California-based singer, songwriter and composer Lan Miao is a rising star in the music industry.
She started studying Western classical music and theory at the age of seven. Mandarin Pop had a big influence on her as she grew up in Taiwan.
She found alternative rock radio in Los Angeles upon her family’s return to the United States in the 1990s, which gave her fresh inspiration for musical and lyrical expression.
They split up at the age of 16 and In an attempt to make sense of her loss, she began composing songs again when the ensuing family breakdown pushed her into deep despair.
She relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2012 while suffering from a crippling bout of writer’s block. She’s been playing her own music at open mics in Berkeley, Alameda, and San Francisco since this year. The Women of Substance Radio Podcast has featured her music.
“The Keep” is the name of Lan’s first EP. It’s a collection of six songs that she wrote in her late teens and early twenties and has been working on for the last two decades.
Unspoken longings, anguish and resentment at her parents’ split, and a fear of betrayal and abandonment are all explored in the songs. All of the tracks are in minor tones, which convey a sense of sadness. She had trouble singing through the lines throughout rehearsal sessions.
Lan recorded and produced the songs in a makeshift home studio in the bedroom she shared with her husband for the last two years while under quarantine.
As a result of the pandemic’s effect on her day job, she was able to devote more time to artistic endeavours, and she was psychologically prepared to confront the heavier topics in her songs.
Her time and experiences in the Bay Area, strangely, were what drove her to process old emotions and sentiments and helped her understand these connections in a new light.
A personal interview with her revealed a great deal about her aspirations and plans for the future.
What is your real and official showbiz name?
Lan Miao – like Mulan – and meow like a cat!
What drew you to music production in the first place?
I actually didn’t think I had it in me to produce my own songs, but I knew I wanted a unique sound. When I first started recording, I figured I would just do the vocals and piano and hopefully find a producer who is on the same wavelength.
Then, while working on Prayer, I decided to program some drums using the smart drummer feature in Logic Pro. I had it follow my piano track and it sounded really good. That was when I realized I had already written the rhythms into my compositions.
The song started to take shape and I started to “hear” the arrangements in my head. From there I added more tracks and just kept building it to sound like what was in my head.
What or whom do you go to for inspiration or motivation?
I love stories. And I find them everywhere – in life, love, suffering, movies, music, visual arts, histories, current events, and social justice.
I’m motivated when I think of telling my stories and helping to shape our collective stories. I especially want to tell stories that are underrepresented in history and in music.
What are some of the obstacles you encounter in your career?
It took a while for me to start believing in myself as a musician and to take my career seriously. I was discouraged from pursuing it early on, then I had a block for years where I couldn’t write any new music.
But it was a struggle working in other fields too because I was so unhappy. I finally realized I’d rather be challenged doing something I love as opposed to being miserable and not getting to work on my craft.
What distinguishes you as a creative individual?
I’ve always been drawn to sadness and tragedies, especially when expressed through music. Growing up studying Western classical music, I loved Beethoven – not just his music but also his life story.
I find it so powerful and moving when people channel their struggles through art. Sometimes we go through life and face things that are complicated and difficult to talk about. Writing and composing help me make sense of them and acknowledge all of those big, impossible feelings.
What’s the significance of the current song or album in your life?
This EP has been 20 years in the making. I first wrote these songs in my late teens and early 20s, right after my parents’ divorce. I learned and witnessed some ugly things between them. I was so sad and angry and confused and heartbroken. I channelled it all into these songs.
I tried recording them in college but honestly, I don’t think either I or the songs were ready. It takes clarity to produce something and share it with the world, and I was deep in the middle of grieving our family’s breakup.
It took me 20 years to finally put it out there because that’s how long it took me to finally process my grief (there was a lot of running away from it for MANY years), which coincided with my journey of re-discovering myself as a musician.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am finishing up lyric videos for all of the songs on the EP which will be released over the next few weeks. Keep an eye out on my YouTube channel.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
I will be streaming live performances in support of the EP, so check back on my website for news. I’m also hoping to get back into the studio later this year to start working on my next releases.