106: TRACE: A Singer-Songwriter Who Befriended Anxiety: Journeying Through The Emotions Of Life To Create Music
Trace is an LA-based singer-songwriter who is made to create music through the emotions of life. In this episode, learn how Trace got started in the music industry from being exposed to music early on by her mother Carol Kim, also known as the Tina Turner of Vietnam, to finding her own voice through writing songs. Discover Trace’s genre, how she pulls inspiration and her creative process. Trace shares her perspective of the music industry from the insider ropes versus what people think it looks like. She also discusses emotions, how to deal with them, and being introspective. Trace then talks about having boundaries and the importance of having peace over clarity as it relates to her Faith and her walk with God. Lastly, she shares her thoughts on anxiety, its pros and cons and separating yourself from it.
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TRACE: A Singer-Songwriter Who Befriended Anxiety: Journeying Through The Emotions Of Life To Create Music
This episode is an interview with a new friend of mine who goes by the name of TRACE. She is an LA-based singer-songwriter who was made to create music. Growing up in Orange County, California, the daughter of Carol Kim, who’s known as the Tina Turner of Vietnam, TRACE never planned to follow her mother’s footsteps and pursue a career in music. She picked up an acoustic guitar for the first time as a teenager but didn’t begin writing songs until her freshman year of college. TRACE found her voice in writing songs and since then, music has become a personal calling that she hasn’t turned away from.
In 2016, TRACE brought her first EP, Low, to life through a Kickstarter campaign. The four-track project earned her comparisons to the West Coast cool of Lana Del Rey and the R&B-kissed ruminations of James Blake, as well as over 20 million streams and her first record deal. In early 2018, TRACE made her Ultra Records debut with three singles alongside a partnership with the California chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Health to raise awareness on anxiety in the entertainment industry. TRACE is set to release her next single. The song will be the third track off her sophomore EP. With over 55 million streams across her catalog and press support from Refinery 29, Teen Vogue, NYLON, Forbes, Milk, HypeBeast, C-Heads Magazine, The Line of Best Fit and L’Officiel. It’s clear that TRACE is a voice you can’t ignore.
That’s a little bit about TRACE. She is a beautiful musician and she’s also paved a path of her own within the music space. This was a fun conversation. We get to dive into a lot of things that you are going to enjoy. How she got started in the music industry is a fascinating story. Some of the insider ropes perspective of what that looks like versus what we think it looks like. We talk a lot about emotions and dealing with emotions. We talk about being introspective and loving attention as an artist. We talk a lot about boundaries. We talk a lot about having peace over clarity. We talk a lot about the different perceptions around the type of work she does and so much more. Her creative process was interesting to go into as well.
There are a lot of great stories and great takeaways that you’re going to enjoy from this conversation. Some of her friends shared some interesting things about her and they described her as a creative excellence, truthful ascetic, humble confidence, determined, unique, courageous, sassy, and she has a great sense of humor, she’s witty and is a lot of fun to talk with. I know you’re going to enjoy this conversation. Please sit back, relax and enjoy this interview with TRACE.
TRACE, welcome to The Up & Comers Show.
The official name is Tracy.
The official name on my birth certificate? I’d rather not reveal my identity but yes.
We’re going to keep the identity under wraps here.
That’s fine. I’m TRACE now.
TRACE, tell me about your tennis days.
It’s funny because my mom named me Tracy after Tracy Austin, who was the number one tennis player when I was born, which is another thing I want to conceal. I’ve played tennis since I was about 5, 6 years old. It was what I was supposed to do with my life. I have photos of me standing next to rackets taller than me. To paint the forest picture of growing up, since my parents both played tennis, I’ve played tennis since I was young and I played in high school and a little bit in college, but I stopped quickly because I have no idea how people play sports and do school.
You eliminate the life part of the equation.
I love life. I didn’t last long.
I can admit that I exchanged those two and that was a hard trade-off. I also hear there’s something about flowery skirts back then.
Where did you hear that? I evolve often when it comes to fashion. I like things like if it was a spiked belt, I wore it. If it was a floral dress, I might have worn it. I used to live in San Diego, nothing against San Diego or the school I went to, but everyone was girly and I already stood out being Asian-American at a not Asian private school and I loved it. I loved being different. It was a style. It was the way to be.
Growing up in Kansas, it’s less diverse. Coming out to California for college, the thing that surprised me most when I went home for the first time was I had never realized before that there were hardly any if any Asians in Kansas. It was like a black hole, at the time at least.
This is an experience for you right now?
It was flashbacks.Curiosity outweighs the pressure. Click To Tweet
Sorry to hear that. We’re great.
We need to get some Asians in Kansas.
For anyone out there, if you’re in Kansas and you’re Asian, let Thane know.
Tell me that you’re there so I can be encouraged. Tell me about this first foray into music that may have started in your bathroom.
That sounds weirder than it is and I’ll explain why. Would the question be how music came about then?
Yes, let’s start there.
That is a good point to it though. For me, I’ve always never wanted to be in the music industry. My mom is a known Vietnamese singer. I grew up around that and it was great and awesome. I respected her so much and she raised me by herself. She was the coolest. Like a lot of children, you don’t want to do what your parents do. I was like, “That’s cool mom, but I’m going to be a weather woman.” I would pick anything. I wanted to be a weather woman because that felt easy money.
You’re getting paid to be only 30% accurate.
You get hair and makeup done, so it’s great. I wanted to be a detective. For me, music was a familiar lifestyle that I never wanted to embark on, though I did grow up playing the guitar poorly as a hobby to myself, singing to the walls of my bedroom. I didn’t take it seriously until I did start writing songs for myself only. I ended up singing a song of mine on a friend’s EP that I heard. I didn’t know what mixing was or mastering, I didn’t know what a microphone looked like, to be honest. I like doing things that scare me because there’s no pressure. I was like, “You want me to sing on your album? That’s hilarious. Sure.” I did it and I had fun. It came out on iTunes and it sounded weird.
When I heard it, I was appalled and not in like, “How dare he release the song.” It didn’t feel like me. My friend and I were talking, we were listening to this and I was upset. We were drinking some beers and she was like, “Let’s do your own stuff.” I’m like, “That’s hilarious. I would never do my own.” I had a full-time job and then I ended up doing a Kickstarter. It’s a long story. We can break this up because it’s like, “I should do my own stuff. Let’s do a Kickstarter.” That worked out. I got money for it. I was already in LA. I had a great community. A friend of mine who is in LA for the year helped me record my EP in my bathroom and that is how I became a huge hit.
Do you ever wish that you could go back and record more in your bathroom? Was that a good experience for you?
I do, because when I think about that girl back then, I had no idea and my songs have done the best and it’s a tricky thing to know better. Our genre is called bedroom pop and I’m lolling like, “Is there a bathroom pop?” That’s what I came out of and it sounds good.
That’s the thing that all of us fail to realize until we’re in that moment or looking back at that moment, that’s more common than not. At the end of the day, we’re all trying to find a way to make it work. It’s hilarious. It’s funny to see those pictures of those memories of the road along the way. What is it about sad music for you?
