Hana Vu is currently on tour, and she’ll be rolling through DC with her band tonight to play a show at Songbyrd Music House. Having seen her larger-than-life performance at Brooklyn’s Elsewhere Saturday (where she opened for SALES), I cannot stress enough how much you NEED to grab tickets to the gig if you’re in the DC-Metropolitan area this evening. (You should also most definitely grab a copy of How Many Times Have You Driven By, which is out now!)
I was able to catch up with Hana after sound check this weekend to talk about how life’s been in the spotlight, and what this tour has been like so far. We also discussed her undying love of Taylor Swift, her biggest fear (which might not be what you’d expect), the mythos surrounding her Willow Smith collab, and what’s up next for the mega-talented eighteen-year-old, which’ll hopefully entail a queen size bed and plenty of new tunes. Internet-eavesdrop on our full convo RIGHT NOW:
So first off, how’s tour going so far, and have some of the stop-offs been first-time visits for you?
Tour’s been nuts. I’m really pushing my body and my mind to the limit. And yeah, I’ve only really been to major US cities before this, so I’ve gotten to see a lot new places (namely in the Midwest) on this tour. It’s been really nice to see new things and meet different kinds of people. And the milkshakes in the Midwest are better than anywhere else.
Good to know! Now, in preparation for this interview I did some reading, and people have really been harping on the age thing and how young you are. Obviously no one means it in a negative way, and I don’t mean to perpetuate it as a conversation topic, but what does that feel like to see it over and over again?
It’s interesting that that’s what people are interested in. I feel grateful to be this young and have this many opportunities for myself, but it’s like I’m entering the adult world at the same time that I’m entering the music industry. So it’s like I’m learning a lot of things all at once. Being on tour when you’re really young is interesting, especially here, because there are laws about where you can and can’t be in relation to alcohol. Like in Minneapolis, we couldn’t be in the green room because there was alcohol in there. I tried to tell them that we’re really straightedge, but they still said no. We asked them what we should do while we were waiting around after sound check, and they were like, “You can go wait in your van.”
Right, because that’s exactly what people who’ve been driving around in a van all day want to do. [Laughs]
But yeah, I think being this young, I really do want to prove everyone wrong, prove that I’m able to do it.
And you are young, but you’ve been making music for a while already. What’s the earliest age you can remember either being interested in music or actually beginning to create music?
When I was in fifth grade, there was a girl I really didn’t like. She was mean to everybody. So I wrote this weird, catchy jingle about her (it was kind of mean), and I sang it to one of my friends, and they started singing it, so I was like, “No, stop! She’s gonna hear and I’m gonna get in trouble!” But it was really catchy, and so from that moment in the fifth grade, I kind of thought, “Wow. I can do that.”
That’s amazing. And so what was the moment that you thought you really wanted to go for it, rather than just entertain it as a hobby?
Well, I started writing songs in middle and high school, and I never took it that seriously. But the more attention I got from doing it, high school became secondary. Music started to feel like the only thing I could do, so I hooked onto it and became kind of obsessed with perfecting my sound and songwriting.
What’s your ideal creative environment?
My dream is to have a queen size bed. I think that’s probably where I’d create music. I’ve never had a queen size bed before, and as a kid, when I’d go to someone’s house and they had one, I’d be like, “That’s luxury.” I think that’s probably it. My initial dream was to have my own apartment, and I got that, but it doesn’t fit a queen size bed. So now I’ll have to get an apartment that does fit one, and that’s my ideal creative space.
Speaking of apartments, do you think you’ll always stay in California? It’s obviously a logical place to stay, but have you ever thought of moving elsewhere?
I almost went to college, so I thought about moving for that, but then I ended up not going, and I just moved to a place in LA. I guess I’ve never really thought about it. LA just seems like the best option for what I want to do career-wise, you know? And I like it, I have fun.
Wait, let’s back up to college for a second. I read you wrote your entrance essay about Taylor Swift?
Yeah, I did.
Did people try to tell you not to do that?
Oh yeah. Everyone was like, “Don’t do that.” But I was like, “She’s a genius! And this is what they want! I know it!”And then I got into college. [Laughs]
And you took a selfie with Taylor Swift in 2014, didn’t you? I did an Instagram deep creep.
Yeah, I did! I think that was my favorite moment of my whole life. No matter what she does…actually, there are a few things she could do where I’d be like, “Hmm…”, but no matter how bad her music gets or if her career goes south, I will never stop loving her because of that one time I got to meet her. So what happened was…wait, can I tell the story?
Yes! I want you to tell the story!
My aunt is a press reporter, so she’s one of the people who gets to go on the red carpet to ask celebrities questions. So she took me, and I was fourteen or something, and I was just standing around watching her do her job. But at one point I left and snuck onto the red carpet with all the celebrities, and then you hear everyone start to be like, “SHE’S COMING!” So I look, and Taylor Swift is walking by with a square of bodyguards around her, so I said, “Taylor!” and reached out to touch her arm. I’m a small Asian person, but her bodyguard goes, “No!” and he pushed me. Again, I’m a small Asian kid, and she turned to her bodyguard and goes, “Stop! It’s okay!” and she turned to me and goes, “Hi!” So I said, “Taylor! Can I take a picture with you?” and she said “Yes!” so we did, and then she left with her squad of bodyguards. I was just standing there shaking. And then I got kicked off the red carpet.
