On the biggest day of his professional life, music producer Tele, aka Seattle native Stevie Cheung, did what every good child of supportive parents should do: He took his mom and dad to the Grammy Awards on Sunday night to celebrate their faith in him.
Cheung, 28, was up for Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards Sunday night in Los Angeles for his work on Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts.” The song was recorded in 2017, but went viral last spring when it was featured in the Netflix film “Someone Great.”
Teenage sensation Billie Eilish bested Lizzo in both those categories on Sunday night, but Cheung got to take in the Grammy’s in person for the first time in his career.
Cheung was preparing to put on Gucci and escort his parents, Beth and Richard Cheung, and his girlfriend Alicia Pullen down the red carpet when he let The Seattle Times in on his decade-long quest for success.
“Oh, man, they’re so proud,” Cheung said. “My parents, they’ve really been super supportive of my musical career my whole life. My grandpa, he used to play jazz drums but ended up being an oil man. And my mom is an accountant but has a really, really creative side to her. So they always saw the value in the arts and they put me in piano lessons when I was like 3½ or 4. So to see this happen, I think they couldn’t be more proud. It took a long time for any kind of real success to take place. So, it’s very validating and vindicating, I think.”
Cheung grew up in Maple Leaf and graduated from Seattle Prep in 2009. He pursued music and philosophy degrees at Gonzaga University before heading to California and the University of San Francisco. He quit college about four years ago and moved to L.A., moving with close friend and fellow producer Sam Wish and a few months after his manager, Vlad Sepetov.
He made ends meet by scoring short movies and doing commercial work, creating thousands of beats as he chased his dream. And he went to every party he could get into. That’s where he met Ricky Reed. The head of Nice Life Recording Company, Lizzo’s label, was DJ-ing a set during a Taco Tuesday event at El Corazon.
Cheung sent Reed a few samples and Reed fell for the track that would eventually become the unforgettable opening of “Truth Hurts.” Now that the song is one of the most celebrated of the year, Cheung’s life is very different.
“All those people are like literal angels around me,” Cheung said, adding: “I get to work on a lot of stuff that I’m really excited about as well as have a team that listens to kind of where my interests lie and the bigger overarching dreams I may have, they helped me kind of reach them now.
“A lot has really picked up. Pretty much every single label is open to having a conversation with me at this point. It’s been a really amazing, hard-to-believe situation where I see the whole industry kind of has opened a lot of doors and been very, very welcoming, and I’m really grateful for all of that.”