Tat Tong – exceptionally driven, internationally successful and deeply knowledgeable - is an a cappella producer who has reached well beyond the confines of the American contemporary vocal music world and forged a successful, prolific career in the production of Asian mainstream pop music.
According to the website for his company, T2 Productions, Tong has served as the brains behind almost 30 chart-topping hits in six countries throughout Asia. Also an accomplished songwriter (presently signed with Universal Music Publishing and on the receiving end of several other songwriting contracts), he has composed for both critically acclaimed Asian musicians and for advertising campaigns by major companies such as 7-Eleven Taiwan and PepsiCo Foods China.
Despite his mainstream successes, though, Tong has remained an influential presence in the a cappella world, garnering a slew of Contemporary A cappella Recording Award (CARA) nominations and wins while mixing/mastering the tracks of countless clients who have then found their way onto well-respected compilations such as the Best of Collegiate A cappella, SING and Voices Only.
Juggling multiple successful ventures is nothing new to Tong – even at the beginning of his a cappella career, he was accustomed to wearing multiple hats, and wearing them well.
“My journey in a cappella began with my time in Last Call, an all-male a cappella group in Cornell University,” he told A Cappella Records. “I was a baritone, occasional [vocal percussionist], arranger, and assistant [musical director], at various points in my time in the group.”
Tong also got his feet wet with recording during his tenure in Last Call, by co-producing the group’s successful studio offering, “Straight Up.”
“This was a milestone album for the group – our first DIY dorm-room recording, and the first time we were hiring famous mixing engineers for the job – at that point, we had chosen Bill Hare, John Clark, Dave Sperandio, and Dylan Bell for various mixes,” he recalled.
However, the higher the group set its sights, the higher their budget became. To save money, Tong himself took on the job of mixing several tracks – and they were hits with the a cappella community.
Encouraged by his initial success, Tong pushed himself further, first by forming the CARA-nominated one-man vocal band S.T.C. to expand his a cappella production portfolio, then by significantly expanding his roster of clients (and teaming up with several other producers to form the now-defunct alliance known as VocalSource in the process).
As time went by, the a cappella accolades continued to add up for Tong. However, after he moved back to his native Singapore, he began to establish himself more and more as a mainstream producer of music.
“Business continued to grow until my commitments in mainstream pop music forced me to reduce my number of a cappella clients and focus only on the premium niche of the market,” he explained, adding that he has still found some time to produce music for some of the biggest names in the aca-game. “I’m thankful that through this time, the very best groups including Pentatonix, The Backbeats, and Ithacappella have continued to work with me on their music.”
Several songwriting contracts and mainstream music awards later – including a 2012 Pop Album of the Year Award in the Philippines, and a Top 20 Song of the Year award at the 2011 Global Chinese Music Awards – Tong hopes to ride the wave of his own success and spread his musical influence to other countries and continents around the globe.
“I am looking to make inroads into the United States, European, and Australian markets in the next few years, and aim for my songs and productions to chart in these countries soon,” he said. “I will be setting up a second base in Los Angeles later this year, in order to bring my hit songwriting and production skills to the American market.”
But no matter what, he hopes to always keep a cappella – and the people involved with it – as a significant part of his life.
Tong noted, “[A] cappella is really about community: my participation in SoJam in 2011 and 2012 really drove home this fact. It is truly a rare and wonderful thing to have a community that is this open, accepting and friendly to all sorts of people, doing all styles of music. We all enjoy the friendship of many incredible people, just because of a cappella. This is the main reason I want to continue making a cappella music, even as my mainstream music business continues to develop and grow.”