By Mimi Chen, AsAmNews Music Correspondent
He’s your stereotypical over-achieving Asian. He attended Juilliard, graduated from Princeton, obtained a PhD in philosophy and is now a full-fledged practicing attorney in New York City. A few days ago, Andrew Choi found himself named an “Artist We Need To Know” according to Rolling Stone Magazine. AsAmNews sat down to talk with Choi, otherwise known as St. Lenox. He’s definitely not your average rock star.
Why the name St. Lenox?
Choi was attending law school at New York University and at one point, fell asleep on the subway. Waking up, he found himself in the heart of Harlem at the subway station of 148th and Lenox. Because of the way it was printed, with the abbreviation of street from 148th situated right before Lenox, he thought it would be cool to call his band “St. Lenox” even though the saint part of the name originally came from the street part of the 148th Street subway station. But there is no real band. Truthfully, it’s all been a solo project produced by Choi.
Choi studied violin at Juilliard pre-college, but the instrument is not a big part of St. Lenox. Mercurial and dramatic changes of pace seem to denote Choi’s style. As a freshman at Princeton, he notes, “I showed up on the Princeton campus and the orchestra conductor called and he’s like so? And I was like, I’m sorry, I’m really not interested (in playing in the orchestra).”
He attributes singing at karaoke clubs as part inspiration for him pursuing a side career as a musician during his last year as a graduate student in Philosophy at Ohio State. Due to the lack of jobs open for philosophy professors, he decided to go to law school and become a litigator. He enjoys being an attorney and realizes it helps fund his passion for music.
He readily admits writing songs comes easy for him. Unlike other songwriters, he notes, “I can be on the subway and I can write a song about things that others find mundane. Such as grocery shopping. There are other artists who sit around wondering about what to write about, waiting for meaningful stuff. But there are things out there in the world waiting to be written about.”
While he joked about writing about grocery shopping, he actually did write a song that touched on that subject featured on his latest album Ten Songs of Worship and Praise for Our Tumultuous Times.
“I went to the grocery store and there are all these things that are there. And there’s a way of looking at that such as how does that relate to the food in my life and how does that relate to other interactions that I’ve had.” The song is called Kroger Twilight he explained and it was about grocery shopping at night. He explained he can be enthusiastic about minutiae that other songwriters miss out on, especially when it comes to all the subtle nuances about everyday life.
He admits he’s a singer-songwriter who doesn’t tour, although he will, on occasion, put a band together for a gig. From an artistic standpoint, he’s adamant that he can put out a great record and doesn’t need to tour to prove that. “I don’t understand why I need to tour, from an artistic standpoint, because I can go to open mics where people can see me.” he stated.
Because he’s not involved in the total musician lifestyle, he thinks being a person with a regular job is a plus for the kinds of songs he writes. “I’m working a regular job that I have to work at. I have responsibilities and it’s not about me. I think that it’s important to have that perspective as opposed to musicians who have a life where that’s what it’s all about. Just being a musician.” Because he works a 9 to 5 job, he notes, “Look, I’m saying different things than what other musicians would write about.”
Now touted as an “Artist You Need To Know” in one of the premier music publications, Rolling Stone, he’s proud of the recognition the article gave him.
“Imposter syndrome doesn’t really affect me.” he said. “I will continue to pursue music and record albums the way I have always done.”
When you’ve attended Juilliard, have a PhD in Philosophy and a law degree, he notes, “why shouldn’t I receive the acclaim?”
Listen to St. Lenox here on Spotify:
AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our new Instagram account. Go to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff, or submitting a story or making a contribution.