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[Herald Interview] Korean-American folk singer talks about growth

Songwriter Priscilla Ahn says new album written during period of reflection


Folk singer-songwriter Priscilla Ahn has stayed busy since she debuted in 2008 with album “A Good Day” under EMI’s jazz music label Blue Note Records.

Often compared with jazz vocalist Norah Jones, who also debuted with the Blue Note Records, Ahn’s beautiful but not-too-pretty tone, unique lyrics and simple acoustic guitar were well-received by audiences at the tours that followed the first record.

Then she spent some months writing new songs. Then, she got married to actor Michael Weston in May 2010, and went to the U.K. to make her second album “When You Grow Up,” which was released in Korea on May 12.

“They were written in the past two years, a period where I did a lot of reflecting on my life. So, I liked the album having the theme of growing up, because I feel like I did a lot of personal growth in this period,” Ahn told The Korea Herald in an email interview.
Folk singer-songwriter Priscilla Ahn (Warner Music)
Folk singer-songwriter Priscilla Ahn (Warner Music)

“A lot of the album has to do with love as well, the ups and downs of new and old love.”

Ahn became a rising star as her songs such as “I Don’t Think So” and “Dream” were featured in TV shows and films including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Knight Rider” and “Ghost Whisperer.”

Ahn was born in Georgia in 1984 to an American father and a Korean mother whose maiden name was Ahn.

Growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania and visiting her maternal grandmother living near Busan from time to time, her solitude and loneliness have become an inspiration for music and she adopted her mother’s maiden name when starting her musical career.

Ahn’s pure tone is very much like her mother’s and her father’s favorite music, and her writing influences include Neil Young, Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Pink Floyd, she said.

Although she grew up in America, Korea was always special to her.

“Korea holds a very special place in my heart, mostly because of my family there. They are such a strong family, always local, always making family very important to them.

“I loved growing up in America, knowing this completely different culture was a part of me.”

She said the Korean food is her favorite kind of food in the world and looked forward to visiting a nice jjimjilbang, or public bathhouse, in Korea.

When she was young, Ahn used to sing along to K-pop singer Park Hye-kyung’s 1999 debut album “+01” and she likes older, more traditional Korean songs.

One of the best decisions she has made in her life was not going to a college immediately after graduating from the high school, she said.

At 18, she was about to sign all the paper work to attend a college when the music teacher that she auditioned for called her house to tell her, “Maybe she shouldn’t go college yet,” Ahn said.

“He said I should seriously pursue what I do first, then, I can always go to college later. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life,” the 27-year-old said.

Having just celebrated her one-year wedding anniversary on May 30, Ahn said she feels more peaceful about her life in a way she didn’t expect.

“Marriage is work, and like everything else in life, the goal for me is to grow into a better person from it all.”

By Kim Yoon-mi (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)
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