Meet Khoi Nguyen


Brooke J. Freundschuh, Editor-in-Chief

Khoi Nguyen is a senior at UNA majoring in information systems and information technology, however, students may better recognize him as the musician “Khoi,” who performs at many events around campus and represents international students through his music.

Nguyen moved to Florence from Vietnam in 2019 to study abroad and pursue a degree in business and technology. When COVID-19 struck during his freshman year, he became unable to return home for quarantine.

Growing up, Nguyen had taken an interest in music from a young age and asked his mother if he could take violin lessons. His mother insisted that he would not be well-suited for the violin and rejected the idea. Instead his father suggested that he learn to play guitar, but Nguyen disagreed and spent years not playing music at all, until one day he heard “Let It Be” by the Beatles.                                                             

“Music started to click for me,” said Nguyen.

He continued listening to British and American rock, including the Eagles and learned to play guitar. He took up songwriting as a skill in grade 9. His early songs focused on love and romantic relationships. He states that he is not proud of the “childish” songs he wrote in high school, but that some of them are still out there on SoundCloud. 

“When I was in Vietnam, I performed quite a lot in my high school years,” Nguyen said. “I was trying to found a band in Vietnam, but having a band in Vietnam is not as mainstream as it is in the US or UK, so it was hard for me to find someone with similar taste.”

He says that while some American and European pop and R&B music is popular in Vietnam, a lot of their taste is influenced by K-Pop. According to Nguyen, little music is produced in Vietnam, and it is incredibly rare to see an emerging artist from Vietnam make it on a global scale. 

Upon moving to Florence, the only thing he knew about Alabama was what he learned in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” When choosing UNA, he had no idea how much musical history was in the Shoals region and was pleasantly surprised to learn about FAME studios and the Muscle Shoals Sound. 

“As I learned more about bands and how they come up with their songs and how these songs became the best of all time, I wanted to write my own songs. The idea of a song becomes a legacy. It’s fascinating,” Nguyen said.

Although he has a deep love and passion for music, he still sees it as a hobby and is not pursuing any kind of fame or notoriety in the music industry. 

“I don’t think I can make it to the next level, but I had that passion before [coming to UNA.] I don’t think I’m capable of having the spotlight,” Nguyen said. 

However, in 2021, he began talking to his next door neighbor in the dormitory, a fellow international student named Reon Osato. Their conversation was sparked when Nguyen heard Osato playing electric guitar in his room and asked what he was playing. The answer was an Oasis song. From there the two chatted about their favorite bands and musicians and began collaborating on music together. 

The first song Osato and Nguyen wrote together was called “I Don’t Mind.” It tells the story of every human being able to choose and craft their own destiny in this life. 

Osato is an entertainment industry major and is currently taking a class taught by Professor John Paul White. For an assignment, he wrote a song entitled “Stop, Wait a Minute” that he and his friends are producing. Nguyen will sing lead vocals and play guitar on the song. He states it is the track he is most proud of. 

At Nguyen’s performances, he plays a combination of his original songs and covers of songs by bands and artists like Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay and Harry Styles. Recently, his favorite song to cover has been “Beggin’” by Maneskin. 

Aside from the arts, Nguyen is very passionate about technology and entrepreneurship, which is what he hopes to go into after graduating with his bachelor’s degree. His dream job would be in software development. He is currently working on a project with his colleagues in the college of business and technology to develop a software called NFC Orange. 

NFC is the technology that allows digital payment programs like Apple Pay and Google Pay to connect with each other. Nguyen’s NFC Orange would allow students to share their resumes and credentials with employers with just a tap to their cell phone, simplifying the networking process for employers and those looking for employment. The project is currently in beta testing by students and will hopefully be launched soon for use by the general public. 

“I think the career, the job that I’m getting from my degree would be a daytime job and music would be a nighttime job,” Nguyen said when describing his future plans.