Singer-songwriter Bae Kuang has just released her first EP, These Darling Wings, and like many artists she's hoping her music hits the mainstream. Unlike most developing artists, though, Bae has also had to assimilate into a new culture, too. "I was actually born and raised in China," she told us. "I spent most of my childhood and finished my college there. I came to America when I was 23. People say that I don't sound like I'm Chinese, and they think I'm American-born Chinese and it's not true."
It's been a journey for the pop-jazz artist over the last four years, not only to adjust to a new recording industry but also to discover what kind of singer she wanted to be. "I think with this EP, what I'm most proud of is the fact that I actually sort of found my voice," she reflected. "I used to sing all kinds of styles, and I'm very good at imitating people. But I wasn't good at coming up with an identity that belonged to me.
"When I wrote this EP, I just kind of went for it. I'm just kind of letting it out organically and just sitting next to the piano and writing little melodies and notes and working with my lyricist," Bae continued. "I actually got a very clear idea who I am and what my voice should sound like as an artist. This gave me a very good anchor point for what I want my direction to be. There still might be changes and evolution, but I think I have a pretty good idea."
Drawing comparisons to singers like Corinne Bailey Rae and Norah Jones, Bae's music has developed not only a following among the Asian-American community, but a diverse audience that she didn't necessarily expect. She's been performing at venues throughout the Los Angeles area, winning listeners over not only with her heartfelt sound, but also her charming personality and her humility. You might not find many artists willing to admit that there's still tinkering to be done with their musical identity, but she knows she's still emerging.
While a lot of hard work and perseverance has been required of her, Bae has never had any doubt that she's doing exactly what she wants to do for the rest of her life. "Music has always been it," she said. "The only thing that I'm considering is whether just being a singer should be enough or whether I should do something else.
"I write music for film and TV, and I kind of score some films on the side for my director friends. I'm considering whether I should do that and then just do the artist thing on the side. Or if I should just focus my power and my energy on the artist project and do some of the writing on the side. I haven't decided.
"I actually got into the door of film and TV writing kind of by accident," she explained. "It was pretty amazing when I heard my friend tell me [that I] got placed in The Mentalist. It's a small placement, but it's a big show. It's an amazing feeling. And it's rewarding money-wise, while singing is more, you really don't know what could happen.
"But I guess ultimately, to be very practical, I think [my goal is] just being able to support myself well enough and hopefully I could take care of my parents and repay them for supporting me all these years. I think it's just independence."
Now she waits to see what the future holds for her. No matter what path her career takes or even what country she may be recording in, it's clear that Bae has a passion for music and an enthusiasm for performing that should carry her far.