Windish and a few others, trying to find additional members to incorporate into his live shows.
“I really want people to see my music as a ‘band’ type of thing, not a one man live DJ setup,” Leng said. “After that is all said and done and we have a booking agent solidified, I’ll go on tour.”
Lucas Ustick, a sophomore at PLNU, is a disc jockey who has played at events on campus such as the Silent Disco Dance. Ustick is a huge fan of Leng and believes Leng’s talent will get him far in the music industry.
“His music is super good and I really think he just needs to get out there because he knows what he’s doing. He’s doing a great job,” Ustick said. “There are a lot people who are really bad that have made it, so he doesn’t have to worry knowing people as much since he actually has the good music to back it.”
Although success in the music business is difficult, Leng said it’s worth investing in.
“Stick with it,” Leng said. “Music is so competitive and there are so many people out there trying to ‘make it,’ but if you’re passionate about it and want it with all your heart, I think that over time, this industry will sift through those who aren’t as committed and those who want it with all their soul will emerge.”
Leng has already been contacted by some big names in music. Leng hopes to perform in San Diego very soon.