It feels healing to confess things that are heavy. It’s already sad and people understand sadness and why not translate that through something beautiful. It’s not that I want to do people into realizing that they’re sad when they’re listening to my music. It’s an inevitable emotion to where I feel why not move with it and in a way accepting something that’s inevitable. When you’re listening to music, you get lost into things and I like the idea of someone getting lost in sadness but not feeling defeated.
That’s such a better route because the other end of the spectrum is suppressing or removing. I want to dive into all this and more, this is an initial swath here. The other side of the equation is where I’ve been more often than not. The training and golf has led me to be more robotic-like, to try and suppress emotions and be mechanical because it’s more efficient and optimal for performance, but that’s not being a good human. To take something that’s a part of the human experience, which is emotions, and to redeem them for good and to make art that’s beautiful out of it that connects and relates to people is a much better path in my mind than to sing pop songs that say, “Everything’s all right. Let’s have fun.”
I’m like, “It’s not all right. I’m not going to have fun.” That’s how I feel.
The question that I had that I was thinking about personally and selfishly is what is the experience of living life as a full-on feeler? That’s something that I and many others have a fence on. It’s funny, the opposites attract, a lot of my closest friends are complete opposite end of the spectrum. I’m blessed by them in my life. To you, what is life with full-on feeling?
It started off when I was a young cutie and I am the only child. I have half-siblings but I grew up alone. This is who I am. I’ve always been this person. There are home videos of me from my birthday and I’m in the corner opening up a present and my niece who’s a year younger than me is opening my presents in the center of the film. She’s outgoing and not that I’m not, but I’ve always been introspective. This was my fourth, fifth birthday. I’m sitting in the corner opening my gift like, “No, it’s cool.”
I’m a little different now because I love attention. I’ve had an imagination growing up being the only child. I feel comfortable with my thoughts. I feel everything. What is it like? I would say, I’m learning to use it for good in the sense of I used to be empathetic to where if I had a bad interaction with someone and they left, I would wonder where they went after. I would think about them the whole day. Whether it was thinking about how I made them feel or how they made me feel or where they’re going because they told me something happened to them, it was a lot and it’s heavy.
To a degree, we are supposed to be in people’s lives to carry their burdens and to be there for them, but to what extent to where that takes away, it almost becomes a little narcissistic. I hoarded that superpower like, “I feel everything, I know.” It also goes to waste when you’re not doing anything about it. For me, what it’s like to be a feeler is an honor to be able to see truth quickly and then take that for what it is and let go of things that aren’t mine to hold. That’s like this spiritual response. It feels like an honor to know and anticipate emotions and energies from people. I also think it helps me to realize what I’m feeling and what I’m going through and what the motivation is behind my emotions. In terms of an artist, it’s fun because it’s truly fuel for my music.
It seems like a great motivation and a great almost accountability to process. I do love that though. In that process for you, what has been helpful in turning the corner from having it be unhelpful to being helpful? What are either habits or parts of your life that you’ve instituted or practiced that are helping you not just be overwhelmed or overcome, but to use them not only to fuel your creativity but also make you a better human or friend in life?
It’s boundaries. A big thing is realizing it’s not about me, not that this is a common thing but I used to think, since I know their feeling, I need to make sure they’re okay because that’s my job, and that’s not my job. It requires a lot of discernment and wisdom and for me, a prayer of like, “Why is this happening in my sphere?” It’s this boundary of understanding where people are coming from and understanding that some people don’t want to be helped. Recognizing emotions and stuff, the biggest tool has been knowing where my place is in that friendship, in that relationship with that family member, whoever. It’s looking at things from a non-self because it’s not about me and I often think things are.
We always think that life is 100% about us. That’s our default mode. It takes intention to not be in that default mode. I cut myself, again, one of the many times, assuming that everyone else had the same needs, wants and desires as I do. I’m doing things so that their perceived needs, wants and desires are met when it’s mine put on them. I’m like, “Thane, this is neurotic.” It is a process. What’s cool about that is boundaries are such a helpful reminder because even within art, there has to be a structure around which that art is created. We can often have an initial aversion to things like discipline or structure when they’re the things that allow us the true freedom of expression in the first place. What other practical boundaries have you instituted that have been helpful for you in that process?
I don’t know. One example is looking at my daily interactions. With social media and all that stuff, we’re in a flood of voices, people, text messages and all the things. For me, what shook me was I was at a party which I’m never at. I just have to talk about it so people know I go out sometimes. I was out with some friends and we were sitting. It’s nighttime, this was 8:00 PM and we’re looking at our phones. Friend number three, Lindsey, she was looking at my phone and my other friend’s phone. She was like, “How many text messages do you guys have?”
I text a lot and my other friend texts a lot. Lindsey was like, “How many texts did you guys get today so far?” We went through reading the text from the day. If you texted me four times, it’d be one person, we were counting that. I had 32 maybe and my friend had 33 and Lindsey had seven. I don’t know what’s a lot or what’s little. For me, what that felt was I’m spreading myself too thin. I’m a good friend because I check-in. I’m a good friend because I do care. I’m also in this place of recognizing certain people that don’t reach out to me and I’m like, “Let’s just let her be.” That’s another practical tool to see how many messages are coming at you through the day? It’s not even physical text messages, but messaging. Do you need to calm down on that?
Text has been a blessing but a curse because they allow you to touch base with people, but that touching base turns into 8 or 9 different touching base interactions. When you say, “What time are you going to come over this PM?” It turns into 6 or 7 text conversations, whereas if it was a phone call, you’re having a more human interaction and it’s done in one call. I heard Joe Rogan talking about how they’re trying to trade texts for calls. They are only calling people instead of texting. I’m guilty of that too. I do the same thing you do, I love texting people to check-in. Part of it is the blessing of being single and having a community and wanting to care for others. Those are benefits, but there needs to be boundaries and its limited. We also put a lot of worth in our self for doing that.When you’re surprised by an opportunity, it deserves your attention. Click To Tweet
For sure we can. I was watching Stranger Things and I was thinking, “They don’t have cell phones.” It made me feel jealous of those days.
The digital detox is needed. Being introspective. You’re also relational and you love being with people, from what I’ve learned and even what you’re mentioning. What would you say is the balance for you or percentage of extroverted versus introverted? Where are you on that spectrum in your mind?
I am for sure 79% introverted and the rest extroverted. I’m a social introvert. I love one-on-one. I feel the intense weight of going to two parties in a row. That’s what I would say where I land. I don’t know if there is a balance. Certain months you have more birthdays and there are certain weddings. There are a lot of weddings coming up in summer. I like to self-preserve and I anticipate. When I’m able to anticipate a social calendar, I definitely take my alone time more seriously. Less coffee dates or even no coffee date and go home.
It’s a high level of self-awareness to know what you need to and that’s developed over time, which is important though, especially when you’re trying to do things that are challenging and outside of your comfort zone. Doing things that scare you is one of your favorite practices in life because there’s no pressure, which is counterintuitive in many ways. Talk to me more about why you feel little to no pressure in things that scare you or that are outside of your comfort zone. The typical person would probably hear that and be like, “That seems like there should be more pressure.” Tell me more about that process for you.
For me, it’s realizing that it’s intense to know what you’re supposed to do in life. We all have moments where we’re like, “This is what I’m supposed to do.” It’s the best worst news ever because you’re like, “I’m supposed to do this.” That feels crazy like so much pressure. When I say that I like to do things that scare me. I want to synonymize fear with the unknown. I like doing things I have no idea about. For me, curiosity outweighs the pressure and results. For me, it has been a freedom in stepping into something with no expectation.
