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Betting Against the Odds With Tommy Gunn

The Hong Kong-born, Sydney-based artist talks us through his debut EP Bet On Me, the discipline that goes into songwriting, and representing his community through music.

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Ear-catching croons, motivational production, and revealing lyrics are what you’re greeted with on BET ON ME, the debut EP from Tommy Gunn. It sounds like the latest body of work from a veteran rapper, but rather Tommy is a hungry prospect with an impressive work rate, looking to make his mark as a true individual in the jam-packed music sphere. 

Tommy was born in Hong Kong before relocating to Sydney where he’s currently based. His musical journey started from a young age as a cellist, learning the ropes of classical music. As he grew older, he began to rap and sing around friends which led to a love of songwriting. Meanwhile, Tommy’s younger brother 99hurts had begun a journey into music production and the two began to collaborate and develop as artists, aiming to redefine the narrative of the Asian-Australian experience.

Calling back to his impromptu performances as a youngster, his new project BET ON ME aims to represent Tommy’s community and the people around him. Not only is it a representation of Tommy Gunn’s versatility as a creator, but an ode to his loved ones that helped this moment reach culmination.

To learn more about the project, we hopped on a Zoom call with Tommy Gunn to talk through his debut EP, the importance of being yourself, and the discipline that goes into making music.

Hey Tommy, congrats on BET ON ME. How are you feeling about the release?
I’m super excited to have it out. I’ve been working on it for a minute now, so it feels good! 

How do you think you’re dealing with the pressure of people betting on you? Is it motivating or overwhelming?
There’s a bit of pressure, but because people aren’t really doing what we’re doing with this right now. I’m so grateful for the opportunity, moreso. I would rather be the first to do it like this, as opposed to just doing what someone else has done. 

Do you feel like as a representation of your community, you’ve changed for the better?
For sure. I’m making an effort to represent my community and show that you can be fearless. I want to break barriers and stereotypes. As Asian people, we grew up differently. We aren’t really taught to express our feelings and emotions. So I want to set a good example and show people that you can be yourself. 

Your music is indicative of this, as you are no stranger to vulnerability in your lyrics. How did you come to get comfortable with being an open book?
Somehow, I feel I’ve always been like this. Everybody has feelings, just some are better at hiding them than others. I don’t feel the need to hide it at all, because all I want to do is be honest. 

Do you feel like letting your feelings out in the studio is therapeutic?
100%. I treat the booth like it’s my diary. I like to approach every session with that honesty and really address what is happening in my life at the time. It makes it feel good and makes the music more motivated. This project represents where I am now, and what I can do. It shows that I can express myself in more than one lane and that I’m versatile across genres. This music is an outlet for me.

I read that you were once an amateur boxer, and it reminded me of the Marvin Hagler quote “It’s tough to get out of bed to do roadwork at 5 am when you’ve been sleeping in silk pyjamas.” Do you think this also applies to music?
For sure. Everything you do in life is a grind, and nothing comes for free. With music, you need discipline so that you’re always striving to get better. It’s no fun coming into this thing just to take part, you should want to be the greatest. 

With boxing, I assume a lot of that discipline comes from things like weight cuts and drilling in technique after technique. Do you think drilling is essential in creating music?
100%. I’ve probably made 500-600 demos in the studio that are just sitting there. Every good song you make has several stepping stones before it. My greatest tracks wouldn’t exist if the bad ones didn’t first.

I once saw you write on Instagram that “I understand that I’m meant to be misunderstood.” What is it that makes you feel this way?
It relates to my understanding that one day the truth will come out. If you stay true to yourself, the truth will come out. Not everyone is for you, and it might take people longer to understand who you are and what you’re doing, so I don’t take anything personally. My music might not be for them, or it might not click until later. But if you stay true, the truth will come out. 

Lastly, my friend, what’s next?
Now that the EP is out, we’re going to start truly thinking about the next step. I want to drop another song ASAP, but we have to analyse whether or not it’s the right move. Making and releasing more music is something that excites me a lot, but I just have to make sure it’s done at the right time.

Follow Tommy Gunn here for more and stream the new EP BET ON ME here.

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