In some ways in the U.S. we dont know how to be. I think in a lot of ways America is about liberation and about change and progressive human relations. And because of that I feel like that were confused about who were supposed to be and what it is thats supposed to satisfy us and make us feel fulfilled.
I sang in a reggae band. And then there was a soul band where I sang back-up vocals and some lead. And I was also in a womens a capella group. And I was in the gospel choir at school. Actually Ive always been in choirs. Or some kind of group. Just because I love singing so much. But I …
I believe in the old because it shows us where we come from – where our souls have risen from. And I believe in the new because it gives us the opportunity to create who we are becoming.
Ive noticed that the more I open up the more I learn.
I do get around. Geographically that is.
I feel like the one insight thats extremely comforting to me about the world is that we all share the same pool of emotion that we draw from.
I would say Ive always lived creativity but now I – I do it with an intention thats got a completely different power.
Halo I wrote with my grandpa in his nursing home. When I went to visit him hed often comment on my halo. But of course I couldnt see. And he always – he had pictures of Jesus with these beautiful halos. And so I asked him if hed write a song with me about Jesus halo.
As a child I went to peace and ERA marches on the back of my mom and grandmother. Through them I learned that I wanted to find a way to make the world a more kind compassionate place.
My parents played the radio but music was never an obsession or something that I thought I could call a career.
One thing I carried my whole life especially from my grandparents in Chicago was a huge idealism for the world.
In China I realized that if you visit often enough and learn the language you will be assimilated but youll still be kept at arms length youll always be looked on as a foreigner.
I played piano and was always in the choir. I tried to play flute because all the pretty girls played flute.
For most Americans my Chinese music feels like a novelty and its not what it is for me.
My whole drive is to make sure that music is a common space where we search for beauty and share it. It needs to be louder than any conversation. Thats where we have to go as a human race.
Im I guess you could say the Chinese-speaking banjo-picking girl.
You have to try things youre really afraid of even if you pee yourself a little bit.
I really believe in the power of music.
I was born in Evanston Illinois. I spent my elementary and part of my junior high school years in a D.C. suburb. And then I spent my high school years in Minnesota. And then I spent my college years in Colorado. And then I spent some time living in China. And then I spent three years in Vermont before moving …
Martin Luther Kings I Have a Dream speech always sends me down some path some trajectory of some creative idea.
Whenever I visited China in the past the relationships always felt superficial there was no time where I felt those moments of conflict and delight that make you feel close to another person. But since I started touring there in 2004 I would always collaborate with local musicians and that opened up a new level of intimacy.
I have a general sense of mission and I intuitively know when something is influencing that mission. I think this is what Im supposed to be doing. Doors keep opening. In the end its the best use of my skills. Ive finally consented to the idea that Im an artist.
When I first started playing the banjo and miraculously fell into a record deal in Nashville TN there was a period when I didnt go to China. It hurt. Like a pain in my gut… that pain you feel when you know its time to connect with your parents or your God or your child or your past or your …
I feel like my kind of music is a big pot of different spices. Its a soup with all kinds of ingredients in it.
I reside in a new colony for the Chinese-singing banjo player with a population of one. At least I have something I have to do with my life.
You can enjoy many different types of music. I think thats something more Americans should think about.