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From within the café , my eyes were drawn to the front door. In walked a 5’10” Korean-American man, wearing a gray crewneck with the word “ELEMENTS” written on the top left corner of it. He had a healthy amount of facial hair, which is uncommon for most Asian men, and was wearing a pair of old-school prescription glasses.
The place was filled with people enjoying their Saturday afternoons with a nice cup of coffee while doing work on their laptops or indulging in a conversation with their friends. The throwback song “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé was playing at the time as I observed different people bustling around the café trying to find a seat amidst the chaos. As Doully approached me he exuded confidence, but at the same time, a sense of what could have been either humility or timidity.
Doully Yang is 25 years old and graduated from Boston University in 2014 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. Usually when one thinks of an engineer, many different stereotypes may come to mind: someone who is not very creative, kind of dorky and perhaps socially awkward. Typically, an engineer’s mindset can be seen as one that is very systematic and straightforward; sticking to a plan. However, Doully has a laid back, go-with-the-flow, humorous kind of attitude. The only times I’ve witnessed him be serious are when he is talking about his life as a Christian or when he is struggling with something—but even in those times, he still adds his own humorous touch to the different situations.
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It would be uncommon to think of an engineer to be a competitive break dancer and an aspiring singer/songwriter. His “hipster” clothing style yet “dope” demeanor bleed out into his songs and also into his breakdancing routines that he sometimes records when no one is in the office.
The gray sweater that he was wearing had the word “ELEMENTS” written on it. “ELEMENTS” is a nationwide dance competition hosted by Fusion, the dance crew that he was part of during his four years at Boston University.
Throughout college, Doully aspired to pursue his passion of becoming a singer/songwriter. Upon graduating, he accepted a full-time job offer from Accenture, which any normal graduate would be ecstatic about. However, Doully is no normal graduate.
From a young age Doully knew he wanted to play guitar. It didn’t come naturally, but as he continued to practice, he continued to get better. It wasn’t until college and jealousy of his best friend that he pursued singing and songwriting; this too did not come naturally. His best friend, David You, is an amazing singer/songwriter. And according to Doully, David is a much better singer and songwriter. And he’s better at playing the guitar than Doully, which is Doully’s specialty. In Doully’s words, the jealousy inspired him to pursue singing.
“I remember he asked for my opinion on a song he had recently written. It was amazing and I hated that it was so good, so I went home later that day and went for a walk. I walked for hours and tried to make my own song. After I got my lyrics and tunes in my head, I went home and wrote it all down. That song is now called Air Balloon.”
As Doully and David continued their journey as artists, Doully found himself constantly comparing himself to David. He’s been on TV, he’s been on multiple radio stations, he has actual fans, and he keeps on getting better. At times, that would feed into Doully’s own insecurities. One may think “why are David and Doully still best friends if David’s existence feeds into Doully’s insecurities?” It is a bit peculiar, but although David may indirectly feed into Doully’s insecurities, David’s talent also inspires and encourages him. They are best friends because, simply put, they just get along so well and are able to always encourage and support one another.
David and Doully have known each other ever since middle school. They both had already recognized their love of music and bonded all that more over this commonality. Two years ago, Doully hosted his very own show and featured David; they called it The Doully and David Show or DY^2.
During the show, as an audience member, I witnessed their interactions for the first time. I even was able to meet David personally. The dynamic they had on stage was so loving and you could tell that they are best friends and are comfortable with one another. During the show, Doully shared that he started writing songs because of his jealousy of David. It was evident that these insecurities did not affect their friendship. The situation was one to laugh at and as they listened to each other’s solos, they would constantly make a face that can only be described as being speechless and impressed each time the other was soloing. The constant support that they were giving each other was beautiful.
Unlike most artists today, Doully sings about his own life rather than love or sex, money, and/or drugs. If he had to confine his music to one genre, he would label it as “blues pop.”
“I hate this question because as an artist, I want to think of myself as innovative and original; you can’t put me in a box. I draw from a lot of different influences. I think I write my music like John Mayer. I love Blues music, but I think the ‘bluesy’ aspect in my music sometimes isn’t as obvious as I’d like it to be. Also, I want to write catchy hooks like in pop music to get people to bob their heads.”
Simply put, he wants people to feel his music the way he feels when he listens to amazing songs like John Mayer’s.
Also, Dan Wood—a senior at BU when Doully was a freshman—inspires Doully as a person. Christianity is a huge part of Doully’s life and during his freshman year, he could tell that it was a big part of Dan’s too. Doully stated that Dan chose to live in a freshman dorm his senior year so that he could get closer to the freshman so that he would always be available for them to talk to when they were going through a tough time, even if Dan was busy with his own life. He was a very vulnerable person and people still received him with so much love. Now, Doully tries harder to be more vulnerable about his feelings. He admitted that even a few years ago, he would not have been able to express his feelings the way he does now, which as he said “makes things a lot scarier. Vulnerability is scary but it’s awesome when you get received well. It opens up new doors for people to get closer to me.”
Doully’s attempt at becoming more vulnerable is portrayed in his songs the more he grows in this area of his life. These days there are a lot of artists who write about sex, money, drugs, love, etc. There are select few that write about life—current day issues or their own personal lives. Doully is one of these artists. The things he sings about are what pushes him to become a better singer.
“I want to perform my own songs.”
Doully stated that his songs are about his experiences and no one can sing them with the emotion that he feels. From his perspective, he wants to excel at singing so that he can be good enough to sing his own songs better than anyone else could. As stated before, Doully was not born with the natural talent of singing/songwriting and playing the guitar. He wants to see how far he can go by starting off with the little skill and talent he has.
“Can I get that good? Can I get people, even myself, to enjoy my music and the ideas I’m trying to express? This singing journey started because of the song writing. I want to be a better singer so I can do the songs justice. It’s hard to call an idea bad, but even if the idea is good, no one will appreciate it unless you execute it well. In my case, this includes singing.”
As he continued to discuss his music, his face began to brighten up more and more as the conversation went on; however, as soon as I had asked him where he sees himself in five years, his face fell.
“I want to be a full-time musician, but in five years? That’s really hard to say. I don’t have a five-year plan, but maybe I should? It depends on how confident I’m feeling. If I’m feeling like sometimes there are tough days at work and I’m feeling insecure and not confident in my music, then I think I’ll still have a 9-5 life. I do get encouraged though when people tell me that they’re encouraged by my music. Maybe I’ll be in New York City. Maybe I’ll be recording higher quality records, put on bigger shows, and just make more noise in general. I want to be getting listeners and getting people to like my music. I want to make people feel feelings.”
It was noticeable that whenever Doully talked about his insecurities, they became even more real to him, thus making anything he wants to achieve utterly impossible. However, when he would switch gears and talk about his music and what he wants to do, every insecurity became so minute that they basically disappeared. The joy that would come over his face is inexplicable, but it would actually light up as he would remember that his passion for music was greater than any of his insecurities regarding it.
“No one has lived the exact life I’ve lived. No one has listened to the exact variety of music that I’ve listened to. My music is going to come out in a way that no one else will be able to reproduce. The same can go for anyone else and if you happen to like the way I share my experience in and through music, then you have all the reason to follow me.”
At first glance one would think Doully to be a self-aware guy who knows he’s cool, charismatic and loved by everyone around him. However, upon talking with him, we see an uncensored, self-exposed, vulnerable Doully who is not afraid to share with people, in humility, who he really is. He knows where he falls short, but he recognizes what he’s good at, while still trying to get even better.
When I asked him to use three words that describe who he is, he responded with “honest, passionate, and human.”