From Keith Urban to The Voice: Christine Wu Can Throw Down and Do a Hoedown

Meet the multi-hyphenate musician who can “throw down and do a hoedown” with the best of ‘em, from Keith Urban to The Voice‘s latest champ. Story by Jimmy Lee.

Back in June, Christine Wu’s workweek started on Monday with a violin performance on the penultimate episode of NBC’s The Voice. On Wednesday, she was part of the band backing the newly crowned The Voice champ, Danielle Bradbery, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, where viewers watched the cameras zoom in on Wu for a close-up during a fiddle solo. Her Thursday night gig was at the L.A. International Airport, playing with an orchestra at a special gala for local big- wigs, including the mayor, to preview a new terminal.

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Just another atypical week at the office for the violinist, cellist, pianist, composer, producer and dancer.

But at one time, it was a rather conventional narrative — all too familiar to many Asian American children — for this daughter of a Taiwanese father who came to the U.S. and met her German American mother in grad school: Her parents forced her to play the violin, starting at the age of 2.

“I’m half-Asian; it’s my biological imperative to either play the piano or the violin before you can properly walk or speak,” says Wu, just one of many wisecracks that come from the irreverent 36-year-old. Despite wanting to quit, she exhibited a high musical aptitude, adding the cello and the piano to her repertoire by age 5. “My mother, she was trying to take the fun out of everything. She said, ‘That’s really great you can play Beethoven by ear, but you’re probably doing it wrong, so you need lessons.’”

Wu, who was born in Germany and moved frequently throughout the U.S. due to her physicist father’s jobs, was now required to practice all three instruments, every day, which cut into her playtime. So at 5 years old, Wu would wake up at 5 a.m., practice each instrument for half and hour and then go to school. “I was like my own tiger mother. I was like, ‘How can I game the system if I want to be free after school?’ I have to get up early.”

While a music undergrad at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, her jazz friends encouraged her to do something she thought she couldn’t do: improvise. That obstacle, too, was overcome. Now “I can jam or do whatever, and I love it,” says Wu. “It’s brought me some great opportunities.”

She’s supported famed singer-songwriter Paul Anka and Bollywood icon A.R. Rahman, traveling to far-flung places such as Uruguay and South Africa for concerts. Her talents have been displayed on American Idol and Dancing With The Stars. She’s even backed Billy Ray Cyrus. “Who knew that Asian nerd could throw down and do a hoedown?” jokes Wu, on playing behind the country crooner of “Achy Breaky Heart.” It worked out well because the next week Keith Urban’s people called her to play a fiddle part on one of his recordings.

Wu seems to take special delight in upending people’s expectations, like with Kenny Loggins. “He looks at me and he’s like, ‘I don’t think so,’ because … I’m Asian. [Loggins thinks] ‘she has to read music, and she can’t groove.’ But [his managers] are like, ‘Just give her a chance.’ So I get up there and do the thing, and I get the gig,” recounts Wu.

“I really have met a lot of my idols and worked with them. I would have never guessed, listening to [Loggins’] ‘Danny’s Song’ over and over again in high school, that I would be on stage with the guy, playing it in front of 8,000 people in Vegas.”

But getting to this point where she’s an in-demand session musician, who also composes commercial jingles, writes her own artsy pop songs and produces music videos, would not have been possible if she hadn’t gone against her dad’s wishes. After earning a graduate degree at the University of Southern California, she landed a full-time position with the Houston Symphony, beating out dozens of other violinists. “That was my straight job,” says Wu. “That was the job my dad wanted me to have, [with] tenure, benefits, job security.” But after five years in Houston, she made the move to Los Angeles in 2007 to devote her attention to working for herself.

“He still asks me if I’m making enough money, like my regular salary,” says Wu. “I tell my dad I make more money than I ever was working for the symphony. But then he says you have no job security. [I tell him] nobody does anymore. But he sees that I’m happy and making it work.”

