on my childhood education:
I had pretty much the best upbringing anyone could ask for. My family spent a lot of time together, which is impressive considering that both my mom and dad worked. They introduced us to everything they could think of, from national parks to symphonies, and encouraged any affinity or talent that we showed. But some things were not negotiable: each of us had to study art and music to some extent, play some sports, be proficient at writing and public speaking, and perform well in all subjects in school (Taiwanese education was quite rigorous, so my folks figured straight As in America should be a cakewalk for their kids). My dad has a particular love of math and physics, so we got a healthy dose of that on Saturday afternoons as well. The general philosophy, I think, was to develop an appreciation for all knowledge, and the skills to walk through the world with some confidence.
Because education was so important to my parents, they found a lot of great instructors and mentors for us. I had some really inspiring English teachers, speech & debate coaches, science teachers, history teachers. I felt especially close to my second piano teacher, who opened up all kinds of worlds to me both musically and in general. (As I think I mentioned in the first Q&A last May, he was the first to ask the simple question "Why not?" when I told him what I wanted to do with my life. I wonder if my folks are kicking themselves now for paying by the hour for that kind of advice.) on starting to write music:
When I was six I wrote my first song very innocently, in that way kids do: I just thought, I'm gonna try that. There were notes on the page of my Beginning Classics book, which translated to the notes I was supposed to play on the piano, but who said I had to play what was on the page all the time? What if I decided for myself what order they should go in, for a change? I banged around until it sounded kind of nice, and then I did it a few more times until I could remember how it went. And there it was: Opus 1 No. 1.on how Bro and Sis feel about all this:
They definitely find it amusing more than anything. Like a lot of my friends, they think it's cool but they also can't figure out what the big deal is. My brother was an RA his senior year in college and several of his residents were fans, so I think he got tired of passing on requests for autographed CDs. "Celebrity by proximity ain't all that," he said. And my sister's dance teacher choreographed Unwritten Letter #1 for one of the school's recitals, which was pretty surreal for both of us...on major labels, and why I would/wouldn't work with one:
Let's see...I don't want to say anything I'll have to retract later in my career.
Some clarification first: while I was completely independent, I didn't get any offers from major labels. I just wasn't putting myself out there enough for industry to notice (last I checked, A&R people don't go to coffeehouses in Silicon Valley much). Virt Records was a windfall in every sense. Michael Tarlowe heard Waking Hour tracks on the Internet, emailed me asking for a CD, and travelled to the Bay Area to see a show. It was a leap of faith to sign me. And it all took off from there.
I have turned down opportunities to work with certain people and organizations since then, but that's nothing special the music business. Sometimes people are just working toward different goals, and you have to make sure the people around you believe in the same things you do. I don't write instant chart-topper hits; I'm not looking for a fast track to fame and fortune; I don't want it to be about some manufactured exoticism ("check out the alluringly mysterious Asian girl!"). I'm just trying to make good music of a certain kind, to earn an audience honestly, and to be as real and classy about the whole thing as possible. The people who truly understand and support that idea are the people I'll work with -- major label or independent, industry bigwig or hardworking underdog. That's been the approach of many successful artists, and I'm trying to follow their example.