Priscilla Ahn: A Rising Star's Modest Approach The young singer tells Weekend All Things Considered about getting and handling attention as one of the first Korean-American singers in the public eye.
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Priscilla Ahn: A Rising Star's Modest Approach

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Priscilla Ahn: A Rising Star's Modest Approach

Priscilla Ahn: A Rising Star's Modest Approach

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PRISCILLA AHN: (Singing) When you were young enough, doing all that funky stuff, ah...

GUY RAZ, Host:

Singer-songwriter Priscilla Ahn is regularly featured in the gossip pages of Korean newspapers, even though she lives in L.A. and has only been to Korea a few times in her life - not that she minds, though. She'd tell you her life is actually pretty boring. But she is quite possibly the first Korean-American singer-songwriter to land a major record label deal.

You're hearing the title track from her new record. It's called "When You Grow Up." And when Priscilla Ahn stopped by the other day to talk about the new record, she described what seemed to her as an otherwise ordinary upbringing.

AHN: Growing up sort of in a multicultural family, I never really felt, you know, that I was different - even though I was - from most of the kids in my school, which it was a predominantly white high school that I went to. But especially with music, I try to just approach it as, you know, an equal. I mean, because even though just being a female, you know, you can sort of go into the business being like, I'm a young female. I need to, you know, stick up for this and that. And I just - I try not to think about that stuff too much.

RAZ: You're still - this your second record, right?

AHN: Mm-hmm.

RAZ: And so audiences are still meeting you. You're still introducing yourself to a growing audience. But I think a lot of people would - may be familiar with this track. It's called "Dream." It's actually from your last album, your first album, it was on an episode of "Gray's Anatomy." Let me play it.


AHN: (Singing) Long walks in the dark through woods growing behind the park. I asked God who I'm supposed to be. The stars smiled down on me, God answered in silent reverie. I said a prayer and fell asleep. I had a dream...

RAZ: When this song was featured on "Gray's Anatomy," what happened? Did people sort of contact you overnight?

AHN: I don't remember it actually being like that, actually.


AHN: I knew it was a big deal, because, you know, songs got featured on "Gray's Anatomy," like, good things happened. That song has been used so much, I feel like, ever since then, on numerous television and film things, and - yeah. I - gosh, never expected that this song would turn out to be such a hit.


RAZ: On this record, your new record, you co-wrote most of the songs - or is it all of the songs, I think, right?

AHN: It's about half and half.

RAZ: You sing them, obviously. But you also play guitar, banjo, autoharp, piano, organ, keyboards - I'm assuming not all at once.

AHN: No.


RAZ: Right.

AHN: Yeah, you know, unless it's an L.A. show or everything sort of here, just for the sake of traveling with all those things, I pretty much keep it, you know, to guitar and, like, keyboard. I simplify it.


RAZ: Let's hear a track off the new record. This one's called "Oo, La La."


AHN: (Singing) What if you took the long way down to your favorite cafe on the east side of town, and you get stuck at the light, so you turn down a side street that you couldn't drive down 'cause it's a Saturday swap meet? Oo la la, oo la la, oo la la, la la...

RAZ: There's a real kind of whimsical quality to this song and the sound of this song. Can you tell me what it's about?

AHN: This is sort of like the beginning of a new love. So it's sort of like the innocent stage of a love cycle.

RAZ: This seems a good place to be.

AHN: Yeah.


RAZ: All right. Here's a more, I guess, traditionally sad sounding song, which is called - it's called "Torch Song."


RAZ: So I'm assuming it's about unrequited love, but I'll ask you about it. Let's listen to it, and then I want to ask you about it.

AHN: Okay.


AHN: (Singing) You are the only one to know me...

RAZ: Now, this was going to be in "Gray's Anatomy" one day. I guarantee you.


RAZ: It's a sad ending to an episode.


RAZ: You've been doing this for a while, a couple of years now. And you've had some pretty amazing experiences and successes. You've toured with Ray Lamontagne and Willie Nelson. I got ask you about Willie Nelson, because I've heard a lot of rumors about what it's like to be on that bus, you know, fueled by vegetable oil. And there's some things that go on inside the bus. Did you ever get to go on the bus, on the Willie Nelson bus?

AHN: You know what? I didn't do that.

RAZ: You didn't. I got you.

AHN: Yeah, like, I could've been one of those people who knocked on the bus door, and they probably would've let me on and I could have hung out. I just felt weird doing that. I don't know. I think I was shy about it.



AHN: (Singing) Swimming in your parking lot. I'm singing in a camp on your lawn.

RAZ: I want to get a sense of where you think you're headed as an artist. You're obviously a singer-songwriter. Where do you see your next move?

AHN: I'd love to make an album of duet love songs and...

RAZ: Oh, that would be good.

AHN: Yeah.

RAZ: I hope they're heartbreakers, though, Priscilla.


RAZ: You don't want to depress everybody.

AHN: Right. No. No. There'll be some uplifting ones - some "Oo, La Las" in there. So I have no idea where I'll be five years from today, but I'm looking forward to whatever that is.

RAZ: That's singer-songwriter Priscilla Ahn. Her new record, it's called "When You Grow Up." It was released earlier this month.

Priscilla, thanks so much for coming in.

AHN: Thanks for having me.

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