Photo by Michael Becker. Originally published in the Fall 2013 issue of Audrey Magazine. Get the issue here.

Sandy Vu of SISU = the New Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs?

I think I have a new female rock star crush – and she goes by Sandy Vu. While fans of Karen O might find some similarities between Vu and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs lead singer, I think Vu has something going on for herself. She’s still in your face like Karen O, but does it in a manner that gets under your skin in a more subtle way. Did I also mention she’s also incredibly gorgeous?

Formerly of the group The Dum Dum Girls, Vu branched off for a solo venture as SISU. Catch the artist’s first single “Harpoons” off her upcoming solo debut album, BloodTears (which will be released on September 17). You can watch the music video for “Harpoons” below!

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G-Dragon Stages a “Coup D’Etat” With Lydia Paek, Sky Ferreira and Other Major Music Stars

Just days after his show-stopping, electrifying performance with Missy Elliott in Los Angeles, K-Pop heavyweight G-Dragon released five out of 14 slated tracks from his upcoming album, “COUP D’ETAT,” scheduled for full digital release on September 5th.  Besides Missy, “COUP D’ETAT PT. 1″ showcases a star-studded list of musical collaborations, including “Black” featuring indie sweetheart Sky Ferreira, “R.O.D.” with YG producer and former Quest Crew member Lydia Paek, and “Coup D’Etat,” the album’s first single, with producers Diplo and Baauer.   With this star-studded list of impressive team-ups and creative, diverse productions, GD is establishing himself as an international music force, and we can’t help but smile at this singer-songwriter-producer-rapper’s cross-continental success.

Immediately upon release, GD found himself in an interesting musical competition on the charts; two of his title tracks, the old-school “Who You?” (admittedly, one of my favorites) and the cool slow jam “Black” competed for the top spot on the Melon charts.  In addition, all of the released songs took up the first five spots on both the Mnet and Naver charts, a true display off the star’s immense popularity.

This little taste of GD’s new music has undoubtedly piqued our interest that much more in the hallyu megastar.  His releases, including 2009′s Heartbreaker and last year’s One of a Kind, are always an auditory adventure, definitely straying away from the majority of songs on both the K-Pop and American Top 40 scenes.  To say that we’re wanting more is definitely an understatement.

Countdown to KCON 2013 | Music Post: Your Crash Course of this Year’s Acts!

In just a matter of days, KCON makes its way back the City of Angels to celebrate all things hallyu.  This year’s two-day convention will be filled with workshops and panels and culminate in a star-studded concert and filming of the popular Korean music show, M Countdown.

Excited yet?  We know we are!

But just in case you aren’t yet, us here at Audrey wanted to give you taste of what to expect for this year’s show through our musical go-to guide of some of this year’s featured artists!

 

EXO
The newest boy group to come out of mega-label SM Entertainment (and an Audrey favorite!), EXO is a 12-member Korean-Chinese band made up of two subgroups, EXO-K and EXO-M, who promote in both Korea and China. Though they just debuted last year, they have made a name for themselves in the K-Pop industry, already winning an Mnet Asian Music Award (MAMA) for “Best New Asian Act.”

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For their latest comeback, the two sub-groups have reunited and have gained notice with their cool, R&B-inspired single “Growl.”

“MAMA”

Other notables: “XOXO (Korean Ver.),” “Don’t Go

 

G-DRAGON
Starting his training at YG Entertainment at the tender age of 13, G-Dragon is known as a K-Pop multi-hyphenate as the leader, a rapper and producer of mega-popular boy group Big Bang.  Alongside projects with Big Bang as well as a duo project with fellow Big Bang rapper T.O.P., GD launched his solo career in 2009 with the release of his first album.  After his hugely successful “One of a Kind” world tour this past year, he has recently announced the release of his third solo record, “Coup D’Etat,” which will have a feature from hip-hop heavyweight, Missy Elliott.