Another example was when I graduated from college and I taught English in Italy to eight-year-olds. I’m not a kid girl. I am now but growing up I didn’t like kids. I had a lot of friends who wanted to be teachers and it was cute. I’m like, “You guys are the best people in the world. That’s not who I am.” I have never been to Europe, I was like, “Let’s go to Europe.” I was like, “Let’s teach bambinis.” It was fun because I’m a good learner. That mindset, I will have to say, there is rooted confidence in that, “I’m not going to suck.” There’s probably a thin line between that, but I was nervous to take care and to teach English to children in a country I’ve ever been in. That was scary, but I was way more interested and curious. It’s selfish but I wanted to see what I could do. I want to see what could unearth in me and I did a great job.
On one hand it is selfish but on one hand it’s unselfish too, because part of us providing our best work for the world’s greatest good comes from discovering what we can do, which has to be somewhat selfish. There is a measure of that that’s always going to be there. Give an overview or paint the path or the picture of college to that bathroom scene. What was that path like? It seems like you had a few different steps along the way.
It’s weird thinking about your life because I’m not in my twenties anymore and I’m obsessed with it. I think about college. All I wanted to do, when I was in college, was write for a magazine because magazines were bumping in the early 2000s. I wanted to write for magazines. I loved writing articles. I liked pitching ideas. I did freelance writing for about a year. I lived in San Diego and I also went to school there when I went to San Diego. I graduated from school in San Diego. I left and I came back home in Orange County.
I got my first full-time job off of Craigslist working for, do you know those TVs that you see at gas stations? I ran the ads on that and I came up with banner facts. I was climbing the corporate charts. It was hilarious. It was fun to know that I could get a job and to know that I can get health benefits. I got my first full-time job at 21 and it was awesome. It was horrible. My soul passed away a couple of times. I was let go, which is amazing because they merged with a company and I was on my way to merge to the next company and moved to Santa Monica and make trillions a year.
I decided to move to San Diego and do freelance writing. I did freelance writing. I wrote for a lot of magazines and a friend of mine invited me to go to this magazine launch in LA for Darling Magazine and it’s a coffee table book, women’s magazine, beautiful piece of art. I went to their launch party. I met a lot of great women. I wasn’t familiar with LA, which is hilarious because I love the city so much. I was like, “Who was I? I don’t know. Let’s not talk about it.”
I go to this launch. It was great. I see their first magazine. I fell in love. I reached out to the editor-in-chief and I was like, “I’m in San Diego. I do freelance so I have time. If you ever want me to edit your next issue, I’m here for you.” I did that for free because I wanted to and she was running something with a small team. Long story longer, she hired me as her first employee and I left San Diego to move to LA. She was like, “I can’t afford to move you here.” I’m like, “That’s fine.” I moved here and spent all my savings and money to do this job that I love.
I became a managing editor, moved to LA and then that was my life. Editing was fun but I wanted to be an art director or creative director. I wanted to launch a greater vision. I love grammar and I respect grammar. For me, I’m not an editor in the sense of I don’t want to change your voice. Some editors are great and they are intense about it. I worked for Darling for three years. I did over twelve issues, which is cool and that was great and then this happened with the album invitation with a guy friend. I had my full-time job at Darling while conspiring if I should launch an EP in Kickstarter and so I did that. I worked full-time as an editor while doing music for about a year. That moved slowly. It wasn’t until later that I left and did full-time music.
The first thing I’d love to hear about is when did you start writing?
I started writing in my first year of college.
What was the catalyst?
I love folk music and I liked Bon Iver before he became Bon Iver. I like older things like Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan. I’ve always loved the storytelling behind that. My first song that I ever wrote was trying to mimic that and it was about the Civil War. It was hilarious. I was trying to be folky and write about a lover that was gone for ages and when he came home, she was waiting. It was hilarious. For me, it was like taking English classes in college too and exercising a different form of writing.
Did you write for fun? Writing for music versus writing for articles. How did those correlate? When did you start maybe even journaling or writing as a kid?
I’ve always been a journaler and I have tons of journals from college and high school. I still feel new as a songwriter, which is interesting. I used to do brand consulting. I can write about anything and make it interesting. I used to write for plumbing pieces.
What made a good plumbing piece?
I’ve already taken that memory out of mine, I can’t tell you. What I’m trying to say is, I have a knack for making you interested and that’s a fun challenge. I want to always communicate the heart of something, a company, a person, a belief and that’s fun. It’s fun for me to embark on a different way of communicating. I love writing short stories. For me, I didn’t know I could sing. I’m still learning what that looks like because I don’t journal anymore. I don’t write short stories. I want to go back to it. I only write songs. It’s hard for those two things to exist. I don’t know who does that well.
It would be a weird mix because they are different. It’s like writing poetry in that sense versus writing prose. It’s different. It needs a different mode of thinking. They may not be conducive for each other.
I thought of a friend who’s annoying. She has a book deal and she writes music. She’s another species.
One of the things that I’ve had a lot of conversations with people on, most people, especially in LA, could relate to is this dance between having some stability while also pursuing your dream. In that process, for you, you’ve been writing for about a year and then you took the deep dive. What would you encourage people with in that process? First talk through your own process and how you made that decision and what the decision-making process was, but also what the experience has been in that? That is such a tension that we all live in, especially in a place like this, when you’re trying to do work that matters to you.
Personally, I’m a woman who sees the glass always half full. I have a high rate of belief in me. When I think about it, a lot of my friends growing up too all have stable jobs, 9 to 5s. Their perception of me is interesting because they’re like, “TRACE, she follows her dreams.” Which is cool and it’s an honor to be like, “Yes, I do.” It sounds foofy but it’s in your gut and it feels instinctual. When you’re surprised by an opportunity, I feel it deserves your attention.
For me, the best things that ever happened to me in my life have been saying, “Yes.” It’s having peace over clarity. That’s been my life thing. I don’t need clarity. I don’t need this plan. I do plan a lot and I love strategizing and I love a calendar event. Send me a calendar event. I’m obsessed with you. In the world sense, I’m all about peace and I have never made a decision out of not having peace. It doesn’t always end the way you think it’s going to. For me, moving to LA was exciting and you’re in your early twenties you can do whatever you want. I still do whatever I want though. For me, it felt right.
Another thing for me, for saying yes and leaping into things that feel unstable is when people of expertise invite you into something. I respect that. When someone who is good at their stuff and they’re like, “You should come on in.” I’m like, “Totally.” That was a big piece too, feeling secure and confident in that. That was my personal leap from San Diego to LA and living off of what I could. You have to have the attitude of, “It will work out and what’s the worst thing that can happen?” Growing up, I did envy a lot of my friends because they had both parents around in their lives and parents who had an education and who knew what savings were and took care of their kids.
I have the best mom in the world. I’m the first generation, so she’s learning a lot. Perhaps my dreaminess and my leaps were out of, not anger or resenting people, but I feel if I can do it, anyone can do it. I didn’t have anything to land on. I don’t know if I consciously dip so people can feel encouraged, but I feel like, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Also, life’s too short. It’s too short to not feel life on things you do. Fear is boring. That’s a good boring excuse for me. It’s smart to be strategic and to discern and to make calculated thoughts around decisions. I don’t ever advise being foolish, but I believe that I trusted myself in that moment and in these moments to come.
