Not only can this chick sing, strum a guitar, and play the piano, she also knows how to live her life to the fullest. Lijie Yang, 29, musician and songwriter, rebelled against the image of the stereotypical Asian American in order to follow her dream, even though it meant going against her parents’ wishes.
Born in Baoding, China, Yang moved to the United States at the age of five. At a young age, she was the stereotypical Asian American, striving for good grades under pressure, playing the piano, and setting her sights on going to a good school.
“Grow up and go to Stanford. Grow up, go to Princeton. You know, my parents would encourage watching People’s Court; that wasn’t my favorite cartoon,” Yang said, recalling her childhood.
Raised in an area with a small handful of Asian Pacific Americans, Yang remembers struggling, wanting to be something and someone else but herself.
“I wanted to be white, but now I can’t even imagine that,” she said. “It’s hard enough being yourself sometimes, you know? To be somebody else, no, I don’t have time for that anymore.”
Yang came to a breaking point in college when she realized that she didn’t want to follow her parents’ wishes of her becoming a doctor or lawyer any longer.
“When I was in college, I got caught cheating on a test. That’s when I realized it. I realized that it was not who I was and it wasn’t who I wanted to be,” Yang said.
Yang decided to move to Los Angeles after graduating. Although her parents were “unhappily shocked” about the idea of their daughter moving to another city and waiting tables, nothing could stop Yang.
In Los Angeles, Yang was able to write her music for her first album “Roam,” with the help of producer Erik Colvin, who was also a demo-producer for Puddle of Mudd. Songs from the album have placed Yang as a finalist several times in the 2006 UK Songwriting Contest, including “Roam,” “Lately,” “So High,” and “Bar Song.”
Her unique sound and quality of music have gained her accolades from a variety of critics. Creative Line Magazine in Los Angeles said, “Like the best chocolate … Lijie’s smooth vocals will take you on a journey of hurt and healing.” The MusicShopper also admired her musical ability, “Lijie’s music is a sublime blend of delicate pianos and guitars paired with her intoxicating voice.”
As for her goals as an artist, Yang said, “What I don’t want to do is have that [goal] be the reason why I lose focus on what’s most important, which is just to make really great music that people want to listen to.” Yang added that she has “this crazy dream of becoming a performing artist, the kind that sells albums upon albums upon albums, recording beautiful music that people will sing to in their car, dance to at their wedding, cry to when their hearts are broken, and make love by candlelight.”
Yang goes on to say, “Do I want to sell 10 million albums and tour the world? Hell yeah! But ultimately, when you’re in the studio or even when you’re writing a song, you want to write something that grabs people and that ultimately makes people feel.”
Despite industry stereotypes, Yang does not let her skin color get in the way of her career. Although she has yet to face any major problems with being Asian American in the music industry, Yang realizes it is an issue people go through.
“It’s really about the individual, you know what I mean? Life is really about overcoming external obstacles and overcoming your own. I think that the biggest obstacle that I’ve had to overcome is myself and I really do believe that good music will be heard. And that’s true for Asian artists with great music, like Vienna Teng.”
Presently, Yang is working on her second album and attending Berklee College of Music in Boston. As for her future, she has decided to go with the flow.
“You know there’s a joke, ‘How do you make God laugh? Make a plan!’” She said. “I wish I could say this is what’s going to happen, but I’m just going to take it one day at a time and see where the wind blows. I don’t want to make God laugh too hard.”