LA-based singer/songwriter TRACE’s music falls somewhere between the breezy, West Coast cool of Lana Del Rey, and the moody R&B ruminations of James Blake. As the daughter of Vietnamese pop icon Carol Kim, TRACE has always been surrounded by music, spending much of her childhood watching her mom perform in front of thousands of fans or listening to mom’s vocal warm-ups through bedroom walls at home.
Recently, TRACE returned with a new track – “You Don’t Know Me,” a cool and smoky R&B inflected pop song about the assumptions we often make from a glimpse.
We caught up with the singer, and spoke about her new single and how it came about.
T.H.E – The new track, ‘You Don’t Know Me’, is out now. How did you come to write on the subject of human assumptions?
TRACE – I was taken by surprise by someone who I thought was at the very least, a friend. I kind of remember going into the studio feeling fresh from a lot of emotions centered around people not understanding me– like someone totally misread me and their actions made me feel foolish and maybe a little crazy. I think assuming things about people has more power than we think.
T.H.E – What experiences of your own did you draw on for the track?
TRACE – As mentioned before, it was a very personal interaction that I literally transferred straight into songwriting right when I stepped into the studio. It felt therapeutic. With a hint of this is such a bummer.
T.H.E – How would you describe the track’s sound?
TRACE – I remember saying the phrase “Drake but with a margarita, not a mai tai (because that’s too tropical.” No lie. I wanted the sound to feel fun and definitely dancey too.. Since I felt the writing was so cheeky and semi-mean, I wanted to make it overall a fun anthem people would sing alongside of me. In my head I could see many relating to the concept of people not knowing you, so I wanted the sounds to be approachable, catchy, and sing-songy.
T.H.E – When it comes to songwriting, where do you tend to find inspiration?
TRACE – Everywhere and everyday. Between myself and another, or between myself and my mind. I also have fleeting thoughts so I’m always sure to be aware of what goes in and out of my head and I document it. A phrase, a feeling, a picture. Inspiration to me comes from a feeling that sticks. And I’m intentional when it comes to finding an interaction and/or some experience that sticks, daily. And is worth writing about.
T.H.E – Your debut EP, Low, went on to receive over 35.5 million streams. How did that feel?
TRACE – The most unreal and humbling and exciting feeling all mashed up into the emoji of the crying face.
T.H.E – You’re now signed to Ultra Music, but you launched your musical career as an independent artist, was starting out independent important to you?
TRACE – It definitely was very important to me, especially when I started my music career two years ago. There are pros and cons to being independent (as there are to being not independent) and I grew and learned and enjoyed a lot. As I expand and continue to further my career under a label, it’s clear to see every person’s trajectory is so unique and personal and it’s important to explore all avenues.
T.H.E – Being the daughter of a Vietnamese Pop icon, what was your earliest music memory?
TRACE – I’d have to say going to my mom’s rehearsal when I was younger. She raised me on her own so sometimes I do to work with her and I remember I’d just hear her singing her set while I ate bowls of cherries by the bar. (The venue was of course closed).
T.H.E – What advice has your mother given to you when it comes to your music?
TRACE – Sleep and rest as much as you can. And always, always remember it’s about the audience.
T.H.E – Initially you didn’t want to follow in your mother’s musical footsteps. Why was that?
TRACE – I think it was the standard “youth rebellion” in me that wanted to pave my own path. I loved and respected my mom (still do) but felt like it was too easy to do the same things she did. Like, surely there is something else in life for me to do, than to do what my mom does. BUT, turns out, it been a massive confirmation to me that we both just happen to love music and get to do it as a career. IDK–maybe genetics plays a little part in it all too…
T.H.E – What’s next for TRACE?
TRACE – I’m currently writing a lot of new music. So new music. But I think in the immediate future, a music video will be releasing! Soon.