This Wednesday, May 11th, indie pop singer/songwriter Molly Burch returns to the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection when she headlines The Foundry at The Fillmore. However, we’re equally excited to see opening act NoSo, who is currently on the road supporting Burch. NoSo (shorthand for North/South) is the moniker of non-binary, Korean-American artist Abby Hwong, who is preparing for the release of their debut LP, Stay Proud of Me. The album, which drops July 8th on Partisan Records, was primarily written and recorded by Hwong in their bedroom during quarantine and serves as a coming-of-age story of the artist, chronicling their time growing up in a predominantly white suburb outside of Chicago. I recently got a chance to chat with Hwong, who tells me about the first chapter of their musical career.
Izzy Cihak: I just listened to Stay Proud of Me, which I really dig. How would you characterize the album and how it came about, possibly in comparison to your early singles? I understand it was conceived largely during lockdown.
Abby Hwong: Thanks so much! I think my earlier singles didn’t have the stamp of “my sound” because I wasn’t producing for myself yet. I later got signed in 2019 based on 2 songs I produced (“Suburbia” and “Sorry I Laughed”) and I wrote/recorded the rest of the album through 2020. I learned a lot through the process, so Stay Proud of Me feels like an amalgamation of coming to terms with who I am as a person and musician.
Izzy: Considering that NoSo is still relatively new, what have been some of the highlights of it all for you, whether experiences it’s afforded you or reactions it’s gotten?
Abby: I would say my favorite part has been connecting with others. It makes me emotional when people reach out saying they feel seen or represented by my lyrics, as I always feared my thoughts and experiences were too niche. Anytime I feel the inevitable lows or stress of being a musician, those kinds of messages keep me motivated.
Izzy: Do you feel as though there’s anything especially important for fans and potential fans to know about you?
Abby: That I don’t stand for intolerance of any kind!
Izzy: I understand that your recent single “Honey Understand” was inspired by “insanely melodramatic screenplays” that you would write during quarantine, so I’m assuming you’re a big fan of cinema? I totally am. Anyway, what are some of your favorite films, or things that you might recommend that you don’t think are widely enough seen?
Abby: Weirdly, I only watch comfort movies I’ve seen a million times, like Freaky Friday or She’s the Man! I’m obsessed with TV, though, and my favorite shows are Sky Castle and Reply 1988 (both Korean dramas that are amazing).
Izzy: I generally avoid asking artists about their influences and, instead, ask them about some of their favorite albums. So, what are some of your favorite albums, whether things you grew up loving or stuff you’ve discovered more recently?
Abby: For legacy acts, Hounds of Love by Kate Bush, and anything by Prince
Contemporary albums – Sawayama by Rina (“Bad Friend” is my favorite), Carrie and Lowell by Sufjan Stevens (“The Only Thing”), Bury Me at Makeout Creek (“I Will”), and Songs by Adrianne Lenker (“Zombie Girl”).
Izzy: You just wrapped a number of dates with Yumi Zouma and are about to kick off a run of dates with Molly Burch, who are both such amazing artists. What are your thoughts on your tourmates? Were you fans prior to these dates?
Abby: Big fan of both prior to these dates!
I just got back from tour with Yumi Zouma and I had the best time. I was really nervous leading up to it because I’m quite shy, but I immediately felt comfortable and welcomed by them. They were so sweet and I loved listening to their set every night – I even wept at the airport while going home because it felt like leaving summer camp.
I’m headed on tour with Molly in a few weeks, she’s so kind and lovely, I know I’m going to have a lot of fun with her and her crew. I’m very ready to hear “Back in Time” live and sob while swaying.
Izzy: You’re going to be returning to Philadelphia in the very near future when you play The Foundry. What can be expected of the live show, for those who might’ve missed it when you were here with Yumi Zouma?
Abby: I unfortunately couldn’t play the Philly show on the Yumi run due to a health issue, so I’m very excited to play there for the first time at The Foundry!
Izzy: Finally, what’s next for you, after your first album drops in July? What are you hoping and planning for the second half of the year? Is it just going to be more touring, or can we also maybe expect some more videos?
Abby: I’m hoping to do a whole lot of touring this year, there are so many places and people I want to meet! Perpetual summer camp!
*Get your tickets here.