Priscilla Ahn could be considered the musical equivalent of an old soul.
“I like things that have some age and wisdom to them,” she said. From friends and lovers to music and instruments, Ahn, 25, said she’s drawn to older things, influences easily apparent in the young Pennsylvanian multi-instrumentalist’s sound. “When I write my songs, I’m really more prone to creating warmer tones for my guitar and voice.”
Those vocal tones, youthfully pure but sung with an aged confidence, however oxymoronic, mark her solo debut A Good Day. But the album, a cross section of light folk-pop numbers, may not have had its effect had Ahn let early outsider advice steer her career.
“In the beginning, I had a lot of people telling me what songs were supposed to sound like and how you’re supposed to write,” she said. Frustrated by trying to create in such a “box of guidelines,” Ahn soon abandoned the outlook of others. “I’m going to write songs the way I want to write them, whether or not they have choruses at all or six verses ... whatever. It’s an art form and it’s meant to be creative.”
That’s not to say Ahn doesn’t draw inspiration from others and develop it for herself. She calls whistling Chicago folk rocker Andrew Bird a hero, who mobilized her when she saw him open for Ani DiFranco, using a loop machine live. “It was just so inspiring seeing him loop his violin and build his orchestra around him. It made me think I could do that with my voice.”
Ahn’s own loop machine nearly became a closet fixture when, a few months prior, she unsuccessfully attempted to loop her guitar. But, missing the sound of group vocals she enjoyed when she used to sing in choirs, she reconsidered the tool to layer harmonies. Now, it’s a fixture when she performs on stage.
“Now, when I write songs, I try to incorporate that,” she said. “It just adds another layer to the whole live show and makes it really fun for me on stage, too.”
And it’s fun Ahn is focused on instead of fame, like some fellow young female solo artists. While her music has appeared on the television show Grey’s Anatomy and the film Disturbia and she’s made appearances on Jay Leno and Carson Daly, she’s just excited to have her music heard, aiming to remain grounded and make a living making music.
“Other people strive to be famous,” she said. “I never really had that bone in me.”
On the web
Priscilla Ahn plays
• Toronto: the Drake Hotel Underground on Aug. 19.
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