Fresh from performances at Glastonbury and Hard Rock Calling, Priscilla Ahn’s come a long way from rural Pennsylvania.
An appearance on Later With Jools Holland and a headline show at the Pigalle Club in Piccadilly have seen the American/Korean songstress thrust into the UK spotlight in recent weeks.
Her debut album A Good Day, released last Monday, sees her artfully balance youthful whimsy with grown-up sophistication, and her lilting single Dream even featured on EastEnders. Not bad for a young artist who struggled to success playing coffee shops and open mics.
Her story is the stuff feel-good films are made of: pretty talent packs bags ( ‘two guitars, clothes, and some other junk I really didn’t need to bring ‘) and road trips across the gargantuan landmass of America to Los Angeles’ land of promise. There she meets a bohemian bunch, juggles bad waitressing jobs and lands a record deal with Blue Note.
Joey Waronker produced A Good Day; an album grounded in folk, country and pop, which features dreamy, sunny lyrics from Ahn and subtle undertones from a range of unusual instruments.
How did life change when you moved to LA?
‘I was raised in a small city called Reading, and then at the age of 13 we moved to a very small rural area called Bernville. I loved being surrounded by nature and trees, but I was also drawn to city life.
‘At 19 I was ready for a move. Los Angeles had what I needed, and I felt like it wasn’t too overwhelming. It’s more of a suburban sprawl than a mega metropolis. It was really empowering to make the move on my own, and so far from home to pursue something I loved.’
What motivated you to get gigs in the early years?
‘Mainly to get better at performing my songs on the guitar. I had a lot of experience singing already in front of people, but playing songs I wrote on the guitar was a whole new thing. I found it to be really fun in the end, and just wanted to do it as much as I could.’
What, and who, inspires your music?
‘The things I listen to definitely influence my music: Chet Baker, Feist, Neil Young, Tom Jobim, Andrew Bird, and whatever else I may be listening to at the moment. A lot of what I write about comes from personal experiences.’
Can you tell us about A Good Day and the creative process of making the album?
‘It’s an accumulation of songs I’d written from the age of 17 to 23. In the studio, we tried to keep the recording process as organic as possible. Joey Waronker, my friend Gus Seyffert and I would track the song live first (Joey on drums, Gus on bass, myself on guitar and vocal) and then we’d take turns picking up different instruments in the studio and laying them down on the track. We tried to keep it very simple, and true to the song, allowing the song to be the core of the recording, and my voice to be very up front in the mix.’
How do you find you are received in the UK compared to the US?
‘I think it’s about even. It feels like I’ve been touring in the UK a lot more than in the US though actually, so I sort of forget what it’s like touring in the US. But I have to say, the British audience is so respectful, and loyal, and just real music lovers.’
What do you think of London, and what experiences have you had in London before?
‘London is great! Each time I come back I discover a new area of it. There seem to be so many different parts of it that I feel like I still haven’t seen.
‘My first time in London was with Ray LaMontagne at the Barbican. I was really sick at the time, and ended up having a coughing fit on stage when I was singing really delicate harmonies with Ray…ugh! I was really embarrassed. But my fiancé came to visit me and we walked through Hyde Park and really had a lovely time of it.
‘My next time back was playing The Jools Holland Show which was an incredible experience, and doing my first headlining show at Bush Hall. Oh yeah, and I did a show opening for Jason Mraz at the Hammersmith Apollo. This time over has been my favourite so far. The weather couldn’t be lovelier.’
Priscilla Ahn’s A Good Day is available now in stores and online.