Repeat that sound bite if you want some inspiration. It’s true. I want to hear a little bit more because there’s a lot of people that are from a similar background, whether it be one parent or having no parents in their lives or whatever it may be. The brokenness of different families is more of a predominant thing now than not. It can be a positive stimuli, but more often it can be negative stimuli. How did that turn into something positive for you? How did that have a positive impact versus the negative repercussion that can often come?
A big part of it was that my mom gave me so much freedom. She was around as much as she could be when she wasn’t singing, trying to take care of us. I was such a cute, boring kid. Sports is a big thing, as I’m sure you can understand. I played sports. I was in student government. I never drink. People drink in high school, I can’t believe it. I remember going to prom and people were drinking and smoking weed, and I was like, “These are crazy people.” For me, it was the house that I was raised in, specifically from my mom. I hung out with the right people too. I had good friends who didn’t do dumb things. That’s how I came out of high school anyways.
For me, as an adult, I give a lot of credit to my faith system and I believe in God. I’ve surpassed a lot of things that most people don’t surpass. Growing up in the type of home I was, without a dad and what that could look like or what have you. It’s a weird question because I do feel I’ve been protected my whole life from dismay. There is a real heartache to things in my life, that’s why I probably feel things. There is a real loss in my life. I’ve lost people also. There have been tragedies for sure. Faith has been something that has kept me up and also being loved well.
Even if it is one versus two people that love you. One versus zero is an astronomical difference. The studies they have of babies that are born into orphanages and don’t have human interaction, the detriment to their adulthood or even their childhood is insane. It’s crazy how much we need that love interaction, especially in our childhood years. For you, what role does faith play in your life? How does it play in your day-to-day? How does it impact your work?
When you go to events or birthdays and you’re meeting people, it’s hard not to be like, “What’s your name? What do you do?” It’s gotten to a point where everyone even mentions how awkward that question is and it’s fun because you’re like, “I know, right? That’s not who I am.” I don’t think what we do is who we are. What we do is an extension of how we are to help shift and shape culture and our city. I don’t know how anyone does anything in the music industry or anything in life, but in the music industry, who are you trying to get the approval from? I don’t know.
Getting older, it’s nice to not care what people think. Also getting older, it’s nice to remember and remind yourself of who you are. That’s what faith has been for me in the sense of, whether it is walking into a room, writing with other writers and producers. Being a good person and being someone who is interested in the person before you who’s working hard for you in that session and showing the type of patience, compassion that maybe some people don’t experience. I’m not saying faith makes me a better person to other people, but I’m saying faith makes me a person who is interested in knowing why people are in my life and how do I extract goodness in them and it’s fun.
It’s fun to walk into a small studio with someone who you don’t know, usually, sometimes with new producers and new writers. You’re with them at least for six hours and so you talk about yourself for a second with each other and it’s cool to be like, “This is who I am. This is where I’m at. This is what I’m going through.” My faith has allowed me to feel secure in the things that I’m about and the things that I’m not about. Faith looks different for everybody but at the core of it, it reminds me that I’m beyond my job, I’m beyond my songs. It’s hard to remember that comparison is the thief of joy, but it’s so true.
I have some of my girlfriends who do music too and we say this often in our group messages, “There’s room for everyone.” It feels like there’s too much room these days and there’s so much music, but there is room for everyone. I feel it’s been a great thing to grow in my career. This route that I’m on, I want the Grammys, sure. I want Coachella headlining, sure. I cannot wait. If I don’t get it, it doesn’t deteriorate my soul. I know that does that to certain people. I still feel aches sometimes with certain things, but it all depends on where you go back to at the end of the night.
There are two quotes I thought of. One, Oswald Chambers said, “Let God be as original with others as he is with you.” The other one, Wynton Marsalis said, “The difference between noise and music is that noise is two sounds that are not related to each other, whereas music is two sounds that are related to each other.” It was fascinating because if you put that into a spiritual or biblical context, you see that God is outside of time from what we know and that he created everything and so then we’re within the time continuum. Part of the purpose of eliminating noise is so that we can see and hear God’s music and it’s seeing what he’s doing and that’s when the dots start connecting. If all we have is the noise in our lives, we can’t ever do that. It’s more about how can we eliminate noise so we can hear the music of life. It makes it a lot simpler and more attainable then. When is faith the hardest for you?Having anxiety is not your identity. Click To Tweet
I’m flying high on all the things that I believe are the greatest things in my life, but I feel faith is hard when it comes to thinking about if I’m going to be single forever. I’m a great single girl. I believe that I’m not going to be single forever. I have to have some extra faith when I think about my future. I could see it. It’s cute. It feels impossible to me. It feels magical. It feels insane. I have a lot of best friends who are married and I’m like, “How do you guys not hang on their leg the whole day?” I feel the moment whenever that happens I’m going to be like a weird koala on them. I love love and growing up around, mama loved me so well. I know love despite not seeing it in marriages, but I love it. I feel like because I didn’t see it, I’m adamant of it that it’s a real thing. Faith is harder when it comes to an intimate relationship.
I love that description of the koala. One of the things that when I reached out to some background resources, they mentioned that it’d be fun and interesting to hear about your romantic life because she always has the most insane or fascinating stories. Do you have any stories or experiences with illustrations that would fill in some color on that quote or that lead?
I love going on dates. I love interviews, like work interviews. I feel it’s similar to dating in the sense of prying into people’s emotions and what they’re about.
That’s why I do a podcast.
You understand. I’m a little bit not dating these days because I’m tired of everybody. I feel like the story was told to you because it’s the funniest one. I was on an app and I went on this last-minute date and I don’t do that usually. It’s always talking for two weeks and then I’m like, “Let’s have coffee.” This guy was cute so I was like, “Let’s meet right now.” We went to go get a drink, but I was with my roommate and I was like, “Can you come on this day with me and sit by the bar and make sure he’s not a serial killer.” I believed that I was going to be killed by a serial killer because every guy is crazy. I went on this date and my friend went and she sat by the bar, on the corner watching me to make sure he didn’t have a knife with him in broad daylight. He didn’t have a knife. He had a great pea coat on and she ended up meeting a guy. We ended up sitting all together and having a double date. It was amazing. We left and we were like, “Bye losers,” because friends are forever.
I heard this but I didn’t realize that you ended up having a double date together. I thought that she was on her own.
I saw her at the bar with a guy and I was like, “Typical.” Everyone loves her. I love her. She’s my best friend. She was with a guy and I was like, “We’re going to combine dates now.”
You mentioned earlier, dismay and heartache. I want to dive into it. You have beautiful writing, I just want to say that. I’m going to read a little piece and then we can talk about it. “The first time I met anxiety, I had shampoo in my hair. There wasn’t enough water mixed in, so the stuff was pretty sticky on my hands. It felt like honey and it stuck to me. I was eight years old. This very moment was a defining one, for anxiety has stayed faithfully with me through all the growing up I’ve done. All the lessons I’ve learned in all the relationships and careers I’ve been through. However, it wasn’t until four years ago that anxiety finally felt like it had some purpose. This is the thing about anxiety, one minute you’re enjoying a snack in front of the TV and the next you’re in the shower, balling and thinking about death. Personally, anxiety takes me away from the present and puts me in a harmful future. It makes me worry about things I cannot control or things I might not understand. Growing up, it will occasionally creep up on me, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s like I truly live with it in an ever-present part of me. Sometimes it’s dramatic, and other times it’s subtle, but it’s always there. It’s a part of my DNA, and I can feel with my eyes closed in the darkest room.”
