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Meet Whitney Nghiem of MERAKII in Midcity LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Whitney Nghiem.

Whitney, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Whenever I find a song I like, I immediately feel the need to share it with somebody who could vibe with the same emotions as I felt listening. Growing up, I would burn so many CDs to share music with friends and family. Once CDs hit an end of an era, it forced me to think of new ways I could spread music. I realized this could be done in real-time with DJing.

I got my start in music through piano lessons and competitions at a young age. I also picked up the acoustic guitar when I was young but didn’t really commit to learning until later down the line. The first song I learned was not Wonderwall – but hey, no judgment if it was yours! I was more of a Death Cab for Cutie, Jason Mraz, and Ed Sheeran fan. It wasn’t until my first year of college where I found my way in EDM after experiencing that euphemist, first rave. I was immediately drawn to the scene. I was drawn to something so alluring about electronic music and the boundless genres/subgenres you’re able to explore.

It was a journey to truly find a creative outlet in which I’ve found myself in today. Born and raised in Colorado, I made the move to Orange County, California in 2017. Since relocating, I’ve experienced my first adult job in marketing, joined Academy of DJs, made the big move to LA, landed a dream job with Insomniac Events, and made so many memories along the way.

My start in DJing began with an intro lesson from my friend, his hand-me-down controller, and countless YouTube videos. After moving to California, I did a 15-week program with Academy of DJs which helped boost my skills to land bar/club gigs and create mixes on SoundCloud. I’ve dedicated my quarantined time to also learning how to produce my own music and have had my eye on attending Icon Collective production school in the near future.

I’ve built up a more creative side of myself through the alias of MERAKII (pronounced muh-rok-E). The name originally comes from the word “meraki”, which means to put an essence of yourself into your work. Music is an outlet I personally use to communicate my emotions and I hope by releasing something I’m genuinely feeling, others can also vibe along.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I would compare my road more to a hiking trail – not the smoothest but there’s a foreseeable pathway. There’s also multiple routes you can take and even with my overthinking self, sometimes you just have to go for it. My first gig was not my best performance, however the bar owner and I worked out a deal to let me DJ free on Taco Tuesdays for practice (shout out to Play in Costa Mesa, CA). I look back and I’m so thankful for his patience as I gradually got better each time and also, can’t forget the bomb tacos.

I also made a risky move to LA before knowing whether I’d have a stable job to afford the living. It all worked out as I joined the Insomniac Events family as a Digital Media Planner. In the end, I can confidently say that if you truly believe in something, hard work towards that goal will produce favorable outcomes. I’m thankful for the growing network of friends and family who continue to support and motivate me forward.

Can you give our readers some background on your music?
I strive to establish my own brand through my music. I would love to eventually rock a full merchandise line including pocket tees, jerseys, and the ever so fashionable…dad hats. I feel as though it’s a good advantage to have found my creative outlet in music as well as experience in marketing.

I’m still working towards establishing an overall aesthetic. Sometimes it’s not all about the ‘aha’ moment, but rather a steady build of ideas over time. Ultimately, my goal is to make music I love and others can connect with. I’m excited to see the story unfold!

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
To treat others the way you want to be treated. Cliché but I definitely believe that karma gives back whatever energy that’s put into the world. I respect artists and individuals who build each other up rather than stepping on toes to climb to the top.

The most important aspect in my career are the people who have shown incredible support. I believe a key quality towards happiness is to remember those who have built me up each step of the way. I’m extremely lucky to have all these amazing people in my life. There’s so many that I wish I could give back to for all the hype, encouragement, and motivation to be a better person than I was the day before.

Three things I try to be conscious of every day is being efficient, open-minded, and mindful. I tend to get tunnel vision when I have a goal or idea set in mind but keeping these three things on hand is a reminder to still enjoy the little things in life. As simple as it may be, my dad once told me, “just do your best” and I keep that mantra to heart in any situation.

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Image Credit:
Austin Nay, David Chad Yu

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