A Vietnamese newspaper reporter recently interviewed me about my music and life. I had no idea I had many fans in Vietnam. So I am thrilled to be asked and honored to be in one of their main newspapers, Tuoi Tre. Apparently the Tuoi Tre is seen as a “reformist” newspaper based in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. The reporter, Yen Mai was incredibly wonderful and gave me very thoughtful questions.
Here’s the link to the Vietnamese article:
Here are my answers in English:
1. Your album “A Witty Girl” has a very cheerful tone. Does it reflect your current life?
Yes. For the first years of my career, I was definitely a typical brooding, moody songwriter who wrote moody ballads. The path of an artist isn’t always easy and my songs reflected some of my struggles and disappointments. But while writing the songs for a “A Witty Girl,” I had a sort of personal awakening. The meaning and purpose of life started to really hit me. I realized what I want to put out to the world is not depressing music. As a person, I like to laugh and joke and poke fun at life. I want contribute more positive, uplifting songs to the world. Songs that help people feel inspired and hopeful and joyful. Because my songs reflect my life, not every song I write is happy and joyful. However, I want my overall tone as an artist and person to be cheerful.
2. What are some rewards and challenges being an independent artist?
The rewards outweigh any challenges ten fold. Because I work for myself, I create my own schedule and choose projects based on what makes me happy. I spend much of my life creating. I am able to do what I love every day, which is singing and music. My life and schedule is exciting and changes sometimes in an instant. I’m able to find time to do other activities I enjoy like biking, surfing, scuba diving, yoga, or traveling. The challenges are that income is never consistent. My schedule is never consistent. It’s not as easy to plan my career or even life long term. There are business and marketing aspects that I do not enjoy but still need to do. However, the “challenges” are only challenges if I choose to see them that way. Having a life that is inconsistent keeps it interesting and gives me hope for future opportunities. I am more well-rounded by learning the business and marketing aspects. Not being able to plan long term keeps me very much in the present and appreciative of what I have.
3. You also give vocal and piano lessons at your studio. Is that a hobby, a way to networking, or simply a means for a living? What do you get from teaching that you don’t get from performing?
It’s not a hobby or a way of networking. It’s another passion of mine. Both my parents were music teachers and teaching comes very natural to me as a person. Early on in my artist career, I saw teaching as a negative. As in, only people who aren’t successful artists are teachers. My feelings have changed dramatically after having been only an artist. When I was strictly a performer, singer, and songwriter, most everything in my life seemed to revolve around me-my shows, my songs, my schedule, my recordings, etc…. It wasn’t as fulfilling as I thought it would be. And while I hope my music positively impacts thousands and hundreds of thousands of people every day, I don’t have personal contact with most of my fans (as in they aren’t in Los Angeles coming to shows). When I’m teaching, it’s not about me at all and I feel I’m directly helping someone else’s dreams come true. It’s very rewarding and teaching brings two of my passions together- learning and music. I keep my studio very small and teach 1-2 days a week. It’s just enough to have that community component and still have time to write, record, perform, and do other music projects.
4. What inspires you to write songs? Do you have a favorite subject that you like to write about?
Life, great songwriters, situations, and people inspire me to write songs. When I get inspired to write, it’s usually starts a short melody I hear in my head or a title that rings strongly in my body. After that the melody is molded and lyrics come together. I don’t know if I have a favorite subject, but my songs do have common themes to them. I like writing about strong characters, hope, love (romantic and in genera), and personal revelations.
5. One of my favorite songs from “A Witty Girl” is “Gravity Takes the Lead”. The song is so upbeat and full of hopes. You sing about ending up where you’re “supposed to be”. Do you feel that way about where you are now, or if not, do you have any idea in mind what that place should be like?
I wrote that song while in Nashville. At the time I wasn’t feeling very hopeful or upbeat. I was staying on a friend of a friend’s couch. No idea where I was “supposed” to go or what I was “supposed” to do except music was a part of it. For me writing is therapy and that song is what came out. That song is about trusting the world or God and not negating or discounting where you are in the moment-whether it’s in the clouds or with your feet on the ground. I’m guilty of looking at where I am and comparing myself to where I think I should be. What I’ve come to realize is that there is no “where I’m supposed to be”. Wherever I am is where I’m supposed to be or else I wouldn’t be there. Once I stopped trying to arrive somewhere (be famous, get a record deal, or reach a billion plays), it has been easier to be happy and stay hopeful. One I came to understand that life doesn’t have a destination, it is the destination, I felt more free. The world of possibilities opened up. That is where I am now. Hopeful and appreciative wherever I am.