Brio Zhang is a Hollywood-based producer, composer, musician and engineer whose career has taken him from China to LA. Originally from Guangzhou, China, Brio started his music education young and has since worked with notable talent on both sides of the globe. I had a chance to catch up with Brio and discuss his career journey, future plans, and more.
You’ve worked in a huge array of musical genres from rock, to pop, to classical orchestral. Which form of music did you first get your start in?
I began learning classical piano at 9 years old, so I would say it was classical music that served as the first ticket of my musical journey. After high school, I entered music college (Xinghai Conservatory of Music in Guangdong) and started earning my major in classical composition. During those four years, I got the chance to meet people from chamber quartets and symphony orchestra, discussed music with them and even wrote music for them. The theories and compositional techniques I learned during this time have provided fundamental support on pretty much every piece I’ve written in my career thus far.
During your career, you worked with some of the biggest names in Asian pop talent. Who was your favorite person to work with?
Phrimaphaa Khornrojjanachawin — we usually call her P.K., an extremely singer from Thailand. I was honored to work with her on her single “Foolish” as a songwriter and producer. She was humble when I first met her and I actually didn’t even know she was well-known in Thailand until I heard from other people that she won first place in the KPN singing contest (one the most famous events in Thailand). We spent a lot of time working on the song and sending it back and forth, revising melodies and lyrics and making sure she was comfortable. The communication between us has always been patient and efficient. Not only does she impress me with her professionalism and skill, but also I also found her perfectionist attitude towards the music inspiring. She is preparing her new album later this year, and we’re both looking forward to working with each other again.
You also had the immense honor of playing for the opening of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. What was it like to perform for such a momentous occasion?
It was definitely one of the best moments in my life, but I was totally stressed out too. My orchestration piece was to be performed Guangzhou Opera House, which is one of the biggest theatres in China, in front of thousands of people. I couldn’t even fall asleep at the night before the performance, I was worrying about the final result on the stage even though I knew that the symphony orchestra has been rehearsing for days. I really appreciate conductor Mr. Liao Yuan, my professional and passionate music director. My music wouldn’t be what it is today without his help and dedication!
What first inspired you to come to the United States?
Before I came to U.S, I felt like I was encountering the bottleneck as a composer. The industry is kind of monotonous and repetitive in China. I was always looking for new inspiration and trying to taste different cultures to keep myself creative. The U.S. has the best music industry in the world, and they take part in Jazz, gospel to R&B, Latin music, etc. I wanted to learn from new genres that I hadn’t really worked with much in the past.
How did you start playing for the band Lucente, and how has that experience been?
It’s been great since I joined the group — everyone is very passionate and ambitious. Even though we all come from different countries and backgrounds, the vibe has always been positive and energetic. Hocheul Shin, the founder and the lead singer, was looking for a full band to gig with him. He reached out me throughout a mutual friend of us and we started to plan gigs and rehearsals around L.A. We usually play some well-known British Rock, Classic Rock and Pop songs, and we also work on some original tunes. We were glad to see Hocheul’s single “Confession” be released a couple weeks ago, which was arranged and recorded by our band Lucente. Last winter we got the chance to perform at the Los Angeles Zoo Lights event, which won us a lot of praise from the audience. We’re also planning more gigs and events in the near future.
How would you compare working as a musician to working as an engineer or composer? Do you find you prefer to work behind the scenes?
I prefer working behind the scenes. Even though I like the excitement of performing onstage as a musician, I’ve found it to be more fun creating music in the studio. I get more satisfaction in doing that side of things. Often times, there’s a lot of restrictions when working as a musician. Live performance only happens once, but the records are forever!
Are there other forms of music that you see yourself focusing on in the near future?
I’m always excited to work on different kinds of music. I learned this after working with people on everything including ballet choreography, pop songs, symphony orchestra. If I have to name one genre I want to try my hand at, I would say film scoring.