Meet Dhaea Kang – a Korean American singer-songwriter based in Chicago. She has been growing in popularity after winning an annual Asian-American talent showcase called Kollaboration Chicago. She draws inspirations for her songs from people whom she had shared significant moments and changes in life with, from living on her own for the first time to grieving the loss of close loved ones. She is always looking forward to meeting new people, both in her personal life and on the stage, who she can connect with through her music.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Dhaea. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I’ve been here my whole life. I guess more specifically I’ve been songwriting since my early teens. My songwriting kind of evolved from teenage angsty poetry that I put into [my] music.
Q. How did you start off as a musician?
I mean like most songwriters, I feel like I started off writing [music] for myself, by myself, and played for myself in my room and in front of the mirror. And I didn’t start playing out[side] until college. I think it was right when I turned 19, because that is when you are allowed to get into the bars for the Open Mics in my college campus. So I did a lot of that in college and it just kind of grew from there.
Q. What are the steps you take when you make a song?
It depends. There are one of several ways. One way is I try to just freewrite. So basically I just write whatever is in my head without even thinking about it, so a lot of it is just nonsense. After I write all that down, I tend to revisit it and pick up one or two lines that really resonate with me and try to build off of there. Another way is I play a melody that I really like or chord progression I like and I pair it with words. Other times a song just seems to come right out without me having to sort through the mess of the freewrite that I do. And those [songs] actually tend to be the ones I enjoy performing the most.
Q. What were your inspirations when you wrote your songs?
First one is Stairwell. I wrote that about a year after a good friend of mine in college passed away. The Stairwell, the title, is in reference to the stairwell of our dorm room where we used to meet up sometimes while I played music during the wee hours of the night. He would come sit with me and listen.
Next One is the most recent song I’ve written in completion. It was last April and I wrote it the night after my grandfather passed away. My grandfather and I were really close. He raised me when I was a kid. Even as an adult, I would visit him frequently. I was actually with him when he took his last breath and it was a pretty jarring experience, because I’ve never seen anyone take their last breath. [I have] never seen anyone die right in front of me. So the next night I was kind of thinking about that experience and reflecting on the other losses in my life, like my college friend who I was just talking about. I felt like Next One was my way of trying to deny the finality of death and just trying to hope for meeting up with someone who has passed away in another lifetime. (not shown in the video) I wrote [Let’s Go] in college. I think I was probably around 19. Like many 19 year olds, I was feeling really lost and directionless; I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I was really confused and that is where that song came from. I still feel like that 6 years later. I still enjoy playing the song as it still personally resonates with me.
Q. What do you enjoy about performing on a stage?
I guess I enjoy the feedback I get back from the audience, especially when someone comes up to me and tells me that they really connected with my songs. I think it’s a very special thing because, as I said before, when I started writing, it was only for myself. It wasn’t [written] with the intention to share with an audience. So the fact that someone can relate to something that means so much to me personally is a pretty incredible feeling.
Q. What is one defining point in your musical career?
This past year, I was part of this showcase called Kollaboration, which showcases Asian-Americans in the arts, and I won the Chicago showcase. That was pretty unexpected for me, because I auditioned for Kollaboration during the time [when] I had taken a step back from music and it just wasn’t really a part of my life. I was immersed in other work, and I just auditioned on a whim. So the fact that I won was a really good feeling and I was really excited about it.
Q. What are your other hobbies besides writing music?
Besides work, I like to garden [in the summer]. I have a patio garden. I grow vegetables and herbs. I like to read a lot. I am a big reader. I like to write short stories. I used to. I should probably get back into that too. I like to hang out with friends [as well], pretty typical.
Q. What is your favorite track among the songs you have written?
I feel like my favorite song tends to be the most recent one I’ve written. So right now I would say Next One, because that’s the most recent song I’ve written. But I guess I’ll have to say Let’s Go. I feel like that is one of my older songs that is still in my regular rotation. I feel like a lot of the songs I’ve written at [a young] age – I can’t even listen to them. It’s just too cringy, too angsty, but [Let’s Go] in particular has lasted.
Q. Anything you want to say to your fans?
I would say thank you for listening. I really do appreciate it and I love receiving feedback about [my] music. So thank you. Thank you for tolerating my self-indulgent Facebook page.