2019 has been a super busy year for music, and through the cascade of all these new artists, some real gems have trickled out. One of those gems is an LA-based singer named TRACE.
If her name sounds familiar, it may be due to her most-recent releases that are set to turn into a full EP later this year. The first taste of music we got was back in May, when she dropped a bubbly and reflective piece, “All My Friends,” and then, just in the last week, she gave us another new release, her electro-pop anthem “Make Me Laugh.”
Both tracks are reflective and intimate looks into her mind, and if you take anything away from her discography, that also includes an EP released back in 2016, it’s that this singer isn’t afraid to open up about her feelings through haunting melodies and lyrics sure to stay with you.
And due to the introspective and relatable nature of her music, it was a real pleasure getting to speak to TRACE. Below, you can read our full interview with the singer, where we discussed how she creates music, what it was like growing up with “the Tina Turner of Vietnam” and what the future holds.
Doing some research, one of the biggest things I’ve come to find out is that your mother is a famed Vietnamese singer (Carol Kim). I’d imagine music has always been a major influence on your life due to that; what was it like growing up into that world?
My mom has always been someone I looked up to as a woman. The fact that she did music just made her extra amazing and sparkly. But I will say the more I talk about my childhood; the more I realize it wasn’t like most. Growing up in that world I felt I grew more independent earlier (my parents were divorced when I was eight). My mom worked a lot and trusted me to kind of go about my day at school and tennis practice, etc. I had a lot of freedom but there was trust so being in that world, I felt like a mini adult you could say.
With your childhood immersed in such a rich musical background, was performing and writing music something you’ve always wanted to do? Or was it something that you sort of stumbled into as you grew up and formed your own ideas?
Never had any interest or desire to perform or write music. I always knew I could sing on key as a kid and that was fun, but I definitely found this life dream a handful of years ago! It’s funny, I wonder if I was fighting it the whole time–though I don’t think I was.
In that case, how did you find yourself in this career? And what was the process like first starting off for you?
I’ve always been a writer of things (not necessarily songs). I went to school for business and communications and always wanted to work at an agency, in advertising or a magazine as an editor. The more I wrote, the more I realized there were more avenues to it and music became a refresher in my writing. I’ve played the guitar all my life in the most non-serious way, but started writing to it when writing about other things became boring or not as life-giving.
Your music in and of itself is very raw and emotional. For someone not familiar with your music, how would you describe it?
I would describe my music as a confession that feels so honest, you might want to listen again to make sure what was said, was actually said. I would describe my music hopefully as a sigh of relief. It’s easy to listen to, difficult to swallow. It sounds pretty but might be a tiny bit mean. It’s lonely with a beat.
Your songs are very easy to connect to on a personal level, which is something I find rare nowadays. Was making music like this something you knew you’d want to talk about when you first started? And how important is it, would you say, for artists to share these deeper meaning songs?
Thanks! I think as an artist it’s easy to be tempted to write about what you think people want to hear. And though that’s ok, I’ve learned and am learning, the less you think the easier and more honest the writing is. And listeners can tell what you really connect to and don’t. It’s incredibly important to share what you know to be true for you because that’s what music should be: releasing out into the world what you’ve done, said, felt, and most importantly learned. I think there are a million layers and ways to tell a story which makes creating art very fun, but when it’s done, I always make sure to ask myself, could I have shared more? The deeper the greater the chance for feeling and consequently, healing
When creating music so raw and unfiltered, is there a certain songwriting process or mindset you go into when writing these personal tracks?
Just to be connected to myself. We all know what it’s like when we are feeling our most selves (like did I exercise, eat well, pray and meditate, go on a walk, love on my mom, etc). When I’m connected, I kind of trust myself in the process of creating songs. It might sound “foo fee” but it’s all about getting into a flow where the distractions and disruptions of your mind, heart, etc. feel like they affirm your thoughts instead of block them. Does that make sense? I just know what it felt like to force a song out and it’s when I feel pressured, disconnected and exhausted. So being connected helps eliminate those factors.
To go off that, what are some of your biggest inspirations, both musically and not musically, when creating music?
I love art and visiting museums and galleries. I spend a lot of time reading through design books and magazines too and find a lot of inspiration from photography and graphic design. A good film and script also inspire me. Good food and wine. It’s all pretty basic the things that inspire me be it takes work to step out of the musical headspace and into what the world has to offer. The process of that in itself is a challenge that inspires me.
It’s been a few years since you released your debut EP (LOW), how would you say your songs have evolved since that initial release?
For the most part, I just think the sounds feel more unexpected and maybe a LITTLE bit poppy-er. But I’ve introduced other elements from other genres into my next EP and feel more connected to it than any of my previous work, which feels exciting. I might be talking about more serious issues but then again, I’ve always had [laughs]! And I think, and hope, that the songs feel not too departed from my LOW EP since I feel like there’s timelessness in it that I still want to continue to curate around and instill in my songs. It’s different, maybe “cooler” but it feels like just “me, but more evolved.” If anything though, the mixing and mastering will be the most obvious and tangible difference seeing that now I know way more on the technical side of creating a song!
Last but certainly not least, what can fans expect to see from you within the next year? Are you working on any new music, tours, etc?
I have my second EP coming out this early fall! And I hope to go on tour very shortly after. I miss it so much and can’t wait to share the new stuff in real life.