OG Advice: Ebe Dancel shows you how to go with the flow

OG Advice: Ebe Dancel shows you how to go with the flow

The Sugarfree frontman-turned-soloist on writing songs that have stood the test of time, and what he’s learned from two decades in music.

Art by Rard Almario


Before the internet made a meme out of Kylie Jenner’s Rise and Shine, there was Wag Ka Nang Umiyak by Sugarfree. There are different versions of this on the airwaves — well, blame it on Ang Probinsyano — but nothing beats the hypothetical warm hug the OG version provides when you listen to it. From going to prom with your girlfriend to ridding your room of your ex’s mementos, Sugarfree’s Ebe Dancel writes honest songs about our common experience in love and friendship. They’re so timeless, 20 years has passed ever since he started his career in music and we didn’t even notice. It’s safe to say that, unlike Kylie’s overnight hit, Ebe Dancel and Sugarfree’s songs will stand the test of time. 

To celebrate his two decades in the industry, he will be having a concert with the Manila String Machine on Feb. 29, 2020 (yes, a leap day!) at the Metrotent Convention Center in Pasig. We sat down with Ebe before his Oct. 15 show at 12 Monkeys and looked back on his career milestones and all the lessons he has learned from each of them.


Releasing “Sa Wakas” the album 

I realized that I could be quite persistent because I had a label before Polyeast, before EMI, and they said, “You know, we can release your album but it might not sell.” The album was two years in the making and then it was on hold for more than a year, but I don’t give up eh, if there’s something that I want to do, I get tunnel vision. It’s all I want to do. It’s all I see.


Shooting the music video for Hari Ng Sablay 

To be honest, I wasn’t very fond of the camera kasi parang iniisip ko I’m a musician and I’m not an actor. There were scenes as far back from our music video for Sinta where Quark Henares made me act all day. I said, “Man, I don’t know if I’m any good. I can’t act. I’m not the best-looking dude in town.” Sabi nya, “Just go with it, just have fun.” So I realized that a lot of things come with the job and some things you’re iffy about but I read somewhere that we must be comfortable with being uncomfortable.


“I’ve had highs and lows. I struggled and then I succeeded and then I failed and then I succeeded again. It’s a learning experience getting to know how things work onstage.”


Performing with the Manila Symphony Orchestra

There were things that they were doing that were weird initially but when Chino explained to me that “This is how MSO sounds, and this is how you sound, and it’s going to be (harmonious)…” It cannot be separate. That’s boring as sh*t. But feeling ko, mas lalo pa akong na-e-encourage to work with as many people as I can, people very different from me and it’s a learning experience.

Wag Ka Nang Umiyak being used in memes 

Goodness. (Laughs) The biggest lesson I have learned is to laugh at myself. I can’t possibly take myself too seriously because that will drive me nuts. My friends made fun of me for two weeks straight and then I realized that it’s funny and if it’s not fun, then it’s not worth doing so I just went with it.


Deciding to go solo

(I learned) that if you really have a goal in mind, it’s okay to go with the flow. I was advised by a lot of people not to leave the band but I didn’t feel like I was part of the group anymore. It’s probably not their fault, it’s probably mine. But there was always that itch. I went through it all over again. In my first show, 10 people showed up and there was a time when I didn’t have a show for a month because I refused to play the old songs. There was a time when I was playing a lot of shows but people were just asking for the old songs, but that didn’t discourage me from writing new material because I needed to know if it could work.


Staging Sa Wakas, the musical

People can take the songs and make them their own. That’s what music is. If you write a song and then set it free, someone’s gonna catch it and mold it and remold it according to whatever it is that they’re going through. It was such a wild idea when they came to me. You know, “just go with it.” Kaya nga parang mas na-i-ingrain sakin yung “just go with it.” It could’ve bombed, but it didn’t and it worked.


Celebrating 20 years in the industry 

Just go with it, really. I’ve had highs and lows. I struggled and then I succeeded and then I failed and then I succeeded again. It’s a learning experience getting to know how things work onstage. Dati wala akong pakialam eh. I just plug in my guitar and then just sing. Apparently there’s a right way of singing and I’m learning it 20 years into this. I think it was Confucius that said “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” This is what I’m doing. I’m having fun, I’m playing. If I can summarize my 20 years, the good will always outweigh the bad. 



Catch Ebe Dancel with the Manila String Machine live in concert on Feb. 29, 2020 at the Metrotent Convention Center. Tickets will be available via ticket2me starting Oct. 31.For updates, follow @ebedancel on Instagram.

#career #music

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