Unmasking the Big Phony: Interview With Bobby Choy
With sweet melodies and sentimental lyrics, Bobby Choy has been making a name for himself here in the States and across the sea in Korea performing as Big Phony. As he gears up to perform at his first official SXSW showcase this March, he let us pick his brain a little.
Where does the name Big Phony come from?
The short answer is that it comes from J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”. The main character Holden Caulfield often describes people he can’t stand to be around as “phonies”. Labeling myself as a Big Phony was a great way to remind myself not to be one. When I was close to finishing up my first album in 2005, I remember having to visualize how my name might look on an album cover. I was afraid “Bobby Choy” sounded too “Asian” and that people might not give me a fair listen when coming across my music. At the time there were no Asian artists that I looked up to or that I even really knew of. I was a bit cynical then, admittedly. People have proven me wrong since, I should add.
You lived on your own when you were still pretty young, do you think that forced you to mature faster than others? Do you feel it has helped you become a better musician?
I haven’t given that too much thought to it to be honest. Everyone has their own unique upbringings. I guess you can say that if I didn’t have so much time to myself it could have resulted in me not writing as much or me turning out the way that I did. Because my parents weren’t around, I skipped school a lot too. I gave more effort to practicing the guitar over my studies for sure. I had a weekly allowance of about $20. Living in Manhattan alone at 14, I’d usually run out of money mid week. I often ate salsa and ketchup packets from McDonald’s to keep me going. I’d look forward to Sundays to get a large bowl of soup & rice at church for a buck. I was a skinny kid then. My writing early on was less about rainbows and puppy dogs as you can imagine.