“Heartbreaker”

Other notables: “Missing You (ft. Kim Yuna of Jaurim),” “Light It Up (ft. Tablo & Dok2)

 

TEEN TOP
Debuting in 2010 with TOP Media (the media company founded by Andy of K-Pop legends, Shinhwa), Teen Top broke onto the scene with their first single, “Clap.”  With a string of hits under their belt, including “Supa Love” and “Crazy,” the young teen idols will be releasing their new album, “Class,” in the coming weeks.

“Supa Luv”

Other notables: “Clap,” “Be Ma Girl

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F(X)
With a distinct electronic pop sound, f(x) has become known as one of the hottest girl groups in K-Pop today. With songs like “NU ABO,” “Hot Summer,” and “Electric Shock,” the girls are nothing short of a K-Pop powerhouse. Composed of members Luna, Krystal, Amber, Sulli, and Victoria, this SM Entertainment quintet has continued to surprise and delight fans with their unique style.

“Electric Shock”

Other notables: “Nu ABO,” “Hot Summer

 

HENRY
Henry Lau, known just as Henry, is multi-talented member of Super Junior’s Chinese sub-group, Super Junior-M. Knowing a wide range of languages, including English, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese and French, this 23-year old has a penchant for music. He is able to play both the violin and piano and has composed songs. Earlier this year, he released his first solo mini-album, “Trap” and has just released the song “1-4-3” featuring fellow SM Town family member, Amber of f(x).

“Trap”

Other notables: “1-4-3 (Acoustic ft. Chanyeol of EXO),Henry Playing Trap & Chopin on Piano

 

2AM
From JYP/Big Hit Entertainment comes 2AM, a popular ballad group made up of members Seulong, Changmin, Jo Kwon and Jinwoon. Winning their first Mutizen award in 2010 for “Can’t Let You Go Even If I Die,” they have melted hearts with their sweet harmonies and outstanding voices. Earlier this year, they made their Korean comeback with the release of their second full-length album “One Spring Day.

“Can’t Let You Go Even If I Die”

Other notables: “I Was Wrong,” “You Wouldn’t Answer My Call

 

YU SEUNG WOO
At just 16 years old, Yu Seung Woo first began to catch people’s attention when he appeared on Mnet’s popular singing audition program, Superstar K4. His soothing guitar playing and gentle voice have made many a fan, especially on tracks like “You and I” and “Hello,” off of his recently released album, “First Outing.”

“You and I”

Other notables: “TroubleMaker (Cover, starts at 1:02),” “Gangnam Style (PSY Cover, Superstar K4),” “I Love You (2NE1 Cover, ft. Kim Jung Hwan)

 

DYNAMIC DUO
This team, made up of long-time friends Choiza and Gaeko, have become one of the most respected acts in South Korea’s hip-hop scene. Active since 2003, they have released a number of hit albums, including “Taxi Driver” and “Enlightened.”

“Hot Wings (ft. Hyorin of Sistar)”

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Other notables: “Without You,” “Trust Me (ft. Supreme Team)

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MISSY ELLIOTT
As the only female rapper to have six platinum albums, to say that Missy Elliott is a major player in the hip-hop scene is an understatement. A five-time Grammy Award-winner, the rapper-producer-singer-songwriter has sold over 30 million records worldwide. With a discography that boasts six albums and 70 singles (including 43 features), including hits like “Work It,” “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” and “One Minute Man.”  Her connection to the K-Pop scene? She’s recently collaborated on G-Dragon’s latest album, to be released at the end of this month.

“Work It”

Other notables: “Lose Control,” “Get Your Freak On

 

DJ KOO
A former member of ‘90s dance duo Clon, DJ Koo is a popular electro-house DJ who made his debut in 2003. Playing festivals like Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, DJ Koo has demonstrated his immense skill and creativity in arranging, mixing and producing electronic dance hits, even mixing for some of K-Pop’s biggest names including f(x) and SHINee. In 2013, he released his latest single, “BOB BOB DEE LALA.”

