There’s no appropriate way to introduce Hollis Wong-Wear without including a long list of titles and achievements. She’s a producer, poet, songwriter, singer, actress, rapper, and manager. A Bay-Area native by way of Seattle. She can also be described as bold, whimsical, driven, and dedicated. She’s been a key conductor behind projects and bands like The Blue Scholars and, yes, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and to her own bands Canary Sing and The Flavr Blue. Apart from Grammy nods and an impressive list of collaborators, Hollis Wong-Wear also has an innate hard-working ethic. She also happens to be a Gemini with a Gemini Sun, Gemini Moon, and Gemini Rising sign, and if you’re into astrology, you know that’s a royal flush of star alignment. Either the stars were aligned for in her favor, or she’s just your typical boss—we’ll let you choose.
I know you are surrounded by a lot of guys (Blue Scholars, Macklemore & Ryan, your own band has two guys: Lace Cadence & Parker Joe) how do you think you navigate around being the only woman in the room?
I first started off in music in a female hip-hop duo with me and my best friend Maddie (aka MADlines). We started making music because the two of us were friends, we were spoken word poets, and we had a lot of conversations for about how we felt. The reason we started making music was because we didn’t see enough young female mixed perspective making music. We wanted to make music that spoke to us. To be honest, it was through that process that activated us as musicians.
When I was working with Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis, I was really able to articulate to them that not only can I produce music videos, but I can also sing and write. I remember talking to Ben (Macklemore) once and saying I don’t want to look back on my 20s and realize that the bulk of my work was just putting other dudes on—while I sat in the background. I am always challenging myself to put my voice out there, to put my narrative out there while not trying to overshadow the person I’m collaborating with. I am not a natural “diva” so I have to push myself to the front. I’ve been doing that with my band Flavr Blue—I pushed myself to being the front woman. This was an uncomfortable process for me at the beginning, but it’s important to be comfortable with wanting, and then taking.
One of things I admire about your career is how you handle social media so elegantly. And this day and age of being an artist I always want to know how do you think social media has hindered or affected you as an artist?
(Laughs) I don’t think I do it that well! But honestly in another life, I feel like I could have been a social media manager. But I am just going to say it; social media is difficult for me on this existential level. I find it so interesting that we are in this age of this hyper content creation, where we end up directing our lives to be nothing but creating content that we end up sharing.
I think about the narratives we tell ourselves when we share on social media, and how we choose to display or exaggerate certain aspects of out lives. Then we start believing the social media narratives. It’s so weird that, your life, is made for everyone to see. Maybe that’s just always been in my human psyche. (Laughs) Not to get all esoteric with this answer.
No! (Laughs) I was kind of setting you up for that kind of answer because I think you have such an interesting and rare definition and perspective to the bigger picture of social media.
I think in this time with Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook we are not only writing our own self-perspective narratives but we are also really consuming them too. I think it can be really dangerous. I talk about this all the time with my friends; like how many times do you stare at your own photos on Instagram over other people’s pictures. And then how long do you stare at the reactions and how much of life does that consume? Like, really, how many hours are you using towards all of this up keep? Are you approaching that 10,000 hours mark? I shocked at how many tweets I’ve sent!
See! That’s the danger. Well, I use to Tweet hella more back when Twitter was like a chatroom, but now if you look at my 24K that says pretty much I am an “expert” at looking at Twitter—two times over. I do get the beauty though. These media outlets are a way of connecting and having conversations with the artist. I just think it’s more difficult as an artist because the professional and personal are so intertwined.
I get that. I sometimes just want to go off the grid but it’s so part of me now. With that I wonder, you being a writer, singer, managed artist, and produce; do you think it’s good to have so many irons in the fire? I feel like it’s a more recent idea to have so much going on at once.
I think it’s a safe route to go. It’s funny because I was just talking to a friend about this last night. I have a homie who is a lawyer, and now a personality on TV. Like I am someone who went to school with a degree in history – I thought I was going to be a professor – and I’m an entertainer. But if my music goes to shit tomorrow I can be an amazing one-on-one private tutor or I can go into government and be a program manager in arts and culture. It’s not that I am keeping those irons in the fire but I enjoy feeling that I have multiple capacities. I am genuinely interested in other things.
You’ve been someone who can just navigate through all your talents, as well as notice the talents in others. You like to connect to people.
I love connecting; it’s what I am most passionate about. Like to me, that’s one of my top achievements in life. I would put that over being nominated for a Grammy for sure. That has so much more relevance than what whatever I can than put in.