Vietnamese pop star’s daughter Trace is honest, refreshing, and awesome to watch.
Ever wonder what life would be like if your mom was an iconic figure? Think Barbra Streisand-level fame. Golden coast singer-songwriter Trace can answer that–her mom is Carol Kim, Vietnam’s queen of soul. For you and I who grew up with normal, embarrassing parents, Trace’s globe-trotting childhood sounds outlandish. For her, it was just a normal life.
Far from being a stranger to the game, the upcoming songstress is on the fast track with a batch of successful songs, including her EP Low that amassed 40 million streams across platforms. The rising force’s flow focuses on self-composed vocals backed by a moody, dreamy soundscape–all recorded in her makeshift bathroom studio. Her tracks showcase organic sounds, heralding a new wave of synth pop and cementing her new single “You Don’t Know Me” on everyone’s radar. We picked Trace’s brain about her unconventional upbringing, her music, and what’s in store.
Where are you from and how did you end up in LA?
I was born and raised in Orange County–Anaheim to be specific. I moved to LA to work as a Managing Editor for a publication called Darling Magazine.
What was it like growing up in a musical household?
I’d have to say it was normal. I was always around my mom, her work, and her friends who were also musicians. I hung out with their kids and I would go to my mom’s shows. Music was something that felt familiar to me, but I wasn’t necessarily connected to it until I was a little older.
Tell us about your life growing up with a pop star mom.
It was definitely not as glamorous as you’d think. My mom would run into people every now and then while we were out–they would ask her for a photo or a hug, she’d deliver, and we’d continue eating our lunch. Growing up with my mom was fun though. She would travel a lot so I’d get to go with her. Since she raised me basically on her own, we were very close–and I actually enjoyed my mom’s company. Despite her chasing a crazy career, she always managed to be present and supportive, and gave me a life that felt full.
How did you get into music?
I always played the guitar as a hobby, but I didn’t get into music seriously until I realized I really enjoyed writing and singing songs. I always enjoyed listening to music, singing to my bedroom walls, and going to shows. Music was always a part of my life in a decorative way–it wasn’t until 2015 when it became an intentional lifestyle I wanted to live and embody fully.
You write your own music, which is unheard of in Vietnam–was that a conscious choice?
To be honest, it’s what feels most natural to me. I’m not a professional singer, and I didn’t grow up [taking music lessons] (I’m working on it!), but writing has been a strength I’ve been able to hone in on and make even stronger.
I read that you record in your bathroom, which is amazing. How did that come about?
My friend Brandon Zedaker produced my first EP and when it came down to timing and budget, we decided to be resourceful (and creative). My apartment was the best place to record the tracks. Thankfully, it worked out pretty well.
Who are your musical influences?
There are so many. To name a few, I’d say Feist, Bon Iver, Frank Ocean, and Cat Power.
How is American pop different than Vietnamese pop?
Vietnamese pop is different in the sense that it doesn’t put much emphasis on touring and songwriting. The popularity of Vietnamese pop is also not determined by the radio, charts, etc. but instead it’s the presence one has on television or local live shows.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
[I want people] to feel confident and sad at the same time–to experience a personal empathy. I want you to feel everything.
If you could work with anyone, who would it be and why?
Gosh, everyone. But I’d love to work with Justin Vernon or Frank Ocean. I feel like they’ve towed the line between pop music and indie very well. Plus, I think they’re geniuses.
What’s next for you?
A lot of writing in the studio right now and definitely new music I hope to share with you very soon!