Other notables: “K-Pop Shuffle Remix,” “Electric Shock (Intro Remix ft. DJ Koo)

 

HEEJUN HAN
As a finalist on the 11th season of American Idol, Heejun Han caught America’s attention with his soulful voice and funny antics.  Recently singing with Polaris Entertainment in Korea, he will soon be releasing a single in the US entitled “Bring the Love Back” with Pusha T.

Other notables: “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Treasure

 

Who are you most excited to see this year?  Let us know in the comments below!

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At Coachella and Beyond, DJ Maya Jane Coles Can Move a Dance Floor

AFTER COACHELLA, MAYA JANE COLES GETS SET TO RELEASE HER DEBUT ALBUM, COMFORT, IN JULY. By Jimmy Lee, photo by Thomas Knights.

 

When Maya Jane Coles takes her spot in front of her laptop, a mixing board and two turntables at illustrious venues such as the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, her slight, just over 5-foot frame is hard to see behind all that equipment from across a dance floor. You can barely make out her asymmetrical haircut, with the left side of her head shaved close, floating above the top of the MacBook Pro.

But then she drops a house beat and a pre-recorded male voice offers up a brief introduction — “Give it up for Maya Jane Coles” — and immediately there’s no mistaking her presence, because the crowd is soon a dancing frenzy, like the night she deejayed at the downtown Los Angeles club, Exchange L.A., back in March. From just after midnight to well past 1 in the morning, bodies are in constant motion, and overseeing it all, with her head bobbing to the beat, as if nodding in approval of the hip-shaking as well as the lip-kissing between couples that the insistent rhythms seem to engender, is Coles.

Amid today’s landscape of globe-trotting DJs dispensing irresistible dance grooves, Coles is distinguishing herself with the ability to move a dance floor. But being a club DJ isn’t even her primary focus. “I definitely consider myself a writer and producer first and a DJ second, though I couldn’t live with either,” says Coles.

Born in London of British and Japanese ancestry, Coles grew up in a household hearing Jamaican dub and reggae, Brazilian bossanova, French classical and American jazz, courtesy of her music-loving parents. She learned how to play the guitar, drums, cello and saxophone, even though “I’m not great at music theory; I’m better playing instruments by ear,” she says. So Coles taught herself the bass and keyboards, as well as how to use music production software.

By the time she was 15, she was using that knowledge to produce hip-hop and trip-hop tracks. The electronic dance music that she would come to create resulted from a growing girl’s partying ways. “I would say I started making more electronic music after I started going clubbing in East London at around 17,” says Coles.

“I was just really inspired by the music and wanted to create my own take on it,” she adds. “Making music is my favorite thing to do in life; there is nothing I would rather do.”

Coles has remixed artists from Ella Fitzgerald and Florence & The Machine to Massive Attack and Little Dragon. “I just listen to the track and decide if I have a good idea for it that I think can take the track into a new space,” she says. “Where possible I try to be respectful of the original, too.”

She has also crafted recordings that forgo the pounding beats of a club track for songs with a more relaxed, seductive vibe. And she’s also applying those keyboard-, guitar- and bass-playing skills to her own original creations, which will be part of her debut album, Comfort, scheduled for a July 1 release.

“It has tracks on it that were started four years ago, to tracks that were literally done a week before mastering,” says Coles. “So it’s been a really long process until I got it to a place that I felt happy enough to draw a line and say, ‘Finished.’”

Comfort will also be released on her own label, called I/AM/ME. “I didn’t have to make concessions creatively,” says Coles. “I like the satisfaction of doing it all myself and knowing I had full control of the outcome. Making an idea in my head come to life or reshaping an idea into something new is the most exciting part of the process for me.”

 

This story was originally published in Audrey‘s Summer 2013 issue. Buy it here.

 

 

Sweet Sounds: Music Picks for Summer 2013

 

Zedd ft. Foxes – “Clarity
This summer’s answer to Avicii’s “Levels.”

