For David Unlayao, music has always struck a chord
"Being Filipino, innately we are entertainers. My nanay dressed me up as Elvis when I was two and I was singing," he shared.
But singing alone wasn’t enough.
"I fell in love with the process, making music, hearing people sing back my lyrics was the best feeling I’ve had in my life."
Through his 20s, Unlayao's music career in Portland, Oregon, was anything but flourishing. He knew he had to somehow fold it into his life. In 2019, he went to a songwriting conference in Nashville. Within six months, he moved to the city and never looked back.
He pushed forward, even as the first two years of his time in music city fell flat.
"In any other circumstance, it would’ve been rough but the fact that I was here, chasing my heart’s desire, chasing this dream. That was driving me. It was all worth it. The struggle’s worth it," he said.
That struggle is due, in part, to the country music genre Unlayao is pursuing - one that doesn't have many Asians, let alone Filipinos.
"I feel like I've given myself permission to be different and not shy away from that."
Over the past year, his popularity is taking off. Spotify, one of the world’s largest streaming providers, recently included him in its list of top independent artists of 2022. His original songs have been streamed half a million times.
"I was able to connect with a lot of Asian, Filipino country fans. I didn’t know there were so many."
Unlayao hopes that an increasing number of Filipino country fans also means more Filipino country artists like him in the future.