Christine Su’s musical journey has taken her from singing at home with her brother, to playing for her peers while earning a degree in pharmacy, to auditioning for a Korean pop show (despite not knowing how to speak Korean). Yet at her core lies a desire to connect with her and other’s emotions, deeply rooted in each of her songs.
More than anything, she says “I really enjoy songwriting.” She begins to tell me the story of her first performance at a café in Austin. “A lot of my friends were there, and there was this lady who opened up to me about her love life and what was going on. It was kind of great that she could just connect with me that way and open up to a complete stranger because I wrote a song that she could really connect with.”
Christine’s love of music began at a young age, when she would sing with her karaoke-loving father at home. After taking her brother’s advice to learn guitar, she began to collaborate with him until they ran into conflict. “We would just bicker because we couldn’t harmonize so we would have to each do the solo part and we both wanted the solo part,” she explains with a smile. Her interest in music continued to grow throughout the years, especially in college. However, her parents had different expectations for her. “I almost majored in [music], but being from an Asian family, that was like a no-no.” Christine pursued a degree in pharmacy instead, while also continuing to hone her songcraft. She began to perform for others during school, whether it was for organizations at UT Austin, talent shows, or local spots in Austin.
Juggling both a science degree and music became a difficult task at one point in Christine’s journey. “It kind of got hard [to be consistent] towards the end when I was trying to graduate.” Now, recently graduated, Christine is taking a year off to focus on her music, which she feels is more important than pursuing a residency for her career. She plans on becoming more consistent with posting content online, taking more requests for covers, and writing more original songs.
Ultimately, Christine’s parents hope that she has a stable life, both financially and emotionally. “I wouldn’t say they want anything crazy for me. I’ve had a great life since I could remember, I haven’t gone through many struggles, but I’m not afraid of it. I don’t want a normal life for myself. But as long as I have a job and a good husband that will treat me well, and kids, [my parents] will be happy. Which is what I want, but I think all the other things that fill in life’s crack, I’m going to choose for myself.”
Being Asian American, Christine realizes how small the community of Asian singer-songwriters is. “When I was contemplating my career path, or what I want to do when I pursue music, I was thinking, ‘I can’t really have too high expectations,’ since there aren’t a lot of Asian American performers or singers that are really big. If I were to want my music to be heard it would probably be more likely on YouTube.” Her biggest inspirations are Kina Grannis and Clara C, two Asian American singers that have popular YouTube channels.
Regardless of her background, Christine is grounded in her own identity, and knows clearly what kind of music she wants to produce. “I’m not Korean, I’m Taiwanese, and a lot of people tell me I look Korean because of my eyes." She begins to recall the time when she got drafted for a Korean talent show. "So what happened was that one of the scriptwriters from this really popular show called “K-pop Star” contacted me through my social media to be on their show.” Despite the confusion, Christine decided to audition by performing three American songs. The judges praised her talent, but knew she didn’t want to be a K-pop star. “It was like me going to an interview without preparing myself and acting like I didn’t really want it. I didn’t really want to be a K-pop star and I don’t speak Korean, and I don’t think I could really express myself in another language. When I write songs, the words are so important, and if I can’t really find the word or I don’t know the word, then I wouldn’t be able to really do that.”
Check out Christine’s YouTube channel, which houses many of her original songs and covers. She has also started #christinemondays, where you can request songs from her on her Facebook page that she covers and posts every other Monday.