I met Hana Vu at Marie Et Cie in North Hollywood — a spacious shop-cafe hybrid that is filled with eclectic home furnishings and decor — during the early afternoon. This cafe is quaint and strange. Vu says it is one of her most favorite places to go to. She calls it a hoarders cafe which is pretty on the mark. At the time of the interview, the 17-year old singer-songwriter (now 18) is petite and doesn’t look like she would be in a band at all. She looks like a quiet, timid teenager on her way to college who’s lived in the Valley her whole life. She is a Valley girl about to graduate high school, but the truth ends there. First impressions are definitely deceiving.
Vu’s new album How Many Times Have You Driven By?, debuts today and she’s performing at the Music Tastes Good Festival in Long Beach on Sunday, September 30. Vu has life figured out in a way most teenagers do not. Her goal is music. Despite being accepted to NYU, she has no plans to stay in school — her eyes are set on being an artist. We both sit down at a small table of to the side of the cafe. She’s ordered a big breakfast plate in the middle of the afternoon. The plate is bigger than her, but she scarfs it down easily.
She asks me to make her look cool — yes, that same famous line in Almost Famous — I don’t have to do anything. She doesn’t need anything. Vu is unabashedly herself and she’s good at it. Vu started writing music at 13, got her first guitar at the Pasadena flea market, and has never stopped since.
Starting out, Vu and her band showcased their music through house shows, venues, museums, art galleries, and backyards in L.A. She tells me they’ve done 36 shows in total in 2016 alone. She plays with three others, her bassist Desi Scaglione (Pink Slips), guitarist Christian, and her drummer JR. She met them all through school. She writes her songs mostly by herself and describes her music as bedroom pop — and pop seems to be the focal genre in her taste of music, too.
“I listen to a lot of pop music: St. Vincent, Florence and the Machine, Fleetwood Mac, Porches, Taylor Swift, Adele, Rihanna, and I like Michael Buble — and I only know two his songs ‘Just Haven’t Met You Yet and ‘Everything,’” Vu says.
Vu writes about being a teenager. However, realizing she won’t be a kid for long — she is wary of what she will focus on next. “My inspiration comes from being a teenager, high school, my brand, yeah…I don’t know being a kid, my ego. That’s what everyone wants to hear, how kids think. Everyone wants to be a kid,” Vu says.
Vu is very straightforward. It begins to feel like she’s interviewing me. It makes me realize how on the ball she is. “Every time I talk to someone, either someone who’s interviewing me — or any adult, I ask them ‘Don’t you just want to be a rock star?’ and they’re always like…’Yeah,’” says Vu. “Who doesn’t want to be a rockstar?” She tells me that’s her goal at least. Vu doesn’t want to settle for less.
That’s now, six months ago she had the goals of any other teenager: Apply to a college and go. However, since her music career has picked up steam, most famously for having Willow Smith feature on her song “Queen of High School,” she has set her sights on music.
She met Willow at an art gallery Vu performed at. They hit it off, exchanged numbers, and began collaborating. “She’s a real famous person. A lot of texting, sort of coordinating it. I asked her a couple times to do a surprise set for us, but she would be like ‘I’m going to Paris,’” says Vu. “I met with her once to talk about stuff. I had the song written and she added her vocals.”
We meander back to talking about school. She explains, it isn’t something she wants and feels like it’s something people tell kids to do. “I don’t think it’s very necessary,” says Vu about continuing school. “There are a lot of opportunities happening career-wise. I can take math another day. School is a system and I am a rockstar,” Vu says with a laugh.
I like to stare at my computer. Occasionally I type words to pass the time. Those words are usually about music.