Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
To be honest, I was forced into the family trade as a musician! Both of my parents are classical musicians and music teachers, and I started on the piano at age 3, violin at 6, and cello at 7. Playing music and performing was a mandatory activity but it wasn’t until I was 18 and moved to Los Angeles to go to university (studying Classical Cello Performance) at USC when I started really pursuing ways to make my own music and just work as a cellist in order to pay the bills. I did a lot of work as a session musician and hired gun, and it helped me learn and familiarize myself with all genres of music, but my main love and obsession has always been Industrial Metal. I’m lucky that my ‘day job’ of being a session musician has a lot of crossover with my own music.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, System of a Down and Jaqueline du Pré – she was amazing!
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
At the beginning of my career when I had just moved to Los Angeles, I had exactly $0 to my name and didn’t own an instrument (the cello and bow I used were on loan to me while I was in university by a foundation). It was extremely difficult to get by as I had no outside financial help. I remember putting up ads daily on musician classifieds online and playing with any band or artist that was wiling to pay $50 for a rehearsal and show, and I played in every club on Sunset Strip. I taught music students for $20 a hour, and played cello at endless weddings, funerals, Bar/Bat-Mitzvahs etc. Even though I had a full scholarship for tuition to USC, it didn’t cover living expenses, additional school expenses like books, etc., so I amassed a good amount of student loans and credit card debt for the 2½ years I was attending. After 2½ years of school, I left since I wasn’t able to balance performing/working and going to school full time, and I decided to go 100% into music. It wasn’t until after 7 years of grinding away as a session musician, living in a garage with no kitchen, heat or air conditioning to be able to make payments on the 1880 Gand & Bernardel Cello I purchased using an instrument loan and 3 credit card advances, multiple failed metal band projects, and using what little money I made to buy music equipment so I could record and self-release my own music, that I was finally offered a position as a soloist with Cirque du Soleil on Electric Cello.
I toured with the Michael Jackson ‘THE IMMORTAL’ World Tour for two years from 2011-2013, and during those years I only had 2 suitcases of belongings and saved religiously, spending only $20 a week. I started taking online courses in investing and began purchasing stocks and investing in Peer-to-Peer lending. I was able to build a financial foundation for myself because of that opportunity! I also brought along my studio equipment on the road to continue doing recording sessions for composer and producer clients, and also composed/released 3 of my own albums during that period. I think being able to figure out how to survive financially has been a major struggle, as well as identifying a clear image of what my own music is, since I love and have delved into so many different genres of music. During my years in university, I did perform as a classical soloist with smaller orchestras, and also enjoyed my work in the studios recording for soundtracks, as well as my own metal projects on which I worked. Looking back now, all 10 of my albums have been wildly different in style and approach, but I do feel like they are all genuinely me as I explored different parts of my musical self through the years through these recordings and compositions.
Of which performances/recordings are you most proud?
My very first music video, ‘Queen Bee’ which was from my album THE JOURNEY is something I’m very proud of! That music video led to me being offered the position with Cirque du Soleil, and also working with Hans Zimmer after he saw it on YouTube. I was in the early stages of exploring my own version of Industrial Metal Cello – inspired heavily by the band Rammstein and Marilyn Manson – and used something a bit obvious as the base (the Flight of the Bumble Bee) but felt like that artistically and stylistically the video is truly *me* at my essence. I was very lucky to work with an amazing team for that video! To finance it, I spent every penny I had as I told myself it would be my last “hurrah” at trying to pursue Industrial Metal. It took a bit of a different turn as I suddenly was approached by composers here in Los Angeles to record my “metal style” cello on their soundtracks after the video was released. I feel like 9 years later, it’s worked out perfectly and having the opportunity to perform at WACKEN recently, the biggest metal festival in the world, with two amazing bands SABATON and Beyond the Black, was truly a dream come true. There are many paths leading to the final destination and I love the path that I have been on, which I never would have guessed! Having my first adventure into New Age Music nominated for a GRAMMY was a huge surprise
The entire album was recorded in one day, completely improvised with myself and Peter Kater the pianist, never having played together in order to capture the purest form of improvisation and musical meeting. I’ve played with rappers, country artists, DJs, and musically it has helped me expand so much!
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
Passionate Romantic-era classical pieces, soundtrack music that is very open to interpretation and Industrial Metal!
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I am open to anything and everything, and a lot of my musical activity is recording for various soundtrack projects, so the film, tv show, or video game determines the repertoire! I’ve backed away somewhat from performing classical music with orchestras as I’m trying to focus now more heavily on my own original music projects and compositions.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
So far, my favorite has been at Wacken Open Air! 125,000 people, amazing wonderful energy, lots of fire and screaming!
What is your most memorable concert experience?
The very first time I performed in an arena in Montreal at the premiere of Michael Jackson ‘The Immortal” World Tour – I was so incredibly nervous!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
- Being able to make the music you love.
- Having financial security so that you are in the mind space and energy to not worry about concerns related to poverty- having been in it, I can tell you that it’s incredibly difficult to be musically inspired and focused when you don’t know how you will pay for your next meal!
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
I am very passionate about entrepreneurship and learning about every aspect of the business side of music as much as possible to educate yourself. So much knowledge is available to us, for free online, with technology growing and changing at such a fast pace, and so many alternative routes for musicians and creatives to monetize their work. I have a lot of videos discussing finances, investments, etc., on my YouTube channel if anyone would like to check it out in addition to music videos, concert videos, tutorials, product reviews, and other random things.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
My fiancé Rambo and I with our two Fur Babies (our two dogs, Bagel and Pizza) up in the mountains in a cabin with a snow storm outside, fireplace roaring, a Large pepperoni and pineapple pan pizza from Domino’s, coffee, furry Blankets, a big bed and Netlflix on a huge TV!
Tina Guo’s single ‘The Circle of Life’ from The Lion King is available now. More information
Internationally acclaimed, GRAMMY Award-nominated and BRIT Female Artist of the Year-nominated musician Tina Guo has established an international career as a virtuoso acoustic/electric cellist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and entrepreneur. Known for her unique genre-crossing style, she is one of the most recorded Solo Cellists of all time and can be heard on hundreds of Blockbuster Film, Television, and Game Soundtracks. In 2018, Tina signed as an official brand partner with Bentley Motors, composing, performing, and producing the launch music for the luxury hybrid vehicle, Bentayga Hybrid. In 2019, Tina partnered with the Ritz-Carlton to create a soundtrack to the endless possibilities and unforgettable moments experienced at The Ritz-Carlton. Tina will visit four destinations — New Orleans, Dove Mountain, Toronto and Maui — and compose original scores inspired by these dynamic locations.