What do Bruno Mars, Ryan Tedder, and Coldplay all have in common? They are all musical inspirations for Travis Graham, the lead singer of New Heights (pictured second from the left). I first saw Travis and New Heights perform at the ISA concert hosted in Seattle last year. Since then, they’ve grown on YouTube, collaborating with popular Asian YouTube stars like Clara C and David So.
Want to know which artists inspire Travis, his go-to karaoke song, and what it was like meeting President Obama? Read on!
How did New Heights get started? Where did the name come from?
New Heights started right after high school. I always wanted to be in a band and found out Kiyung, who is now in the band, played guitar. I saw his band play at the same event I was playing at and said, “Let’s jam together.” From that, things happened, everyone seemed committed, and we just rolled with it.
We were looking for something inspiring and uplifting and so at 17-years-old, we came to a conclusion: New Heights.
Are your parents supportive?
They have been always supportive. I owe them so much. I’m not the kind of person who would be the rebel. If my parents weren’t having it, I wouldn’t be the type of person who would be like, “Oh I want to do it.” My dad keeps telling me to get rich and famous so I can buy him a boat. That’s what I’ve heard my whole life.
What artists inspire you?
Bruno Mars, Ryan Tedder, and Coldplay. Even more so than certain artists, I’m more influenced by producers. So what I’ll do a lot is, if I like a record, I’ll look into the credits and see who produced it, mixed it, and engineered it. I’m really into tones and the final sound.
How do you differentiate yourself from the other Asian singers and YouTube stars?
Sound—a lot of our friends are singer and songwriters, but it’s a different genre. For us, we are pushing top 40’s pop. We are pop kids at heart. We are in love with catchy melodies, choruses, and epic sounds. There are not too many Asian American bands pushing for that sound.
How was it meeting the President?
Amazing. It was surreal. A few years ago, we drove through D.C. and were in front of the White House. We thought to ourselves, “Man wouldn’t it be cool to some day go in there.” Years later, we were invited to an event at the White House honoring leadership in the community. I got to shake the President’s hands. The rumors are true, he has the softest hands!
Whatever political party you belong to, meeting the president is an honor, especially at his crib.
What projects can we expect from New Heights in the future?
This year, we’re really pushing our YouTube channel. Lately we’ve doing a cover a week. We’ve made a commitment to go to go down to LA once a month to work more with people. After doing the ISA tour and meeting these people who have garnered their success from YouTube, we feel like we have to catch up.
What’s your fobbiest trait?
Sometimes I say “close the lights” instead of “turn of the lights.” It’s a very Filipino thing.
What’s your go-to Karaoke song?
My warm-up song is “Baby” by Justin Bieber. My go-to song is “Back at One” by Brian McKnight.
What advice do you have for aspiring singers and songwriters?
Stay passionate. It’s easy to lose that passion and drive for your craft. Henry, our manager, gave me advice “If you love what you do for work, you never have to work in your entire life.” I love that. Especially in music if you want it to be your career, you have to really work hard.
The biggest people are not necessarily better than anyone else. They’ve just been working really hard. Case in point, Far East Movement—they were a band for 10 years before they signed a label. They really pushed hard and continued to stay passionate. They are the most humble and hardworking guys I’ve ever met.
So stay humble. Put your relationships first and your career second.
Be sure to check New Heights’ music on Myspace!