Persistent, Relentless, Neverending.....pursuit of the dream deferred
"Though how much I strayed away, songwriting always followed me, I never really had to seek for it; it would always find me somehow. Sometimes, I had to chase the songs and sometimes it was the other way around."
"Through these songs that I write, you will come to know my life, my beliefs, my worries, my experiences, my fantasies, my misery....Songwriting happens to be for me a cathartic journal, a creative diary filled with verses and choruses mingling with melody."
"I hallucinate and daydream daily in delusion in my waking life to be known for my songwriting, as a songwriter, for my songs."
This is my dream. What is yours?
How do you say your last name and where does it originate?
It’s easy as ABCs and Van Lu 1 2 3. My father, a Vietnam vet, who provided me this name says it’s Dutch. I rarely know him. We would exchange sentences every couple of years. If it was not for him, I wouldn’t be here in America. I wouldn’t have these opportunities. So I thank him for that.
What’s your story?
My story? Born to a very underprivileged family in the Philippines, until the father I mentioned earlier came by and met my mom. He left like a rolling stone with no direction home reappearing years later to take us to America. My brothers and sisters were then off to Texas. I flew from my mother’s nest in Texas to California to follow a dream. I was then freed from my dreams then enslaved into a reality check with life. College, menial jobs, marriage, Washington and a deployment in Iraq soon followed. My story would be a lovely novel by now with numerous noteworthy chapters in between dreams and the waking life.
Reasons why you joined the Army?
Many reasons to say: freedom, experience, 9/11, duty, my wife. One of the main reasons was for Ronnie Santiago who died on the USS Cole by a suicide terrorist bomb attack on the USS Cole. It's sad to say that he died so I can live and really live life, for that, I would like the world to know his name. http://www.coastalbendhealth.com/2000/october/28/today/local_ne/7776.html
Who are your influences? Who are you inspired by?
Various genres of music and Songwriters of songs that stay in that special room in Holiday Inn you call your mind, and remain there for an eternal vacation. I admire and appreciate those artists that write their own music. Bob Dylan, John Lennon & Paul McCartney and the Beatles, Johnny Cash, Tracy Chapman, Tupac, Eminem, Jack Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison to name a few. Bob Dylan really ripped opened my eyes and stabbed it with a lyrical pencil like he did with everyone else. Once you get through his voice and fumble towards his lyrics, it’s like wow, how did he come up with this sh**. The imagination, originality and the creativity of these songwriters, no matter how odd, mysterious, shocking or appalling, you just have to respect their craft.
How and when did you find songwriting?
You should ask songwriting that question. He or she might say around 18 years old.
What happened at 18 years old?
I got my first guitar and many chapters later, songwriting came into my life.
How many songs have you written?
You can probably count them by adding the fingers and toes of Adam and Eve and maybe even Homer and Marge Simpson’s.
Wrote any songs in Iraq?
About 27 in 8months; this could be the fastest I’ve ever written, it’s like mortar rounds. I carry an m16 on one shoulder and a guitar on the other. A lean mean songwriting machine. Hooah.
What do you write about?
I write about my wife, my life and death, misery, sorrows and joys, tears, friends and family, lovers and dreamers, soldiers and heroes, events and places, society, religion and God, tragedies, 11th of September and remembrance of lost loved ones, suicide, abortions, homelessness, orphans, experiences, reasons and meanings, sin, sex and women, news, music, movies and tv shows and other adjectives and nouns just to name a few, and maybe even about you.
Words or music first?
More than 90% of the time, the music comes first. I would have a chord progression and start from there. I sometimes amaze myself…. you know, to create something from nothing… a song from silence.
You mentioned a revelation in songwriting?
It was “Ronnie’s Song” that revealed a revelation of what songwriting can accomplish. I performed it in a contest during my college years. Although I didn’t win, I brought about tears in the audience. To produce waterfalls in tear ducts of human eyes, it’s the satori of songwriting. Apart from studying or working, I wrote songs that I would perform on open mics . On numerous occasions, I would have an audience member approach me on how my songs had touched them. So, I just kept on doing what I was doing and kept on writing.
What have you done with your songwriting?
Nothing professionally as of yet. For the past couple of years, I’ve just been writing and performing here and there in my spare time.I remember my first performance of songs I have written on a mother’s day potluck, nervous but ready, but applauses afterwards, especially my mom. I performed in backyard parties, my college graduation, my own wedding, the Army Nurse Corps Birthday in Iraq and placing in numerous local contests where I’m stationed and as well as here in Iraq. I was recently a runner up for songoftheyear.com in December 2005 (http://www.songoftheyear.com/webawards/j/jcv.htm). My first contest I ever entered was in California during my college years. I was a semifinalist for the Asian American Song Artist Festival (AASAF). After the contest, I remember a music publisher coming up to me asking to publish my song. He gave me his card and email. The song was “I Can’t Stop” it was my 3rd or 4th song I have ever written in the early premature stages of my songwriting. I turned away from this opportunity because I knew I needed more songs and growth of my craft. “I Can’t Stop” had many frequent visits for edits in the following years, so it wasn’t even complete at the time.
Accomplishments in Songwriting?
2006 Dallas Songwriter's Association Songs from the Soul of the Service contest Semi Finalist in 3 categories with 3 different songs (Novelty, Patriotic/Inspirational, Hip Hop)
2005 Songoftheyear.com runner up in December
2005 FOB Diamondback Talent Show Mosul, Iraq 2nd Place
2005 Fort Lewis Madigan Idol talent show 2nd Place "It'll Be All Ok"(Soldier's Letter)
2004 Fort Lewis Madigan Idol talent show 3rd Place "Change"
2000 Asian American Song Artist Festival (AASAF) Semi Finalist "I Can't Stop"
(All songs recorded/performed with only guitar and voice)