It’s a beautiful piece. I read the whole article. Since I’ve done some writing myself, I’m always impressed with others who do it in such a playful and relatable way. I’m much more intense, information and application. I appreciate that. I’d love to hear about discovering anxiety in your life at a young age and then how you’ve coped and faced it, and then we can get to where how you view it now. How did you work through that process?
That story is not at all hyperbolic, which is crazy. It’s my earliest memory. I remember growing up thinking a lot. I’m always thinking about everything and nothing. I was in the shower and I was seven or something. I was thinking about dying, good old death and I panicked. I didn’t grow up with any faith or anything, I didn’t know God or anything and so it was like air. I remember running out and my aunt was watching me and I was crying and I was worried. That dominoed a lot of symptoms in my earlier years. I was a hypochondriac. I thought I was always going to die. I thought I had every disease under the sun.
Now, it has matured. I’m a germophobe now. I hate public restrooms. Growing up, I was crazy. I didn’t even share drinks. I was a weirdo. I will talk about my first kiss, maybe never. I maybe ran to the bathroom and spit out after I got kissed. No, I’m just kidding. I had this fear in my life and I didn’t know what it was until I realized I was born with that genetically with my dad. I didn’t know much, but I knew that he had extreme anxiety and depression. He was a sad guy and it makes way more sense now that he wasn’t available physically, mentally, when I was growing up. I was never medicated. I never had panic attacks, thankfully, but I grew up scared.
Even up until college, I would blame not trying things because I was like, “I don’t have health insurance.” I was scared. That was anxiety to an extent. Reading the article that I wrote. I know it was at the end of the year but I wrote that in the middle of the summer, putting down to words what anxiety now having a purpose is interesting. What I meant by that was I feel I could exist with it and I can still write from a place of anxiousness and not feel like a puddle. It’s changing a little bit, but my perception of anxiety was it felt present in my life. I got comfortable with it and I partnered with it.
I’ve always said this and I’m not proud of it, but I’m a glutton for suffering. I’m a four on the Enneagram, so I live well low. I’m excited about things. I’m joyful. I’m not excited about things. I live down here and I’m comfortable, it’s great, life’s hard, I get it but I operate decently from it. It was never crazy, but I would worry and be anxious a lot about silly things. That was my relationship with it growing up.
The other question that comes to mind after that is in the process of becoming friends with it, what is the unhealthy ramifications of that and then what is the healthy ramifications of that? There’s beauty on both sides and there’s a trade-off on both sides in a sense. It goes back to the other thing that we talked about earlier with the trade-offs on both sides. It’s a good thing not to suppress it, the emotion side but to embrace it, but not to have it overcome you and that is that tension there.
To even compare it with actual friends would be interesting to do. Let’s see if I can do it. It’s like when you’re hanging out with someone all the time and you start becoming like them, which is sometimes rad, but sometimes not. Let’s say you’re with a friend you love and they have negative self-talk and then you start talking like that. You’re comfortable with your friends, you’re comfortable with negative self-talk and that’s scary to be in a place that is fixated on the familiar.
For me, being friends with anxiety felt like that. It was bad because you start partnering with it in everything you do and it becomes a lens and the voice that you use to speak through things and that’s not good. It’s important to know that having anxiety is not your identity. That is what I want to say and I’m learning that. Where it is may be a good thing somehow is it does give you inklings of what it is you are afraid of. I think because of my anxiety, I was able to write a song about it and then I was able to release it.
As a musician, it’s rad and crazy to be able to write about something that people feel connected to and I hope to heal obviously at the end of the day or moments of healing I’ll take. It feels amazing to feel not alone in admitting that there had been anxiety in my life growing up. Also, I want to use anxiety as a tool to showcase the things that I’m afraid of because I don’t think we’re called to live in fear in anything. It’s been a cute helper, but learning to not partner with it in everything I do is great.
That’s important because of the predominance of that in society. It’s becoming more and more important to not just talk about it, but to think about what is helpful and unhelpful within that. That’s the next phase for society is we recognize the issue. We’ve been talking about the issue, let’s not just talk about it, let’s be proactive in using for good and not harm. In the modern context of where we’re at now in society, what do you see are helpful tools for yourself or for anyone in having it not be a consuming thing? What helps it be not an identity?
It’s community. Being in isolation does not help anybody. I’ve always been someone who loves people. I have friends. I’ve always been someone who can leave the country tomorrow and live in France for a year and I would be fine. For me, it’s hard to heal by yourself. Anxiety exists a little bit better with community because you’re not alone. When you see someone nailing it, you feel it’s possible for you too. It’s nice to not feel alone and it’s nice to know that people are going through the same things as you. Even more so, I’m way more fascinated by overcoming things, not even relating to someone going through something, but seeing someone overcome something that’s even cooler and I’m learning what that looks like and how long were you part of that narrative.
Both sides are contagious. The pessimistic is much easier to be contagious because that’s the default, but optimistic can be contagious too. It is a choice at the end of the day. It’s easier to make that choice when you have others who are making that choice.
It’s a hard choice. Say it if you don’t feel like it, it’s fine. That’s the trap that everyone is like, “Easier said than done. I don’t feel half the things I say.” It’s practice.
It’s preaching truth to yourself. The second part is always believing the truth because that means you act on it and that’s what helps it solidify. It’s interesting. You hit the nail on the head though. That’s a lie of anxiety or depression itself is that, “I am alone.” That is the ultimate lie that must be dispelled with truth and that happens by surrounding yourself with others. It didn’t have to be a lot, let one or two person in the fold, that’s it. At least have 1 or 2 in your corner. It’s helpful.
I want to talk about your music. When you talk to friends about who are you going to have on the podcast like, “TRACE, she’s a singer.” Describing your genre is interesting. Here are a couple of snippets of how other people have described it. One article said, “Imagine the So Sad Today account set to twinkling electronics and gloriously forlorn vocals, and you’ve nailed TRACE’s emotional and oral wavelength. She’s making the rare type of mope pop that’s exhilarating. It makes you wish you were going through a breakup so you could feel everything.”
My ego is through the roof right now. I’m like, “Yes.”
The other one was, “TRACE is an LA-based singer making an instantly likable hybrid of pop-pop and R&B. She works in warm tones and sighing moods, combining electronic and organic sounds in service of tender, plain spoken sentiments.”
These are good ones, you’re pulling. I forgot you. I need some boost.
How do you describe your genre of music?
I first described it once in an elevator ironically because I panicked. I’ve always described it as lonely with the beat. It sounds cute and cheesy now, but it makes sense, lonely with the beat. Now, a lot of DJs have dancing in the club and there’s crying in the club and you’re like, “No, thank you.” One friend, and I don’t know if it is strictly this but I love it and I say it because it sounds cool. He said I sound like Cat Power meets the Tron soundtrack and I was like, “Thank you.” It’s emotional music that you’re swaying to. I’ve written about my own music for PR purposes saying, “I want people to not realize that they’re that sad until they listen and they’re like, “I’m sad.” Vocally, tonally, I’m easy to listen to music. It’s great music, that’s how I describe my music.
