Since graduating in 2009, Seattle University alumna Hollis Wong-Wear has produced various Macklemore & Ryan Lewis music videos, been nominated for a Grammy for her vocal performance of “White Walls” on The Heist and has performed as lead vocalist of Seattle-based electronic R&B trio, The Flavr Blue. She has been civically active, serving on boards of the Seattle Center Advisory Commission, the Seattle Music Commission and 4Culture, King County’s public art agency. Serving on these boards, mentoring teenage spoken word poets through the Youth Speaks program, and being the featured speaker at a variety of events and conventions are just a few of her many accomplishments. For embodying Jesuit values in her continuing leadership and service to others, she was recently awarded the 2016 Outstanding Recent Alumna Award. We got a chance to talk with her about her band’s show in Seattle this Saturday, The Love Notes Tour, and how Seattle U has impacted her.
Melissa Lin: How has The Love Notes Tour been?
Hollis Wong-Wear: It’s been really nice. This is our first national tour and the shows…they’re more intimate shows than our more crazy shows in Seattle because those are definitely our biggest shows that we’re doing. It’s really lovely to be able to share our music and have a blast performing it and people have been really awesome.
ML: What should people expect from the Seattle show?
HW: It’s funny because we did our release party basically in Chop Suey in December and touring has been a lot like that show. We always try to debut something new that pushes us in Seattle and we always want our hometown to get the first taste of what’s to come. We’re going to have a bunch of covers and I think we’re going to debut a new song that we wrote while rehearsing for this tour. We’re really going to bring the best of our best and the newest stuff that we have to the table, but we’re being really intentional to make sure that Seattle gets an incredible show.
ML: How did it feel to win the 2016 Outstanding Recent Alumna Award?
HW: It was awesome…I’m just thankful that I’ve been in Seattle since I graduated and have found ways of integrating myself in civic leadership as well as the music and
ML: How has Seattle U impacted you?
HW: First and foremost, it’s location, location, location. Seattle U is…located on the cusp of both Central District and Capitol Hill…the epicenter of Seattle. So that really catalyzed my interest and my passion—not only in creating music or creating poetry, but really connecting it to community and the place of Seattle. Pursuing a more socio-cultural and like post-colonial historical arch within my studies…really helped me shape how I wanted to approach my own artistry. It was [through] going to Seattle U, especially having the Sullivan Leadership Award…I learned the need to assert my leadership. I was encouraged to see my own art as being worthy enough of investing my time and my education.
ML: Was there anyone who particularly influenced you?
HW: My professor Saheed Adejumobi—he was teaching for the Global African Studies program—he was really amazing. Dr. [William] Kangas and Dr. [Theresa] Earenfight in the history department were like my two idols in terms of the way they approached their work. And then obviously Father [Jerry] Cobb was a huge source of guidance and affirmation. He was the Sullivan scholar advisor at the time, but he has been an incredible support for me and my work and continues to this day to check up on me and we get coffee.
ML: How effective is art as a medium for social activism?
HW: To me [art is] essential and central to what social activism is because you can have theory, [critique, analysis, and political actions]—but what ties us together in our collective experience is the culture that we share. The arts are our way of reflecting and provoking our minds and our hearts towards the vision of the world that we want to see in a more just reality…For me in particular—not only being engaged in Flavr Blue and my own poetry and also with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis—thinking about how the arts can intentionally and thoughtfully provoke dialogue towards the action for social change is something that’s been on my mind… I don’t believe any art is apolitical. I think that any art has a place in the dialogue and the place on the spectrum for politics.
ML: How is watching The Flavr Blue’s and your hard work pay off?
HW: Being at the center of The Flavr Blue is actually a pretty humbling experience because it feels like with any success that we’ve earned we also feel like we have so much further to go…We just came up with our little tagline, ‘The Flavr Blue: never satisfied’—and that’s just what we are. I have a long way to go in feeling like I’ve actualized my potential as an artist, as a maker, as a community member…the satisfaction really comes in ongoing collaborations and relationships and thinking about new things. So I think that that’s what really sparks me.
ML: What’s in store for the future?
HW: Continuing to release music for the band…I have an interesting collective in the works with some women in Seattle, where we’re going to start producing events. Continuing my organic grassroots community work as well as building with The Flavr Blue, touring, releasing music. I’m also managing a recording studio in Los Angeles…We’re hoping to get abroad this year—that’s Australia or the UK.
The Flavr Blue will be playing an all-ages show at Neumos on March 12 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.
Melissa may be reached at email@example.com
Melissa is a senior journalism major. She uses the word “Scare-cited” when describing her feeling about being this year’s Editor in Chief. She likes alternating her hair color between purple, blue and "faded out," snuggling with fuzzy animals, and making boozy, baked treats.