Coffee Chats are conversation-style interviews with the Filifest Community that take place over a cup of coffee. Today’s chat happened over Zoom, where Andrea and Clarissa discussed life as a musician and YouTuber, and her passion for songwriting.
Andrea Denise Lagmay, known as S o l i on YouTube, is a singer-songwriter whose recent covers include “Heather” and “Stereo Hearts”. Andrea is in her final year studying Digital Marketing at University of Derby, where she is also a member of the Derby Filipino Society.
How did you come up with the name ‘S o l i’?
I spent a long time searching online for cool names. I wanted my stage name to be a special name - something cool which could represent me. Eventually, I found ‘Soli’ which means ‘sound’ in Korean. It’s simple but sweet, and it’s catchy. When I read it, I instantly thought, “let's go with this!”
When did you realise that music was something you were passionate about?
When I was two years old, my mum would teach me how to sing with videos of Disney songs. We did ‘Reflection’ from Mulan. Looking at the pictures from back then, you could see me holding a microphone. I was so small and so cute. My mom was hoping I would become Miss Universe. [Laughs]
Two-year-old Andrea, aka Soli
I started properly writing songs when I was about 14 years old. Being a student in secondary school comes with a lot of stress. And as a teen, you’re taking off on new adventures. Back then, I used to feel so alone, I used to think that it was just me; nobody was going through what I was going through. I thought no one would be able to understand me.
I started writing around that time, mainly because I wanted to vent out how I feel. Music was my outlet; it was my diary. That’s when I started becoming passionate about songwriting.
As I grew up, my perspective started to change and I realised that we go through life together, even if we live in our own separate bubbles. I think that’s why I wanted to do more music and grow my platform. I really want to be able to connect with other people through my songs.
Around this time, were you performing as well?
Back when I was 12 years old, I performed a song called “My Everything” during an assembly. It was my first original. I was so nervous. There was a huge crowd and I was shaking. But everyone was so supportive. Some of my friends told me they were mad at me for making them cry. [Laughs} I didn’t mean to! That feedback sparked a passion in me. Seeing the crowd singing and waving their hands in the air was unforgettable. That’s why I love to sing. I love being able to reach out to people.
Do you have any tips for aspiring musicians?
If you’re passionate about music, you shouldn’t give up on it. Even if it can’t be your first priority, or it’s not the right time for you to pursue it; if you love it, stick with it. We only get one life, and you never know what’s going to happen in the long run. There are so many years to come, and anything can happen! Never give up on your passion.
What made you join the FiliFest Community?
It's really nice to be able to open more connections with other Filipinos. I like being in a community that can grow together, and it’s a great way to meet other musicians, too.
Let’s talk about YouTube. What are some of the struggles of being a YouTuber?
Editing takes a lot of time, and so does coming up with content. It’s definitely a grind. That’s one reason I admire smaller artists, and it makes it really satisfying when they finally blow up. I was one of Conan Gray’s earlier fans, and what I liked about him is that he never gave up. He just kept going. Personally, I’m not focused on blowing up or becoming very famous. I’m more after having people who appreciate my music and who like the songs I write. It’s all about the connection for me. I get so happy when people send feedback and personal messages. Something like, “you’ve touched my heart” is more than enough for me.
How do you deal with discouragement?
In my teenage years, when I would get criticism, I would think so badly of myself to the point where I would break down and start to think, “I don’t want to do this anymore” or “what’s the point?” I started becoming negative and felt like dropping everything and giving up.
But over time, I’ve come to realise that if it’s meant to be and it’s really your passion, you’ll always come back to it. And that’s how I am, I always go back. So it doesn’t matter what people say, because I love it and I enjoy it.
Now, I let people have their own opinions and say what they think. At the end of the day, it’s my content. It’s a battle with yourself to only listen to constructive feedback. You have to be strong, which is easier said than done. I do believe that you have to take these hits and criticisms to become better as a person and develop a thicker skin.
What tips do you have for aspiring YouTubers?
You don’t have to rush into branding straightaway - I’ve changed my channel name three times. I think what’s important is just to get there and start. You don’t have to be great at it. You don’t have to have many subscribers or views, that’s something that will happen in time. It’s definitely about being consistent. The moment you stop being consistent, your channel stops growing. It’s a slow process, but you’re always getting something out of it.
If you have haters on YouTube, just remember: every comment gives you more engagement. [Laughs]
Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Currently, I’m working on composing songs and making a full set, so keep an eye out for that as well as some collaborations on my YouTube channel!
Finally, in keeping with FiliFest tradition, if you were a halo-halo, which ingredient would you be and why?
I would definitely be Ube ice cream, because one, I like Ube, two, I like purple, and three, ice cream is so good!
Would you or someone you know like to participate in a Coffee Chat? Join the FiliFest Community, or email us with the subject “Coffee Chats” at [email protected]