One of the things I read from your writing was you said, “Psychologically, I love not duping the listener, but I want to distract people from the sadness for them to feel okay. There’s something cool about moving and dancing and feeling every emotion.” Writing is a whole different form than speaking, which is cool because they both produce unique insights. That’s why I love podcasts as much as I read books. When you were thinking about your music, was it something that this came out of the blue and your creation of it? Did you like to pioneer a new music because it is almost your own niche or your own lane that you’re pushing towards? It’s not the average or norm.
That’s nice of you to say, thank you. In the beginning, I don’t even remember anything. My tendencies and my natural heart is the type of folk music that I would love to play the guitar better and sing a song. I remembered when I was launching this project, I didn’t want to be a coffee shop person. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not me. I remember saying, “Here are these sad acoustic songs. Listen to Sylvan Esso.” My producer did a brilliant job on going beyond that in some ways.
For me, that was the initial like, “I don’t know anything. That’s a cool album. That sounds cool.” Her voice is beautiful. Sylvan Esso has this folk tone with electronic beats. It’s a beautiful combination of worlds and I loved that as I’ve gotten more into my career. I love R&B. I love some indie rock. I love bands. I love symphony. I love orchestra. I love music in general, but the initial heart of mine was how we make a songwriter dance-y in the beginning. Now, everything sounds similar.
Where are the main sources of inspiration for you?
That’s difficult. It’s such a dense world out there. All the platforms like Spotify specifically, I love it. They did so much for my career in the beginning and I love them. It’s crazy how much new music there is. It’s almost going back to older things and the things I used to enjoy. It’s going to shows too and being reminded that I like music. Not that I don’t like music, but sometimes you get into a season where you’re trying to create music and you start wanting to sound like what you’re hearing all the time and that’s scary. There have been beautiful pioneers in our lives. A lot of women singers are trying to sound like, and I’m guilty as wanting to.
There was a season where I’m sure every girl was like, “I love this new Lorde album,” and then it was like, “Banks is awesome,” and then for sure, Billie Eilish. Dope women, I’m like, “I would love it if there was ever an era of TRACE.” There are markers in pop music to where you have to be careful with. For me, it’s either listening to old music, going to live shows or even not listening to music inspires me musically. Going to an art show or seeing film. I love film so much. These other creative outlets re-sharpen and shape my love for music.
It’s funny because when you look to a singer of your time like Lorde or Banks or Billie, you’re pulling inspiration from what’s already there. Meaning, what’s next isn’t there. You’re missing it because you’re in the vacuum of what’s there. It’s this weird counterintuitive process. To be original, you can’t be consuming what isn’t original, which is original right now. There’s a tension too. For me, I find myself limited in the creative process if I’m constantly looking to others. It’s almost like I need to sit with myself and maybe have certain sources like concert. It makes perfect sense going to concerts or films that are parallel and synonymous in some ways but are different enough to see this more objectively.
Allow yourself to be with yourself, eliminating noise in a way.
That’s overlooked especially from people earlier in the career. It’s like you think you need to look like someone else when you need to look like yourself. You first need to discover yourself and then you need to embrace yourself and then lean in. What is your creative process like? Walk me through how you create music. You are unique that you’re a singer-songwriter, which nowadays is rare from what I know of the space.When you’re grateful, you’re confident. Click To Tweet
I’m surrounded a lot now. I would like to say I’m rare. The process is interesting. It depends if it’s for me, which I’m mostly focused on is writing for my own stuff, I wish that I was a writer who had a notepad in her pocket and felt inspired walking by flowers and was reminded of an emotion and jotting down verses. I’m not that person. I don’t know who it is. Maybe there’s no one like that. For me, I am a quick writer. It’s the ability to always be present in what I’m feeling and that lets me write music from a place of a flow state.
I have tons of notes on my phone of keywords that I love. I’m always thinking is what I’m saying. It’s like, “That’s a cool phrase. That could be a title for something. I’m writing it down.” I also think in terms of melodies, they come to me often in the car. I have a ton of voice notes with different melodies on my phone and I’ll revisit it. I’m not a trained musician. I’m trying to use that as strength and not a weakness. I can’t wait to sit at the piano, I wish. I rely on my words and my thoughts. I do write things down.
It’s almost like I have a storage in my soul and you know when it’s empty and you know when it’s full and you don’t want to talk about it, or you know when it’s full and you want to talk about it. You know it by how it’s reflecting in the time you’re with a producer or yourself with your own guitar or yourself with another writer and producer. It’s been obvious to me what has worked and what has worked is being unafraid. Unafraid, meaning who thinks they should be afraid, but for me, it’s being unafraid to talk about the things that are a little more important to you than the things you think are important to people.
For me, a big part was getting stuck on writing a lot about dating, which is fun and it’s entertaining. It’s great. In a spiritual way, if nothing’s coming out, there’s something blocking you. I always write a song. I do not go to a studio and not write, that doesn’t happen to me. I’m weirdly efficient. I’m efficiency-driven versus perfection. I remember I was in the studio with a friend, Mike and we’ve done a lot of songs together. I could not write anything, it was an hour and that’s long, twenty minutes long. I’m a good writer. It was almost an hour and I was like, “What’s happening? Do I need a date more? What was going on?”
I ended up realizing that I had to write about my dad. I never wrote about him. I wrote this song that is going to be my EP. It’s a good song. I never thought it would see the light of day. I wrote it, not joking, in four minutes because there were so many mean things and hurtful things I had to say. My process is being brave. My process is not being afraid to say the things I need to say. It’s hard not to think about what people are expecting from you versus the last song you wrote and you’re like, “Tracy, can you write about this again.” It’s almost like, not being afraid to say what’s on your mind and keeping a mental note of those things also. I use Evernote and it’s a good gift. You can record in it, you can write in it.
I see a lot of beauty in what you’re saying because we have to find what works for us and it’s going to be different for everyone. Hearing that you write melodies in the car makes a lot of sense because there’s a cadence to driving, and there’s this interesting space that you’re with a bunch of other people, but you’re by yourself. It’s a unique space that brings out, I can imagine some amazing melodies, keywords and phrases and how that sparks.
The same is true with me. When I go running out in nature on trails, it’s amazing where these different disparate ideas will connect and it’ll have some flash of inspiration. I jot down in my Evernote a little two sentence blurb of a blog post idea. I could fill out a whole blog post, thousands of words. There are certain ways that insight comes about, but we have to capture the firefly when it’s there and at night, you can’t catch a firefly in the day. Being present and creating the flow state are probably two of the greatest keys to any creative work. What produces that for you? How do you create that presence and that flow state?
For sure, exercise. It makes sense, I get it. I feel present and good when I move.
What are your most common forms of exercise?
