What is your inspiration and motivation to release your first album with only Vietnamese music?

I wanted to record something personal, something close to my heart as my debut album. Coming from Vietnam, I grew up listening to Vietnamese music my whole life. It is only appropriate to record an album with only Vietnamese music as my first album. Also, after touring in the USA and Canada for the past few years, the reaction from the audience for the Vietnamese repertoire was always very positive. So, that was my motivation to bring this music to a more diverse audience.

While young generations tend to be attracted to modern music genres, do you think the first album with all traditional music is a risky move?

I don’t think so. First of all, being a musician is already a risky move. I love what I do and I am passionate about it. I think as artists, we have to voice our opinions and follow what we love. This is what allows us to have diversity in the first place. That’s the only way to create connections and reach the kind of audience that will listen to your art. I grew up with traditional Vietnamese songs and I feel that I should express that. We have to remember that before all the modern Vietnamese music, there were traditional folk songs that had existed long before. So as an artist of this era I want to bring that to the attention of the various generations.

What is your intention to structure your album with a long intro song, around 14 minutes? What stories are carried by this arrangement?

This is completely intentional. I wanted to introduce the audience right away to the heart of the traditional Vietnamese culture. This piece is based on a traditional folk tale of Thánh Gióng, (English equivalent: The Legend of the Bamboo Child). This is an epic legend of a child leaping out of a crib and within a few years, became a giant to defeat the invaders. Of course, the whole story is much longer than that, but that’s the idea. The composer The-An Nguyen wrote this piece intending to tell this story in 7 movements. You can hear how it progresses over 14 minutes of music with various emotions, ranging from lullaby-like harmony to a full of tension (or dissonance in musical term) or to put it simply “something is not right” kind of harmony. I think it does an amazing job of telling this folk tale..

What is your plan to promote the album while COVID-19 is happening?

To be honest, it is really hard. I had a tour scheduled to promote this album but of course, that is not going to happen anytime soon anymore. So I’m promoting it mainly through various social media outlets and getting it reviewed by different blogs, journals, or magazines.

As a Vietnamese living abroad, how important is Vietnamese culture to you?

It is probably the most important! My culture is who I am and it is my identity. Maybe one of the things I miss the most is speaking Vietnamese. Luckily, there is a great Vietnamese community here in Chicago and when we can, we get together to eat and catch up on the latest updates in Vietnamese.