So many great questions. I'm trying to take the time to answer them truthfully.
If this is your first time on the forum, by the way, welcome.
Or maybe some of the more frequent participants should be saying "welcome," not me...on having an Asian-American fan base:
That's a tricky one for me. Very tricky. I'm not sure how I feel about showing up at a gig and noticing that most of the audience is Asian. It happens frequently. On the one hand I can understand it; I went to see Better Luck Tomorrow
simply because there has never been a film made by Asian-Americans that got so much mainstream media attention. So I realize that a lot of Asians are intrigued by the sheer novelty of what I'm doing, and if/when they find out the music is actually something they like, they're all the more compelled to tell their friends about it. So that's the natural word-of-mouth network that's developed, and I'm definitely grateful for their support. On the other hand, I'm writing music that I think (I hope!) a lot of different kinds of people can connect with, not just Asians; I hope those other people have found me too, and will continue to discover what I'm doing. And I hope that having a large part of my fan base being Asian won't be intimidating to them, somehow. A fellow recently said to me at a show: "Geez, I'm like the only white guy here!" He said it laughingly, of course, but it made me think. I don't want there to be any undertone of exclusiveness, however subtle or unintentional. I don't want anyone to come to one of my concerts and feel like he or she doesn't belong there.
There's also the responsibility aspect. One of the songs that almost made it onto Warm Strangers
was called "In My Arrival," sort of my preemptive strike against being "claimed" by the Asian-American community. The second verse begins: "I am not your spotlight haven/I am not your passionate voice..." I'm wary of being a representative of Chinese America, or being a role model for others of my ethnicity. But whether I'm comfortable with it or not, that's slowly what I'm becoming, in some people's minds. I do think that if I succeed at this, along with other creative Asian-Americans, it may help expand certain parents' narrow ideas of what their children can or should do with their lives. It would be nice if a career in the arts were considered equally legitimate to a career in medicine, or electrical engineering. A society thrives when individuals are allowed to do what they do best. If I can help that along, in however small a way, that can only be a good thing.
Hmm. I don't think I answered the original question, which was "how does this affect your music or what you do?" It doesn't really, in short. I still make whatever music I want to make (or, more accurately, what I'm inspired to create — something that's not entirely in my control). The only example I can think of is the decision to make the Green Island Serenade a hidden track, rather than a listed song on the back of the CD. I didn't want to make a big deal out of the fact that I was singing in Mandarin. It's a song my parents taught me, and a beautiful piece of writing; I wanted to try covering it, that was all. But even putting it on the album has drawn attention: reviewers often make note of it, and when I perform at radio stations they usually request it. I'm still trying to figure out how to walk the line, how to acknowledge my heritage without "playing the race card." So, yeah. Tricky.