By: Emily Algar, Regular Contributor
Priscilla Ahn spent her childhood in Pennsylvania living with her American father and Korean mother. She started playing guitar at age 14, performing in choirs and taking part in musical productions during high school. Ahn spent her evenings and weekends travelling up to 80 miles in her car to open–mic nights in Philadelphia and New York, where she met fellow musicians and found the whole experience liberating.
Ahn had originally considered going to college to study music, but a teacher who oversaw her audition suggested that she take another route. “The music professor really got me. He knew that I played guitar and wrote songs and called me up at home and said, ‘maybe you should think about not going to school right now and pursuing song writing a career.’ I really thought about it and finally took his advice. And it changed my life.”
She moved to Los Angeles, attending as many open-mic nights as possible. Ahn also did a brief stint as a waitress, but it nearly killed her dream. “My songs were coming out jaded and cynical,” says Ahn. Luckily, a previous acquaintance Ahn had made when she was interning at Blue Note Records came through.
Amos Lee, (a recent Music Mondays featured artist and a member of the Blue Note family) had been one her most loyal fans since the beginning when she had been an intern at the label. He had urged his label to keep an eye on her and arranged for his A&R man to go and meet her. Ahn was asked to do a showcase for the label in New York, and as they say, the rest is history.
Since then she has released two studio albums, A Good Day (2008) and When You Grow Up (2011) as well as a cover album of Japanese songs and a number of EPs. Ahn has toured with Joshua Radin, Willie Nelson, Ray Lamontagne, and Amos Lee; the latter two having asked her to contribute vocals on their albums. Her songs have appeared on Grey’s Anatomy and the Ghost Whisperer as well as in films like Love Happens and My Sisters Keeper.
Priscilla Ahn’s third album, which is due out the end of this month, entitled This Is Where We Are is a little bit of a departure from her previous two records. The album is full of instrumentation, with elements of electronica woven throughout, particularly on the lead track Diana. This change in direction shouldn’t put off her loyal fans who love her for her simplicity and folk song melodies. The album is beautiful and contains elements of Asian music particularly on Wedding March, reflecting her time spent in Korea and Japan over the past few years.
The standout track is "Remember How I Broke Your Heart." Never has the state of Ohio sounded so hauntingly sad. The song had originally been released as part of a two track EP with more of a distorted sound. However the version that appears on the album is purely Priscilla, her guitar and piano. The track chronicles a bad break up which takes place in a parking lot of motel, with both characters reciting the damage they have done to each other over the course of a relationship. The song reaches its crescendo in it’s final verse with Ahn singing “But I stopped first in Oregon/ Met a man who almost let me go/ Four years later he married me/ I am happier than I dreamed I’d be/ So you see I had to let you go/ In a phone call from Ohio."
Where We Are Now perfectly showcases Ahn’s exquisite vocals and poetic song writing, whilst at the same time you can hear the growth and experimentation in the style and instrumentation. Ahn mixes in all her influences into the melting pot and you get a wonderful and layered musical journey.
Enjoy "Torch Song" by Priscilla Ahn and be sure to check out all the grooves on I AM THAT GIRL's Music Monday's playlist, updated each week!
Featured image via seattletimes.com