If given a chance for an alternate profession, Brenda Xu would work for Sesame Street, “writing skits for Bert and Ernie. Bert’s such a great ‘square’ character. I love his mundane sensibilities.”
The San Diego resident and UCSD grad — originally from Harbin, China — has been busy recording and playing guitar in local venues on weekends. When we last talked to her in November 2007, she had just started out, paying her dues and gaining experience at the acoustic and open-mike nights at Lestat’s, Swedenborg Hall, Vinbladh’s Swedish Fusion Cafe, Ocean Beach Farmers’ Market, and artgallery openings.
“There is no right way to do things, and you just have to learn by trial and error what venues suit your style of music,” she says. “How you should promote your music, who can really help you, and who is just telling you things you want to hear. It seems like everyone has advice to offer about how you should go about doing things, but I’ve found that my gut decision often tends to be the right one.”
Playing out has been a test of her confidence. “It took me about a year to really believe that I had something to offer people in terms of music,” says Brenda. “That I wanted to and could possibly do it as a career. I still question if I can.”
Brenda Xu released a CD in 2007 called It’s True. Out of 60 songs that she wrote for it, 6 made the final cut. Her next release, A Little Illusion, will be full-length and is due out this November.
HISTORY OF YOUR GUITAR?
“I bought it from my friend, who purchased it off craigslist. It is a Taylor 310CE and retails for $1500, but he got it and sold it to me for $450 because it has a crack in the back and was Super-Glued together. I am slightly fearful that it will split open one day while I’m playing.”
WHAT ELSE IS TRICKY WHEN PLAYING?
“Trying not to trip on a cable in heels.”
FUNNY GIG STORY?
“It was in a small coffeeshop, and there were about six people there. I left my purse on a chair in the back, and during the second song I heard my phone ring. I pretended not to notice and kept on playing. During my third song, the phone rang again — this time continuously — until one of my friends took it out of my purse and then said, ‘It’s your mom.’ ”
DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT?
“I believe in lust at first sight.”
BEST THING DONE WHEN DRUNK?
“My day job. Oh wait, it’s not a dream!”
WHAT’S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?
“Gregory Page’s All Make Believe. There’s one song that I listen to on repeat: ‘Sleeping Dogs.’ I love everything about it. And Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine. She’s one of the few artists who has consistently put out great albums. I love her style and candor.”
THE WORLD IS ENDING — YOU HAVE FIVE CDs TO RUN AWAY WITH…
1. Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. “I listened to this album religiously and read all the liner notes when it first came out…I bought it on cassette. They were an amazing band back then.”
2. Tori Amos, Boys for Pele. “It has everything an album needs to make you feel satisfied after listening to it all the way through.”
3. Aimee Mann, Bachelor No. 2. “This album changed the way I thought about songwriting. The characters in her songs are so poignant, and her melodies are beautiful.”
4. Sarah McLachlan, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. “She explores relationships and internal dialogue like no one I’ve heard before.”
5. My album, It’s True. “So I can remember what it’s like to create music and be inspired to continue creating [after the world ends].”
FAVORITE SAN DIEGO HANGOUTS?
1. Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa. “Because of all the yummy Asian restaurants.”
2. Forever 21. “I like to be a girl sometimes.”
3. Torrey Pines. “Fresh air is good for the soul.”
EARLIEST CHILDHOOD MEMORY?
“Seeing the colors of M&Ms as they melted in my palm.”
BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?
“ ‘Do something that makes you happy.’ — My mom.”
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY?
“Please refer to my songs.”