On her new song "Cool," 17-year-old Hana Vu sounds confidently low-key, even when she's stretching her voice. The Los Angeles songwriter/producer recently signed to Fat Possum label Luminelle Recordings, and today she's announcing her debut EP, How Many Times Have You Driven By. As well as writing the music, Vu produced the EP herself, and it's her first official project outside of self-released music on SoundCloud and Bandcamp.
"I think my music is a lyrical reflection of how I want to be," Vu says. "I think the low-key sound of my music is contingent on my musical abilities. I didn't take music lessons or learn theory so what I make is sort of what I can figure out." It's still early on, but things are starting to fall into place for Vu. Along with the Willow Smith collaboration, Vu has already caught the attention of Tegan and Sarah and opened for Soccer Mommy.
Check out "Cool," look out for How Many Times Have You Driven By on June 29, and read our interview with Hana Vu below.
Can you give us some of the basics—who are you, how old are you, and where are you from?
Im Hana Vu, 17. I was born in San Francisco and then grew up in Los Angeles.
You wrote and produced your whole debut EP. Is that a choice, to handle everything yourself, or did it just kind of happen that way?
I guess it just sort of happened that way. I've recorded with engineers and studio musicians before, but I think ultimately only I know what I want to make, and it’s much easier to do it on my own time.
When did you first start recording your music? Did you know right away that you wanted to share it?
I initially started recording music when I was like 14, the good old-fashioned way using Voice Memo and GarageBand. Sharing it just seemed like the thing to do, I wanted my friends to hear the stuff I was doing. I would release something like once a year and it was sort of marking time for me. Writing is a continuous activity but consolidating that work into a shared product is like a yearbook almost. As for this EP, I started recording/writing it in 2016.
What were those first steps like? Were you confident of what you were making, or was there any hesitation?
When I'm writing stuff I don’t really think about the outcome, the writing just sort of happens for me. Of course after I've figured out all the parts and structure, recording it is a challenge. I have some self-deprecating opinions on my work because I don't think I can ever be 100% satisfied with anything I create but I feel confident in my intentions.
I initially started recording music when I was like 14, the good old-fashioned way using Voice Memo and GarageBand.
You collaborated with Willow Smith on "Queen of High School." How did that come about?
The essential story is that I was playing at some art gallery in Santa Monica that she was at. She was digging our set and after we talked and I ended up sending her some demos that I thought she would sound good on and it just worked out great.
How do you choose who to collaborate with? Is that something that comes naturally for you or is it difficult to get someone involved with your process?
Every time I collaborate with someone, it comes about differently. Sometimes I write a half a song and then feel like there’s nothing more I can give to it. That’s when I ask other people to get involved. But sometimes one of my talented friends will send me a beat or a hook and I build on that. It’s really interesting to hear the different perspectives in a collaborative song and how different they can be while still making a great cohesive product.
I've seen your music described as "bedroom pop." Is that a term you embrace?
I guess not really. I never know how to describe my music but I guess if I make it in my bedroom then it’s supposed to be bedroom pop. I don't think any artist wants to be a part of a genre.
There's something really effortless and low-key about the music I've heard from you so far. Is that a reflection of your personality?
I think my music is a lyrical reflection of how I want to be. I think the low-key sound of my music is contingent on my musical abilities. I didn't take music lessons or learn theory so what I make is sort of what I can figure out.
Have you been in LA long? How does LA shape the music you make and your outlook?
Growing up in LA I never noticed that I'm part of a particular region of sound but I guess I am. There are so many great and unique artists out here that I am influenced and motivated by so I guess that “LA sound” has soaked into my subconscious inherent music style.
Are you involved with the music scene there?
There are so many musicians out here that there isn't really just one scene. But we play a lot of local shows and see some familiar faces so we're comfortable with the people here.
Have you performed live shows? What is a Hana Vu show like?
I'm not much of a dancer.
What music inspired you growing up? What music are you listening to now?
Growing up I loved voices like Stevie Nicks, Florence Welch, and I was/am also an avid Taylor Swift fan. On the more indie side, growing up my favorite albums were We the Common by Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, the Angel Olsen Strange Cacti EP, Young and Old by Tennis, and Geidi Primes by Grimes. Right now I love St. Vincent.
It seems like solitude has played a big role in your music. Do you enjoy being alone? Is that when you get most of your ideas?
I love and I hate being alone. It sort of depends on what your definition of alone is. I have so many great friends that I rarely feel emotionally isolated. However I love being physically alone, laying on the couch, watching TV and having the time to manifest my own ideas. Having that space and freedom is rare as a young person and especially as a person living in a city. I can't write with someone in the other room because having people physically near me binds my creativity and my personal freedom.
How do you balance music with being 17? Like, are you also focused on school and other hobbies and goals, or is music your sole focus right now?
Right now and for the past few years, music has really been the only thing I care about. My goal right now is to be able to make a good living doing music.
What else do you want people to know about you and your music right now?
I guess I want people to know that I'm trying my best.