Rihanna: “Right Now
Summer hits and Rihanna just go together (“We Found Love,” anyone?). This David Guetta-produced track hits all the right notes and is a perfect summer club hit.

The Neighborhood: “Sweater Weather
Though the title may be misleading, this would fit in seamlessly in any episode of “The O.C.” making it immediately summer-worthy.

Mariah Carey ft Miguel: “#Beautiful
Very “90s Mariah,” “#Beautiful” was one of the first songs of 2013 deemed “summer-worthy.” Miguel’s feature on the track is the perfect compliment to the seemingly effortless vocals of pop music’s reigning Queen. With an earworm of a guitar hook and an easy-to-remember chorus, this will be stuck in your head for days (if it hasn’t done so already).

Fat Joe ft. Ashanti: “What’s Luv
One (of two) 90’s throwback track(s). You know (and love) this track. Don’t lie.

Bruno Mars: “Treasure
Bruno Mars is known for emotional, soulful records (ie “Grenade”, “Locked Out of Heaven,” and “When I Was Your Man”) , but this upbeat throwback track strays away from his previous singles and is pop perfection, just as simple as that.

Jay-Z ft. Nas, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, Swizz Beatz & Timbaland: “BBC
They’re a team made in hip-hop heaven, and this track lives up to the hype that each of these heavy-hitters brings to the table.

2NE1: “Falling in Love
YG Entertainment’s girl group is finally back with this fresh track, just in time for summer (even if the track was originally supposed to be released last year as a follow-up to “I Love You”). With YG planning on releasing more tracks from the girls until October, we’re excited to see what else they have planned up their sleeve.

Jay Park: “JOAH
Challenge: Just try not bopping your head to this K-Pop hit. Just try.  (Like this song?  Check out the Jay Park-approved cover by Quest Crew member and YG Entertainment producer, Lydia Paek.)

Justin Timberlake: “Strawberry Bubblegum (Allure Remix)
When “The 20/20 Experience” came out a few months ago, “Strawberry Bubblegum” was continuously on repeat with its cool R&B feel and Justin’s smooth vocals. French DJ Allure puts a new spin on the song, transforming it into a pop, disco-esque track, perfect for those hot summer nights.

Destiny’s Child: “Say My Name (E-603 Remix)
We didn’t think it was possible, but this mix has made us fall in love again with this classic DC hit (can you believe it was released almost 14 years ago?!). If the heavy bass, smart synth and the girls’ voices don’t pull you in, we don’t know what will.

Though these are some of our picks for the summer, what’s on your playlist this year?

Audrey’s Artist to Watch | Ryan Wang, 5-year-old Piano Prodigy

At the age of five, most of us were learning how to properly write out the alphabet, play duck-duck-goose,  and strategically avoid getting cooties. Ryan Wang on the other hand? This five-year-old piano prodigy was spending his days getting ready for his performance in New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall.

At the age of three, Wang’s parents noticed Ryan’s affinity and natural ability with the keyboard. Without missing a beat, the two decided to send him to piano lessons. While many people would assume that three is far too young an age to adequately master an instrument, Ryan’s talent proved everyone wrong. After a mere year and half of lessons, a prodigy was created. Of course, Carnegie Hall was not the only one to notice this amazing 5-year-old. Ellen Degeneres asked him to come onto the Ellen Show and dazzle her viewers. Clearly, Ryan didn’t disappoint:

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Even more recently, CBC Music Studio invited Ryan to perform in front of his biggest fan, Dorothy. The 101-year-old family friend was touched to discover that Ryan would be performing just for her. Not only does Wang prove to be mature in his musical abilities, he showed quite a bit of emotional maturity. Understanding how important this performance was to Dorothy, Ryan was moved to tears (and brought us all to tears while he was at it):

Easily becoming a prodigy favorite, Ryan Wang is scheduled to tour Italy and China this summer. Be sure to keep an eye out for this amazingly talented young man.

