Artist Profile: Stephen Wu

When anyone thinks of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science, they probably think that it produces some of the best thinkers in the world, but thinkers who can only use the left side of their brains. Stephen Wu, a junior Computer Science major who produces under the name SWU, is one of the many students who prove that age-old dichotomy incorrect. A San Francisco native, he said he hopes to “bring the sunshine [to Pittsburgh] with my music.” SWU’s debut six-song EP Human is slated to be released later this month on purchase platforms iTunes and Amazon Music as well as streaming platforms Spotify and Soundcloud. SWU’s sound is a mix of EDM characterized by deep bass accented by bright synths mixed with melodic vocals, and it’s sure to resonate with the burgeoning dance music following here at Carnegie Mellon.

Human’s six-song structure showcases the spectrum of SWU’s sound and outlook, according to Wu. “My EP … consists of two hard songs and three softer songs, with the last one as a mix. It shows the part of my personality that’s very intense, but also my happy side. Life isn’t all dark and gloomy, and it’s good to be reminded of that, especially when you’re studying in your room.”

Mathematical concepts and music may seem like separate concepts at surface level, but they’re actually quite interrelated, especially with electronic music production. To create sound, Wu used the programming language Nyquist to take a regular wave and alter it, making the structure more jagged. The result is a dirtier synthesizer bite, which is the driving force underneath his layered sound — just in case you weren’t aware that the biggest EDM titans are also the biggest nerds.

Wu first fell in love with music at a young age thanks to the influence of his older sister. What began as a happy distraction formed into a passion, as he began to think critically about music and what exactly separated good songs from bad ones. Before long he was making tracks using LogicPro on his laptop and sharing them with family and friends.

SWU’s debut was produced and recorded almost entirely on Carnegie Mellon’s campus. Wu would begin working on a song in his dorm room once inspiration struck and then take it to the College of Fine Arts recording studio to produce a finished version. Riccardo Schulz, an associate professor in the School of Music and president of Pittsburgh Digital Recording & Editing Company, assisted Wu with much of the studio recording process.

When he’s not programming or making music, Wu relaxes by playing tennis. He hopes to one day possibly make music his career, “if it works out”, but his ambition and talent will surely make him successful in whatever path he chooses.

SWU’s debut EP, Human, will be available on Spotify, Soundcloud, iTunes, Amazon Music, and Shazam later this month.