Priscilla Ahn: I've always known this career to be fickle

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Known for her acoustic pieces, California artist Priscilla Ahn is branching out and moving into synth-driven territory on her new album, This is Where We Are. Read as a declaration to mark where she is in her life, the record tells of a young woman reinventing what she knows in indie-rock and pouring it into a new mold of danceable indie-pop.

Gimme Noise caught up with Ahn in her California home before she left for tour, which hits the stage at the Cedar on Saturday evening. In the conversation, Ahn reveals that underneath the exterior of a seasoned musician lies the fragile character of an artist still trying to make it. We also discussed her new sound and Andrew Bird
Gimme Noise: The new record just came out about a month ago. How do you feel people have been receiving the album so far?

Priscilla Ahn: As far as I know, it's been good. I've been pleasantly surprised, because one of my biggest fears was that some of my older fans wouldn't like it as much, since it was a departure from my older sound. I've gotten a lot of feedback from people saying it's a nice change or growth, but people can still tell that it's me. It's not like I was trying to change my image as an artist. I'm glad that didn't come across that way. I haven't toured the U.S. in a while, so hopefully this will stir things along.

Does it scare you when you haven't been active for a few years that people will forget about you?

Oh, yeah. Definitely. I just assume that's what happens. [laughs] I don't let it dictate how my stuff comes out, because I don't want to force out a record before it's ready. For all of my albums, there has been a 2-3 year gap in between each -- which isn't always ideal, It's just how I've done it. I feel if people really like a band, they'll follow them no matter what.

You said this album is a departure from your older sound. Did you feel you got pigeonholed into a certain sound?

Here and there. It was more in the beginning that it happened. When I was trying to find a record label, I would play my one pop song called "Red Cape" for the executives, and they wanted me to write more pop songs. It got to the point where I was seen in the wrong light. Those are not the kind of songs I really write. You have to make the decision as you go. "Do I want to be a pop star, or do I want to be an artist?" That's how I look at it.

You've been writing and performing for a long time now. Do you feel there are some songs that you never want to play again, or do you feel you can still connect to those pieces?

For the most part, I don't mind playing any of my songs. The one song I have started to cringe at is "The Boob Song." I only play it live; I don't have it on any of my albums. It has a funny story that goes with it. No matter what, at every show, someone's like, "Play 'The Boob Song'!" The song is fine, but I feel like I can't play the song without the story -- 'cause that's the funny element behind it. I think I'm just sick of telling the story.

So taken out of context, it's not as clever.

Yeah, those that don't know the story might not see what's so special about the song. [laughs] Other than that, no, a lot of people love my songs. "Dream" was a big hit for me, and I don't mind playing it, because I know that for so many people, they tell me how it's helped or moved them, so it reinspires me to love the song.

Do you feel "Dream" is a bridge to the kind of music you're making now?

Yes, very much. When I started making music, I had always wanted to incorporate quirky instruments or elements in it somehow. This new album is definitely a much bigger step forward into that -- synthesizers and stuff like that. I'd always loved this kind of music like Lykki Li and Little Dragon and that kind of stuff. I just never knew how to write that kind of music, because I had never played my songs on anything but guitar, so they came out acoustically. I finally got a keyboard and a bunch of samples. It was like, "Oh, my god. This is how you do it. That's sort of wild."

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