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Finally At Home In New York, JiHAE Releases 'Illusion of You'


JIHAE: (Singing) I don't want and I don't need other people's measures to rise.


The singer-songwriter Jihae moved around a lot growing up as the daughter of a diplomat.

JIHAE: I had to do a lot of studying 'cause I had to learn new languages all the time. So it was a little bit painful watching other kids play outside, and I'm stuck at home learning something.

MARTIN: Jihae makes music in New York City now. But her childhood was spent all over the globe, first in South Korea, then Nigeria, Sweden and the U.K. It was a lot of change for a young kid.

JIHAE: Big culture shocks, you know, going from Korea to Nigeria.

MARTIN: How old were you when you made that change?

JIHAE: I was 9. And seeing the poverty in the country and how dangerous it was - so we could only go a few places, can't really walk the streets. And then going from a place like that, where every household had a guard, to a place like Sweden, where there was virtually no crime...

MARTIN: I understand you yourself once aspired to be a diplomat. Is that right?

JIHAE: It was one of the options. I think when I was 16, I thought I was going to go to law school. And then, once I got into college, I decided I don't like to read that much or to study that much. It was one of the suggestions my parents made. And I thought of it, actually - thought of it seriously - and considered making that move. And then I decided no.


MARTIN: So how did music find you?

JIHAE: I mean, I grew up in a very musical family. Both my mother and my grandmother aspired to be opera singers. And they studied it. And so my mother, when she had me and realized that I had the voice in the family, she wished for a while that I would fulfill their dream for her. And it wasn't until I moved to New York and I was having a really rough time finding my footing and started translating my thoughts into songs is when it started.


JIHAE: (Singing) I think I fell in love with an illusion. I think I fell in love with an illusion of you.

MARTIN: I understand Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics was the executive producer on the album, right? Is there something you can point to on the album that feels particularly illustrative of your collaboration with him?

JIHAE: "It Just Feels."


JIHAE: (Singing) It just feels. Thank you, baby. Thank you, baby.

It just feels was a poem that Dave and Leonard Cohen wrote. And he sent me an email saying, I think you can do this justice.


JIHAE: (Singing) It feels so good, and it feels so right. It feels like I've been rescued in the middle of the night. The sweetest fires have spoken.

And so I wrote the music as soon as I got over the shock, recorded it, sent it to Dave. And they both thought it was a really amazing version. And they agreed to give me co-writing credit.

MARTIN: This album opens with a song about leaving the place that you've been calling home for a long time.


JIHAE: (Singing) Any day now, New York City, you'll be my long-lost love. Any day now, I'm leaving. I'll fly away like a dove.

MARTIN: I imagine you're pretty good at that at this point in your life. You've left behind - you've had to leave behind a number of homes already. Are you rooted now? Do you feel yourself rooted in a new way?

JIHAE: I guess I have been rooted. And that- that is the issue here. I think the reason I wrote that song is that I have had the itch to leave, but I couldn't leave. And I thought maybe if I have it in writing, I could really leave. It's - it can be so draining, 'cause it's so intense. I think there's just way too many souls in a small space. And you feel everyone's anxieties and stuff. It's hard to leave it. But I want to stay in love with it, you know?

MARTIN: Jihae's new album, "Illusion Of You," came out last week. She joined us from our studios in New York. Thank you so much for talking with us.

JIHAE: Thank you, Rachel.


JIHAE: (Singing) I'll leave you all my pride...

MARTIN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. B.J. Leiderman wrote our theme music. I'm Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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