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The Voice’s Judith Hill dishes about her style

Judith Hill: Those are my own clothes! I actually found that fringe at a store in Sherman Oaks. It’s a fun, poppy, nice introduction. Because it was my first performance on The Voice, I wanted people to know that I’m into fashion, textures and patterns.

 

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Judith Hill: That was for the Nina Simone song “Feeling Good.” To me, that song is one of the most powerful songs in music history. I wanted to feel like I was this woman that represented all women in the world. I could be from Asia or Africa or any part of the world. I wanted to be like Queen Aphrodite in a long dress with the Asian hair coming out, [singing] a down-to-earth, soulful, bluesy cry from the soul.

I loved the long neck coming up. I wanted it to feel very exotic and high fashion at the same time. That’s always my thing: runway styles interpreted in artistic ways. And then when I came out of the audience, spotlight on me, all a capella, I wanted it to feel like a hush came over the room and it’s quiet. But because it was The Voice, everyone was screaming. [laughs]

 

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Judith Hill: This was the Michael Jackson “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Again, I wanted to strut that high fashion, structured look, but also have it be very fun, edgy and unique.  That hairstyle was something I emailed to the wardrobe department.

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I saw it on the runway, and I really loved it because it was so avant-garde. There were these two circles. And that’ s my thing: I love shapes in fashion. I love weird shapes and weird cuts anywhere. Any time I see a circle or triangle, I’m excited.

 

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Judith Hill: [for her performance of "#thatPOWER"] That was the most epic. That thing was so hard to wear! It was made out of hard material that bendable but very tough. It was all silver feathers in a cape that went all the way down. We found it in a showroom. I told them I wanted this to very tribal. High-fashion tribal. I wanted to be the Queen of the Amazon jungle. I wanted to feel like I was a goddess that was putting on this crazy rock concert in the middle of the ancient ruins.

The hair came from a picture I found online of that exact thing with the cornrows on the side and a huge afro. This is actually more tapered down. The one I sent was even crazier. I figured it was also very tribal and African, but rock star at the same time.

 

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Judith Hill: This was my last week [on The Voice], when I sang “Sweet Nothing” with Michelle Chamuel. That was just a simple classy look. It’s my natural hair look, how I usually wear it, plus a simple structured suit.

 

And an extra photo from Judith Hill’s Facebook page.

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Judith Hill: That’s me and my brother. He looks so much more Asian than me in this picture! [laughs] We look the same now. He plays the drums, but he’s an engineer. He’s the one in the family who decided to get a real job.

2NE1′s Official Comeback

You read correctly! The long-awaited 2NE1 comeback is now officially set for July of this year. Founder and Chief Executive Officer of YG Entertainment, Yang Hyun Suk, personally confirmed this himself. He added that instead of releasing the songs at once, 2NE1 will release one music video every month until their October showcase. This guarantees at least four songs for their album. The first song to be released is Falling in Love which is said to have a reggae feel and utilize oversea’s choreographers. Concerts will be planned after the release of the album in October, but no information regarding that has been released yet.

We’re more than excited to see brand new style and genre that 2NE1 plans to give us for this album. Could it be anything like their 2NE1 Loves teasers? Check them out for yourself!

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Indie-Pino Underground Music Fest Brings Filipino-American Musicians to San Francisco

Golda + the Guns were one of the darker rock acts to perform at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' (YBCA) Indie-Pino Underground Music Fest (photo credit: Karen Datangel).

Of all the ways to spend a hot Saturday afternoon in San Francisco, the Indie-Pino Underground Music Festival was the number one outdoor spot to enjoy fresh live tunes from some seriously scorching acts and some tantalizing Filipino dishes and desserts too! The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) hosted the free event in their Sculpture Court on June 9th to coincide with their New Filipino Cinema program, and many folks came, went, and stayed to take in the music and food along with the nice weather.

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