Whitney Mongé: From Busker to Musician-Entrepreneur
Interview with musician Whitney Mongé at Northwest Folklife Festival.
Written by TeenTix Press Corps writer and Teen Editorial Staff member Huma Ali.
Whitney Mongé, an Alternative Soul artist originally from Spokane, got her start in the Seattle music scene in 2007. As a street musician, (busking in Pike Place Market), Mongé was enlightened as an artist. It was this time in Pike Place that spurred her into taking up music as her profession.
We caught up with Mongé after her set at the 2019 Folklife Festival in Seattle Center, where her uplifting and relatively soft sound filled Fisher Green stage.
Mongé had played music all her life, but the inspiration she found busking got her started in songwriting and allowed her to realize that people wanted to hear the sounds she offered.
“I never felt like I wasn’t good enough,” said Mongé. “I felt like I had something to offer, and people liked it.”
Mongé began her work as a musician professionally at the age of 21, and described her younger self as “naïve.” She thought the process was simple: make a good song, get discovered, and make it big. But after two years of not being discovered and achieving widespread fame, she came to understand that wasn’t how the music industry works. She recalls being offered poor record deals, and only knowing to reject them because she did the necessary digging. She passes along this piece of advice: do your research. She learned that making it big just takes so much more effort than “being discovered.”
Mongè eventually evolved from her role as a busker in Pike Place by learning how to run a business and become an entrepreneur. However, due to her Alternative Soul musical style, she faced much difficulty in finding a market to sell her music.
“It’s just that the types of venues and areas you can get into like radio is really hard for the type of music I'm making—I’m not making pop music, I’m making blues, soul, and music that is analog,” Mongé said. “So there's not really a mainstream market for that.”
She had to find a creative way to sell her art, like many others in Pike Place, and learned about the business aspect of her music as a result. Eventually, she found a market for her music on radio stations like KEXP and KBSC—places that wanted to feature her, and through such outlets she was able to gain control over her musical career.
But her experience as a street performer shaped Mongé not only in the logistical aspects of her career—she’s learned that being a busker is “not for the weak of heart.”
“Being a musician is very vulnerable, and you put your art out there for people judge and criticize, to like or dislike,” Mongé asserted. “You get a lot of tough skin, and I got that from playing on the street. People will pass you by and not really listen, and to get up and do that everyday, you have to have resilience to preserve.”
Moving forward in her career, Mongé hopes to release a full-length record in addition to her four already released EPs, eventually embarking on a national tour as the headliner.
“I have no shame in saying my aspirations include being famous, but not in the creepy fame with people in my bathroom, but playing The Paramount.” Mongé says with excitement, “That’s like my dream venue—The Paramount.”
Mongé’s goal as a musician is to make people feel anything. She hopes to share some of the magic she feels when performing and listening to music herself, and believes it is a privilege to fill that role for someone else.
Listen to the live recording of Whitney Mongé's Northwest Folklife Festival performance HERE. And find out more about Monge and her music at her website: whitneymonge.com
Lead photo credit: Musician Whitney Mongé (center) with TeenTix Press Corps writers Nolan DeGarlais and Huma Ali.
The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about other Press Corps programs including Press Corps Intensives, the Teen Editorial Staff, or the TeenTix Newsroom, see HERE.