I wish I was a runner. I love that you run. I do not. I huff and puff in two minutes. I play tennis sometimes. It’s a great workout. It’s harder to do it anytime. I love bar exercises, its cardio. It’s small movements, it’s ballet-driven, it’s toning, it’s great. I can lift up grocery bags. I like suffering, I enjoy that. Boxing is fun, but I don’t do it often. I love boxing, self-cycle and all that stuff. Exercise is great and prayer. Whether it’s meditating or praying, I’ve tried my best to pray before every session to be in my skin. Prayer and also nerdy, but reaching for all the gratefulness that you can before stepping into something fun as making music. I can’t believe I get to do that. I have left a date to write a song and that’s hilarious. I’m always like, “I should name these songs after these dates.” I feel fortunate to be able to confess things quickly off my chest and make it into a song. Gratefulness has helped me come into creating art with stability. When you’re grateful, you are confident. That’s what it is. I want to be confident woman and I want to live confidently. It’s gratefulness that shifts that.
The book that I showed you, You Are the Placebo, the two keys that he mentions for training that attaching an emotion and belief is meditation and gratitude. It’s not rocket science. It’s simple. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it’s simple. One of my favorite definitions for gratitude in the mentoring program I do, shout out to Good City Mentors, is that “Gratitude is finding the good.” It’s simple, sweet and true. How can we find the good? Anybody who is creating anything and putting out into the world, there are perceptions of us and of our work. What do you think are common misperceptions of you or the work that you put out or produce?
I want to say that there aren’t many, which is nice. A funny one was when I started wearing more colors, someone was like, “Bring back the black.” People think I like white, which I do. That was a good visual perception of like, “Why are you wearing color?” I was like, “I pulled that off. How do I look?” I did a tour and I only wore a coat. There’s a visual perception. This might be switching your question a little bit but, a friend of mine, we’re both artists and I was talking to her about how it’s strange to me. When you know someone online, whatever that means, and your friends and you see how they present themselves online and you meet them and they’re different, it makes me go crazy. I’m like, “What?”
I’m not saying necessarily a façade of people do on purpose, but maybe its other things like social anxiety, I get that. I understand the mental health behind social media and the identity behind that. For me, my biggest personal thing is, the way I talk in my captions and the way I story things, I want it to be me. I’ve had criticism from my team to be less, not be less me, but be less personal. It’s more like, “TRACE, people don’t need to know when your birthday is.” I’m like, “They need to know that I’m obsessed with my birthday. This is who I am.”
For me, the only maybe misperception is I might do dance music because I’m with the dance label. I’m with Ultra, they’re the number one dance label, which is awesome, but I’m not dance strictly musician. That would be a weird, technical misconception of the music I do. I get a lot of weird messages from intense DJs and I’m like, “That’s not me. Have you listened to my work?” I get annoyed about that. That would be a loose misconception. Other than that, people see me as funny and I am. I’m emotional, dramatic and sensitive. People see me that way.
It’s a great goal in life to strive to be fully seen and known by others. It doesn’t have to be fully, but at least seen and known in an accurate way.
It’s because I want people to feel safe. In terms of performing live, in the beginning, I wanted to be mysterious. That’s on me. If you’ve seen me live, I’ve come to the fact that I like to talk and I’m funny. I can’t show up and I’m like, “I’m sorry guys. It’s stand-up, not music.” Humor invites people and I want to invite someone to say hi to me after a show. I never want someone to feel weirded out by me or not want to say hi. I used to want to carry that cool mysterious facade that lasted for fourteen seconds and went away. That’s probably why I’m trying to be more myself because I want people to feel safe.
Have you ever thought about trying the stand-up side?
My best friend who told me to do music, told me to do comedy. I’m like, “You can’t make me do big career things, but I’m open.”
Me and my roommate’s girlfriend, we got him to commit to doing stand-up at least once, for his girlfriend’s birthday. Looking forward, what do you hope for your work and what you create? What do you hope for the future in that?
To be honest, I never wanted to showcase that I was Asian-American and that’s funny. I love being older. I’m Asian. I love being Asian. What is wrong with me? I’m super Americanized. My mom was the opposite of most Asian parents. I had freedom. I never made it to calculus. I was a non-Asian Asian. I grew up taking pride in that. It’s been nice to not because I’m obsessed with being Asian. Also, in culture and society now, we’re in and I say that with a serious tone of like, “I can’t believe we’re finally in. We’re in media. We’re in films. There are more musicians.”
For me, the mark that I want to make, I hope, and I’ve said this in text messages to my management, I want to be truly the first Asian-American woman to be on pop radio. That would be dope. There are some loose Asians out there but I’m Asian. If you think about it, there’s not anyone. I can’t think of anyone. I’m open to someone letting me know, there’s 1 or 2. My favorite moments at shows truly have been young women coming up to me and the first thing they’re asking me is where my family is from like what Asian am I? I would say like, “I’m Vietnamese and Malaysian.”
Most of them are Vietnamese and they’re like, “Us too.” I’m crying in the green room after because they’re cute and they’re sixteen. It sounds cliché, but you don’t know what’s real until you see a reflection of something on a platform. I have one for now. I hope to have one forever. It’s fun to be an Asian-American woman singing cool music on the radio. I hope I make that mark and a lot of things go with that. I would love to win Grammys because for me, it’s showing something to my family if that makes sense. My mom definitely understands the music industry in America it’s different. She understands the Grammy. She’s proud of me, but I would love to show her a Grammy. It’s like win Grammy and headline big festivals. Singing to masses feels ensemble to me but I love it. I could see it and I’m obsessed with it, but I hope to play to more people and bigger crowds.
The peak of my career was getting to play in the Australian Open and getting to play in front of crowds. I did peg a guy. He was next to the rope. I had a bad drive and it smoked him. I felt bad about it, but I gave him a glove. That’s what you live for. It’s special, so I can relate with that. There’s nothing more rewarding than to be able to give people you love something that they love. That’s an awesome goal, especially your mom and that would be cool.
One of the Rumi poems that blew me away was this one where he was talking about the Egyptians versus the Greeks. They were in this art contest. It’s a longer poem, but the basic premise is that, I might have the ethnicities wrong on those people but, the one side came in and lavished it with every color and beautiful thing there is. The other side spent the whole time polishing and making it as clean and pure as possible. When it was revealed next to each other, the one room was spectacular and beautiful, but the other one reflected that in a way that made it ten times more beautiful because it was clean and vivid.
The point is the reflection of beauty is more beautiful. It made me think of that and it’s a profound truth. That’s part of the process of creating is reflecting. The last thing I wanted to learn too was there are often misperceptions from people about the non-glamorous nature of this type of career path and these choices. What did you not necessarily expect coming into where you are now? What did you maybe not perceive or know was going to be a part of the journey? Where do you see yourself now?
A lot of musicians who are reading will probably laugh at this, I did not know things took that long and it’s not even that long, but I feel annoyed. I had a strong start and it’s fine, it started to stabilize. I have had an incredible start and it had a lot to do with the music, but also where the world was with streaming is different now. Spotify when I was sixteen versus now is crazy. There’s way more music now. I would say the timing is interesting. It goes back to truly your career is yours and no one else’s and it’s possible. There are lots of possibilities. You can pop off with a song. You could pop off ten years later like Portugal, The Man. I’ve loved them for a while but people are just learning about them and I’m like, “Hilarious.” It’s crazy. For me, it’s learning that things take time and good things take time. I’m patient and I’m efficiency-driven. I’m like, “I don’t want to play Coachella at 50.”
