Say Hi to TRACE
An interview with vibey singer / songwriter TRACE* who is launching her new EP this summer.
*TRACE is responsible for THIS BANGER.
SS // TRACE! Bonjourno. Aloha. Hi. Incase some of our readers are not well versed in the music scene, let’s paint your picture for them. Who are you and what do you do?
TRACE // I’m a singer/songwriter living in Los Angeles trying to everyday figure out how I got here and also how to never leave. I write and sing songs that I hope make you feel both good and bad about yourself but most important, like yourself.
SS // How did you get started?
TRACE // Not sure what moment marks the beginning but I would say I always wrote songs for myself and sang to myself—in my room, with the door shut. But it wasn’t until I was asked if I would ever do music as a real thing did I consider my songs to be for the public and to be used as a profession. I launched a Kickstarter and somehow convinced friends and strangers to support this seemingly random dream. But I made it and was then was able to get a five song EP project produced and made and ultimately released!
SS // You write all of your own music. Tell us about that process.
TRACE // It wasn’t until this past year I started writing with other people, and that's been a learning and rad experience. In general, it does come natural to me to write on my own and when I do it’s just an overall posture of always being alert to what I’m feeling and what things are being said from my mouth and even from others. I use voice memos to record a lot of gibberish: melodies, phrases that stick, things I’m feeling. I’d say it’s my main tool for songwriting. I also have a running list on Evernote of phrases and emotions that seem appealing or interesting and honest to me and kind of go off of those when I’m in search of writing a song “off the top of my head.”
SS // How did you land on your voice and sound? How do you think this comes to artists?
TRACE // In some ways, I’d say I haven't completely landed. (HA!...) I know that one’s influences tend to steer artists and I’d like to think mine kind of span a multitude of genres and even eras. I suppose I’d like to evoke something you can’t quite put your finger on but something you can recognize. Musical preference is I think almost separate [from an artist's voice and sound]. It depends. I know some artists who prefer listening to one kind of music but create strictly another. I’d like to think I have a preference but also at the same time a curiosity. On the other hand, certain sounds just brings life to me so I try to stay closer and around such influences.
SS // Tell us about the best date you've ever been on.
TRACE // It’s been ages. Let’s see… probably eating at one of my favorite restaurants in LA that is hard to get into and we had everything on the menu. Oops and thank you. That seems materialistic so maybe that one time we went to watch Shakespeare in the park and had a picnic. I’m seventy years old.
SS // Tell us the saddest lyric you’ve ever written.
TRACE // This is my favorite question on earth. And feels impossible to answer. I’ll put down a recent lyric from an unreleased track and one from my fav off the EP, Honey. There are so many—too many.
“I see through you, do you see through me too?”
And “give me something I can keep,” pretty much stings forever.
SS // Your mom, Carol Kim, is considered the Tina Turner of Vietnam… Huge!? Legend! Did her career have any impact on you growing up? What has been her greatest music industry wisdom?
TRACE // It’s true, its true. Her career made my childhood feel very abnormal but normal (to me). I stayed up late, went to rehearsals, made friends with only kids of musicians—I was in a bubble and it felt cool, odd, special. I think seeing her do what she loved made me see life as “you do what you love always, never what you don’t want to or enjoy.” So that stuck, even if, at first music wasn’t at all on my mind. I’d also add, her confidence in the industry was palpable. She was/is such a confident woman and I’d like to think that has seeped into my DNA growing up.
And her greatest music industry wisdom? Gosh, she says a lot ha. But I’d have to say the thing that has stuck the most is “be honest with your audience and be yourself hon.”
SS // Does your mom dig your music?
TRACE // At first she didn't get why they were so sad and slow, haha. But after a couple of shows, she has become a true fan. She’s more into the more upbeat tracks for sure but ultimately think she’s a fan of me no matter what which is CUTE.
SS // In less than a year, your single “Low” racked up more than 30 million streams on Spotify. What do you think resonated with the audience?
TRACE // I think it was a combination of the specific exposure it got through both Spotify (and their playlists) and with the label Next Wave (who signed Low as a single) AND perhaps the unique combination of a highly produced, high energy track mixed with a simplicity that made it easy to listen to and connect with. It’s a bit hypnotic and dynamic in, I believe, just the right way. It’s a trip and I’m consistently floored it’s made such an impact.
SS // In your newest EP, there are no love songs... Different than some of your last hits. What’s this EP all about?
TRACE // I suppose “love songs” mean happiness to me ha. Everything I feel will always be centered around love in some way, but for me, it’s more like the longing for love that is continually on my mind. From anyone. This EP has been influenced greatly by everyone I’ve come across in the last couple of years, romantically and non. Men, women, everyone. But I will say, I’ve decided to include the relationship with my dad to take up space in the room of my thoughts and writing. Gosh, it wasn’t easy, but in a way it was really easy. So I guess I could also add, this EP is about criticism.
SS // What is it like being a woman (and of a minority) in a traditionally male business?
TRACE // It feels both exciting and daunting. There aren’t many women in the industry let alone one of Asian American decent, so it’s almost this feeling of “I have to do my best to represent what is unrepresented.” It’s a pressure but the good kind. At times it can feel lonely but most of the times it feels like a privilege and I just hope I make a proper dent in this industry with my music.
SS // You’re now officially a full time artist. That is essentially the dream. That’s something that musicians strive to be able to do but few achieve. Let alone in 4 years. What do you think you’ve tapped into?
TRACE // It’s truly the combination of risk, sacrifice, faith, foolishness and hard work. The dream is really hard but it’s worth it. It’s so “other”—living life like this and I always thank the stars I get to.
SS // Speaking to that point - is there a push/pull dynamic between creating what you like and what will be successful?
TRACE // It’s hard not to think about what people will like. It’s such a natural inclination to care what others think. Ultimately, I remind myself that if I don't connect to it, then it will be phony and the listener will be able to tell (or at least I hope they will—I know I will be able to). There’s no formula truly for what makes a song “hit” while technically there is a formula on how to write a pop song, so there’s definitely a balance between the two. There is definitely a push and pull but I think it can be a healthy dynamic. As long as I don't feel pulled apart and disconnected, I know I’m in a good place.
"... it wasn’t until I was asked if I would ever do music as a real thing did I consider my songs to be for the public and to be used as a profession. I launched a Kickstarter and somehow convinced friends and strangers to support this seemingly random dream."
SS // What has impacted you the most in your creative process?
TRACE // My fans. Sometimes you feel like you really don't have anything original to say but then you meet someone at a show or on the internet and their words kind of remind you that your simply a creative vessel for truth. And so hearing what my songs mean to others creates in me, energy and effort and drive to dive in, to write everything that weighs on me in hopes it won’t weigh as much.
SS // Where do you want to make the most impact?
TRACE // In the places where people feel most alone, misunderstand, discreetly low. I want to creep into the intimate spaces, hoping to make sadness feel healthy—loneliness, strong.
SS // Where can we see you next?
TRACE // Nervously on stage at the Echoplex on August 2nd or at Baby’s Allright in Brooklyn on the 9th.