Finding success in the singer-songwriter genre may prove to be challenging when the music industry has been shifting toward a more electronic sound production. Yet intimate vocals and relaxed guitar fingerpicking can also move people, as LA-based Priscilla Ahn learned when she rose to fame in 2009 for her song Dream, which features hush harmonies and a sweet harmonica solo.
“I feel lucky to have so many people reach out to me and tell me how that song helped them through a hard time, and still get these messages from people many years later. It makes me feel thankful to this song. It gives me courage and strength to keep writing,” says Ahn, who wrote and recorded a theme song for Studio Ghibli film, When Marnie Was There, which was released in 2014.
Although it surprised her at first, the Korean American Ahn began to embrace that her fan base also included kids, according to her friends whose children kept requesting this song on her 2008 debut album A Good Day.
Ahn’s ability to write lullabies, such as Dream, foreshadowed what she could do in her upcoming self-released kids’ album, La La La, which will be available in the US on October 28. The experience of raising her child, the 10-month-old River, inspired her to put together a 12-song record, which she calls a mixtape with some originals and cover songs. La La La, with a target audience from newborns to five year olds, recently won a Family Choice Award. Coloring sheets, designed by artist Ros Lee, are also included in the physical copy of the album.
The songs, ranging from calm reveries to upbeat tempos, can match a kid’s particular mood or activity on any given day.
“I hope it’s a fun album to play in the background in the car. Some songs will make them want to dance, some songs will make them want to fall asleep. I know the lullabies on the album help my son fall asleep in the car. If it can spark imagination and inspiration in them, that’s the ultimate honor for me and my songs,” Ahn says.
She collaborated with Japan-based band Lullatone, a personal favorite, to write two songs, Oyasumi and Body Sounds.
“Body Sounds is the most child-like song on the album. It’s trying to get kids to clap and make sounds with their body,” Ahn says.
Intentional in her songwriting choices, Ahn hopes that parents will also enjoy La La La because she knows they may be listening to her songs on repeat with their children.
She says that she stripped away some of the emotion from All By Myself to make it into a kid-friendly cover about the feeling of being lost in a big world. The ukulele and floating xylophone notes accompany her vocals, creating a soothing effect to the listener.
She taps into her own childhood experiences to write the album. “I wanted songs that were about real feelings. I remember kids having real feelings… things aren’t so black and white,” Ahn says.
Ahn has a modest but effective strategy to promote her album. She wants people to share her music through word-of-mouth and give mothers her CD as gifts.
She says that she might do some kid-friendly shows, but for now she has two scheduled live performances: Oct. 19 at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco, and Oct. 21 at the Largo in Los Angeles.
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