That’s incredible. And so wait, what was your actual thesis about Taylor Swift, then? In your college entrance essay?
That’s she’s a genius!
But no, it was like, basically about how (and this is going to sound corny) her songwriting is just undeniably good (structurally, instrumentally), and she totally saturated the market with her content, kept changing, changed with her fans…yeah, she’s just a genius.
Obviously she’s a unique example of someone attaining a huge amount of musical fame, but do you ever think about what that sort of notoriety would be like? Clearly you’re gaining a lot of attention now, but is that something you ever envision? Slash do you enjoy being in the spotlight?
I’ve never thought about that, because I don’t like to assume things about myself. I don’t like to get ahead of myself. I think it’s probably annoying to have that level of fame, but she’s probably mostly grateful that she’s an icon and that she’s changed lives. [Laughs]
Have you had any fan experiences (like, getting to meet fans of yours) so far after the gigs on this tour?
Yeah, people will come up and say they listen to my music, but more often they’ll say, “I haven’t heard of you, but I like SALES. So now I like you guys, too.” Sometimes people who listen to our music will come and ask to take pictures, but I’m not good at taking pictures. They’ll also do that thing where they say, “Okay, 1, 2, 3!” and take a picture, but then they’ll go, “Okay, now let me just take a few more.” So I change it up. I’ll puff my cheeks out, make it interesting. I think that’s what the people want. [Laughs] It’s more interesting that way. (Also, I know I’m just making a lot of faces and noises right now that your readers aren’t going to be able to see or hear.)
No worries at all, we’ll leave it up to their imaginations. [Laughs] Alright, another thing I wanted to ask you about was your Willow Smith collab. In the interviews I’ve read where people have asked you this question, you seem to change up the answer. For instance, in the first one you said you were at an art gallery thing playing music, she heard you, liked what you were doing, and asked if you could maybe work together on tunes. In another one, you said you met skydiving. Now, I don’t actually want to know the real way you met (although the first response sounds more plausible than the second), but if you could go back in time and actually meet in some over-the-top, outlandish way, what scenario would you choose?
I have a bunch more in my brain. I was driving down the highway and she hit my car, totaled it, and I said, “Hey, you owe me one. You have to be on my demo.” And that’s how I met her.
Excited to hear which other ones trickle out onto the internet! Now, have you been working on music at all while you’ve been on the road? I know some people like to keep that process separate since touring is pretty exhausting, but have you had any epiphanies while staring out the window of the van?
I don’t know if I try to keep it separate, it’s just really hard to write on the road since you’re either in the car or at soundcheck or you’re sitting doing interviews. Sometimes I’ll bring my computer to do some mixing in the car, but I mostly am always exhausted. I feel like because this tour is so long, and I’m missing out on making a lot of content, I have been writing down ideas and quickly recording things to save for when I get back home.
And is that the plan once you do get back after this run?
Yeah, when I get back I’m just gonna grind out content.
Amazing. Alright, just a couple more questions before I let you go. First off, October (the spookiest month of all time) is upon us, so I’ll quickly ask you whether you have any spooky stories you would be down to share with us?
Hmm…not really? I just have a sad story about me being scared. [Laughs] We were on the way to an Airbnb in Nebraska, and we were in the car, and my bassist was like, “What are your fears, you guys?” He was trying to get into the whole talk-about-your-feelings-on-tour thing. So someone said they were afraid they weren’t going to live up to their potential, and I was like, “I’m afraid of getting abducted.” [Laughs] That’s my number one fear. That’s the only fear that I have. So we were in this Airbnb, and I for real thought I was going to get abducted. I took the couch because my band members drive and I don’t (I don’t have my license, so legally I can’t), and the couch was in the living room, but there were no windows because it was a basement Airbnb. So I was just laying there shaking because I thought I was going to get abducted, so at 4am I decided to check and see if on the Airbnb reviews anyone had been abducted. [Laughs] I was doing that for like an hour, and then I was fine. but I didn’t sleep. I wasn’t really thinking logically. Anyway, that’s more of like a sad story. [Laughs]
If I ever get abducted from an Airbnb, you better believe they’re gonna hear about it in the review section! Alright, and finally, where (apart from the subway) are we most and/or least likely to find you crying?
I already cried in the van once on this tour. One of my bandmates also cried in the van. But I haven’t actually taken the subway in a long time! I’d take it to and from school, but now that I’m not in school I just cry in my apartment. [Laughs] I guess that’s still relatable content, but it’s just not as good a song title as “Crying in the Subway”. There’s also crying in the shower where you put your head against the wall (you know that move), which is also relatable content. But for now, you can just catch me crying in New York, and on the rest of this 2018 tour. [Laughs]
Featured photo by Alexandra Adcock