Singer/songwriter Brenda Xu was born in Harbin, China, near Russia's southern border. "I was five years old when I first came to America to live with my grandmother," she says. When she was ten, her mother joined them in the U.S. and began teaching Xu piano. "I was in high school when I got my first guitar and began writing songs. When I first played around town at open mikes, it was a little duo with a friend of mine. We played three shows, and then I started writing songs on my own."
Her first solo gig was in January 2007 at the Hot Java Cafe in Carmel Mountain Ranch. She sometimes performs and records with guitarist Ivan Cheong and occasionally plays with a bassist as well. Her six-song CD It's True was released this summer. She appears November 19 at UCSD's Café Roma and November 23 at Java Jones on Ninth Avenue.
WHAT'S IN YOUR CD PLAYER?
1. Tori Amos, Boys for Pele. "I like her older albums better than her newer ones. Little Earthquakes is one of my favorite albums of all time, but this one also has so many beautiful melodies on it. Tori can sing a song with attitude and soul like no one else."
2. Vienna Teng, Dreaming through the Noise. "Her music takes you somewhere, transports you. Her songs tell a story, and you are drawn into it as soon as you hear the first notes."
3. Tristan Prettyman, Twentythree. "When I first bought it, I listened to this CD so much that I got sick of it. But I started listening to it again recently and rediscovered its innocent, ethereal quality."
1. Hilary and Jackie. "This film is depressing as hell, but the cinematography is gorgeous, and the actors are phenomenal in it. It also has a killer score, with pieces performed by Jacqueline du Pré, whom the film is about."
2. Reality Bites. "Best slacker movie ever."
3. Six Feet Under. "My favorite television series of all time. I usually don't buy DVDs, but I own this box set. It's well written, and there is a 'realness' -- an uncensored quality -- to it."
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. "This is a classic love story told in an unconventional way, and I'm a sucker for great love stories."
WHO WOULD YOU MOST ENJOY MEETING FOR LUNCH?
"Aimee Mann. She's one of my favorite songwriters, and I'd love to pick her brain about random topics."
FAVORITE DEAD CELEBRITY?
"Elliot Smith, because of his songs. I wish he weren't so miserable when he was alive. I always wonder how such brilliant musicians could be so unsatisfied with themselves when they have the ability to create art that touches so many people."
FIRST BOOK YOU REMEMBER READING?
"Too Much Magic, which was about these kids who stumbled upon some magical powers. My uncle, who I grew up with, made me do a book report on it."
"I don't subscribe to any at the moment, but I used to read Rolling Stone religiously. If I had the funds to subscribe to one right now, it would probably be the Economist. Their articles are more interesting than a lot of other international news publications."
MOST VISITED WEBSITES?
"I have to say MySpace, even though some people think it's a cult. It's a good place to find new music that isn't played on the radio and a great marketing tool for musicians."
TOP GUILTY PLEASURES?
1. "Watching reality shows like America's Next Top Model."
2. "Eating chocolate cheesecake."
3. "Playing covers of pop songs."
MAC OR PC?
"I use a PC, but I'm getting a Mac for my next computer because they are so damn cute, which is the most important factor to consider when purchasing any kind of technological equipment."