There’s something about 7 to 10 years. Robert Greene talks about in his book, Mastery. The more I’ve heard about it, it’s a common number and it’s not by chance. That’s not a coincidence. That’s a correlation in my mind. It is a process. We all think that way. You’re part of being human. One of the things your friends often said, and that’s even true in getting to know you a little bit, is some of your greatest strengths. One of my favorite things to ask people is describe someone in two words. Here are some of the words: prophetic, dove, creative, excellence, truthful, ascetic, angel determined, unique, rich, courageous and sassy. I thought those were good.
The other thing I’d ask is about people’s superpower. The two common themes that were repeated multiple times were a superpower of both speaking and of seeing. The superpower of speaking into people’s lives and using your words in a way in your songs and your life in communicating that perspective and the other is seeing through you. One of the connections said that, “She can, in an instant, see-through your motives, what you’re about and if she’s going to have you in her life or not.” I feel honored that you’re having a couple of hours here with me. We made it past the first date. What is it with you and the perceptions of people? What helps you truly see people for who they are? Would you agree with some of those personal assessments?
I’ve always been proud of my ability to have people trust me quickly in a short amount of time. That’s a part of the equation of seeing people. I don’t want to sound redundant, but it is looking at someone’s spirit and I know when someone is off. In LA some people want to get ahead. When I think about the people in my life, I feel I’ve gotten to know them quickly and seeing them with ease is what has been shared with me in such a small amount of time. I’m always a little appalled by the rate of intimacy. This has a lot to do with I hope my ability to make people feel comfortable and seen because of humor. That relates to my last song that I released which is about humor. Humor ties people together and it makes you feel close. I probably exude that when I meet someone.
In the past, people wouldn’t see me as the warmest girl. I feel like I invite people to show me who they are, even if it’s not good, and then I make my decision and I leave or not. It’s my posture, people feel comfortable around me, I hope. That’s probably how I see people. I’m sure in my younger years, it was easy to judge people and write them off too soon. I’ve learned the hard way and being humbled and being like, “You’re using the wrong gauge to look at people.” The word confession keeps coming up to me. I’m amazed by how many people trust me and say things that they don’t feel judged by. I have my beliefs and I have my things, but I’m grateful that people would never have felt judged by me.
One of my favorite quotes is, “An open mind is not an empty one.” I was in Trader Joe’s and I was wearing a shirt that said, “Choose Love.” Shout out to Character Strong, a group I’m part of. There was the free sample girl. She asked me, “What does it mean to choose love for you?” I thought it was a profound question. I’m curious, what does choosing love mean for you?
It’s to choose someone’s good over the bad. Without getting into what this means, but I feel like loving someone isn’t necessarily approving. Choosing love is to know and trust that there’s something greater working in people. It’s like, if someone is doing something terrible, you can still love them. Love is choosing to be nonsensical about things and knowing that love is a healer. Love will break through some terrible things and knowing that there’s a power working in that decision you’re making beyond the typical response or beyond the worldly reactions. Choosing love is choosing a good over bad.
I didn’t have a great answer at the time. We talked about a bunch of other things, more about what the group was and what their purpose was. I left Trader Joe’s and I was like, “I never answered her.” Honestly, the simplest answer that I would want to give would be to prefer the other. It’s similar. It’s like, “I’m going to prefer the other.” That’s a choice. It’s usually making a powerful choice, meaning it’s not one that you want to naturally make a lot of the times. A few one-offs here but this has been a blast. What brings you joy in life?
Good food, wine, friends, people, gray weather like when it’s rainy I’m thrilled. I love a cold gray walk. I love food.
Give me your top three meals.
My favorite meal is steak.There is a freedom in stepping into something with literally no expectation. Click To Tweet
Ribeye. I love sushi and probably anything my mom cooks. She makes the best Vietnamese food.
Do you share some of mom’s cooking skills?
I’m a decent cook. It’s difficult to cook Vietnamese foods, especially with a Vietnamese mom, meaning she doesn’t have cookbooks. She’ll be like, “You do this and do that.” I’m like, “What did you do? I don’t know what you did.” It’s definitely harder but I’m learning.
What question do you ask yourself the most?
What kind of woman were you now? What would they say about you? Whether if it’s a session I have or interacting with my roommates or talking to my family or friends. I want the people to know I’m a good woman.
That’s such a great question to ask both for men and women because there’s something that’s powerful about recognizing that like, “What kind of man was I now?” It’s calling you to something, but it’s also questioning whether you’re lining up with that thing.
It opens up other important things like, what motivations did I have in those moments and what was my goal or purpose or reasoning.
If you could give a TED Talk, what would it be on and why?
I would love to give a TED Talk. It would probably be about not believing lies. Our thought life is crazy. The headline would be like, “Don’t follow your heart,” which is interesting. Follow your dreams, but don’t follow your heart. There’s a lot of thought life that we adhere to that is filled with noise and lies. I would try to talk about that.
I would eat that up.
Why you should date me is probably another TED talk I would do.
Maybe that’s your first stand-up set. I feel you’d kill that. What new habit or belief has most positively impacted you or your life?
It’s probably knowing I don’t have to save everyone. I don’t have to be everyone’s emergency contact.
Relieving yourself of the burden.
Maybe saying no. I say no all the time, but I feel there’s a new no these days that I’ve learned to say.
What book or books have had the biggest impact on you?
I like East of Eden. I’m reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Instead being present, I’m not present. I love the future. I’m like, “This is fine.” I keep thinking about 2020 like a weirdo, reading that book has reminded me that there is gratitude in presence and vice versa.
One of the other questions I sometimes ask people is what do you feel most connected to, past, present or future? Would you say the future?
It’s the future. I see my life all the time, which is not healthy.
What’s the cost of being more future?
It’s dangerous to forget where you came from. It’s dangerous to forget what is. I would hate to miss the pouring of blessings because my eyes are elsewhere. I don’t want to miss a thing. A friend of mine had been saying that a lot like, “I don’t want to miss it.” You can miss it if you keep looking ahead.
Last question and I ask this of every guest, if you could send a morning text reminder to every Up and Comer out there, what would you say and why? They’d get this text message every morning as a reminder.
It would be a voice note because you can hear my love in the voice and the tone. I would say that there is no time to believe that you’re anything other than good, and that you have a place on Earth, and what you do matters and to surround yourself with people who know that about you as well.
TRACE, this has been a blast.
That was fun.
Where should people find you?
You can find me on the internet I’m @TRACE on Instagram and then Listen to TRACE everywhere else. I’m trying to get TRACE everywhere else, but it’s a common name. If you would come on down on my Instagram, that would be great because I’d love to see you.
Until next time, thanks so much for coming on, TRACE.
Thanks for having me.
For all you reading, we hope you have an up and coming week.
- You Are the Placebo
- Good City Mentors
- Character Strong
- East of Eden
- The Power of Now
- Listen to TRACE
- @TRACE – Instagram
Synth-pop singer/songwriter TRACE has been on everyone’s radar for her warm vocals, electronic sounds, and effortless mix of pop and R&B.
The likes of Stereogum, Pigeons and Planes, and Indie Shuffle can’t get enough of her and she just premiered her debut EP ‘Low’ on Spotify.
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