Irrepressible, unstoppable and undeniable, Kiai is an artist who speaks and sings to be heard – no matter what she’s saying. Her songs range from the silly to the profound and in the totality of her expression, she has revealed herself to be a unique singer/songwriter emerging in the New York indie scene.
The child of Korean parents, Kiai grew up in Woodstock, NY. About her childhood she says, “I was definitely a typical Korean-American child in terms of my musical experience. I started at 7 playing piano and my mom was so controlling that she made me play violin instead of cello, which is what I really wanted to play.” By age 17, Kiai was a full-fledged rebel – abandoning her classical music upbringing to play at jazz jams filled with Woodstock locals. “My passion came out of the years of repression – that’s where the punk in me comes from,” she explains.
Fittingly, after high school (where she was a concert master and voted “most musical”), Kiai took to adventuring in Europe as a musician. In 1996 she played in Europe with a band. She glowingly recalls, “It was amazing – great feedback and crowds. I played on the street in front of 100 people and I played a ski resort in France for two weeks. I realized that I wanted to perform – entertaining people is what makes me happy.” She continues with a laugh, “And it was on that tour when I realized how much I hated violin – so I dropped it then and there.”
Her love of performance took her away from music for 12 years – instead, Kiai became a successful actress and model, but she never got music out of her system, continuing to write. In 2002, she wrote a song as a birthday present for a friend because she was too broke to be able to buy something. As she recounts, “I gave him the song and then I started playing it for other people and they all said, ‘you need to record that song.’ Finally in 2006 I recorded it.” Titled “Happy Birthday,” the song has been a smash on iTunes, selling over 2000 downloads, especially amazing given that there has been no promotion except word of mouth.
Kiai has written hundreds of songs, but she’s currently readying the 13 that will be on her upcoming album, Middle of Mayhem. The songs written so far display the range of Kiai’s moods and skills. There’s the classic three chord Ramones influenced punk of “I Want To Be You,” Kiai’s expression of her desire to be a kid again free of responsibility. “Guarded Heart” is her lament of a friendship that had run its course and serves as a goodbye and “Sumo Things” is a wry and witty reflection on Kiai’s philosophy of taking things lightly.
Kiai is poised to bring her infectious spirit to unsuspecting audiences from coast to coast. Europe looms as a goal for the future. “I’d like to reach out to Japan, England and maybe France,” declares Kiai. “I make music for me and the listener to really enjoy. In the midst of the world’s turmoil we have to enjoy our lives as much as we can. That’s what my music is made for.”