All in the Family: Nashville’s Korean American Music Duo, Chasing Lovely
Written by Grace Jahng Lee
During their competitive years (Taylor competed for five years and Chloe for three), they trained as often as three times a week, for sessions that lasted up to four hours. “It was really intense. People ask if we get nervous performing music. This is nothing compared to trying not to fall off a balance beam while being judged. Gymnastics definitely contributed to discovering what we were humanly capable of,” says Taylor.
Chloe nods, “It pushes you to that edge and then pushes you over that edge.”
Raised in Minneapolis in a household that limited television and video games, Chloe and Taylor used their imaginations to entertain themselves. Taylor loved to write short stories and novels and became the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper. She is Chasing Lovely’s songwriter and maintains their blog, https://www.chasinglovely.com/blog, which includes topics such as fashion, the recent presidential election, recipes, and body image.
At age ten, Chloe began taking guitar lessons from a family friend. Later, she taught herself the banjo and mandolin from YouTube videos. Her face brightens as she says, “We always had music in the house. We listened to a lot of Broadway soundtracks and we’d dance to them on our plastic play tables. Our house was a live musical.” They adored the Dixie Chicks, Avril Lavigne, Earth, Wind & Fire, and “anything with banjos and fiddles.” The sisters performed for friends and babysitters using a karaoke machine in their house.
Growing up, Taylor was more shy and reserved than her younger sister. “Chloe is the type of person who’d go up to people and introduce herself if she doesn’t know anyone, like on the first day of school,” says Taylor. “But when we’re together, we’re very similar,” says Taylor. “We like laughing, joking, and pulling pranks on each other.”
The sisters often finish each other’s sentences, turn simultaneously to exchange glances, and collapse into giggles together. “We have this twin telepathy,” says Taylor. “We’re usually on the same page at the same time.”
As bandmates and siblings, Chloe and Taylor spend a lot of time together, especially when they are on tour. Chloe says, “We get on each other’s nerves sometimes but we’ve learned how to fight fair. We diffuse situations pretty quickly. We’ll get silly and fight with loaves of bread or frozen vegetables–” “—and we always end up laughing,” says Taylor. “I can’t stay angry because Chloe gives me this funny look and we start laughing.”
Chasing Lovely’s music is infused with folk, pop, Americana, and soul influences. Although Chasing Lovely wasn’t officially formed until 2011, the sisters performed at their first open mic in Minnesota when Chloe was thirteen. The next month, they visited Nashville for the first time. A year later, Taylor graduated from high school and the family moved to Nashville to pursue their dreams.
“People told us that Nashville would be a better fit for our music. We really liked all the energy that was happening here,” says Taylor.
In Nashville, Taylor enrolled in the music business department at Belmont University, which she attended for two years, completing coursework in social media and the music industry, publishing, and contract law.
“Nashville is Music City,” says Taylor. “There are so many venues you can perform at.” The sisters immediately started performing five to six nights a week at “song writer nights” hosted by cafes, bars, and restaurants throughout the city.
Taylor nods, “The atmosphere is definitely motivating. In Nashville, your server or the bank teller will turn out to be musicians. Music is everywhere! It gave us a creative push to keep our game up. There’s also a huge songwriter scene here, with many people who just write songs and are looking to get them cut by other artists.”
As young Korean American women in the country music industry, “the biggest thing we run into is our age and that we’re women,” says Taylor. “We would go to 21-and-over venues to perform. For a while, we could go in if we had our mom with us. Sometimes they said we’re too young and couldn’t come in. Some of our male counterparts weren’t having the same issues. It could be because we’re women and part Asian so we’re more memorable. We stick out more, and the venues are worried about having underage people perform.”
Chloe says, “People sometimes underestimate us. One time a guy came up to us after we performed and said, ‘That was really good. I wasn’t expecting that because I saw two girls. Either you sound good, or you look good.’ He wasn’t trying to be rude–”
“–but who says that?” Taylor chimes in. “Sometimes people say to us, ‘When you opened your mouth, that’s not what I was expecting.’ Some people think we’re going to be writing teenybopper songs lacking depth and substance.”
Their hazel eyes and mixed ethnic background often elicit curiosity. “People will ask us, ‘What are you?’ or say, ‘I’ve never seen a redheaded Asian before!’” says Taylor.
Despite these barriers, the sisters remain positive and upbeat. “We take the opportunities we have and make a good impression. We can’t change people’s minds based on preconceived notions. We just get in front of them and perform,” says Taylor.
Chloe nods, “We just have to prove our music with ourselves and our personalities. Fight with our talent.”
Chasing Lovely successfully crowd-funded two EPs. Six months after their first EP, “Breathless” was recorded in Nashville, the sisters decided to put school on hold to pursue music full-time and embarked on their first independent tour in the Midwest. They have performed in cities such as Oakland, Omaha, Denver, and Des Moines and events such as the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network’s annual conference. Their second EP, “Unbridled,” was released in June 2015. It can be purchased at www.chasinglovely.com/shop.
“We do a lot of house concerts, playing in backyards and living rooms. We send email blasts and contact MeetUp.com groups to say we’re coming to town and ask if they’d like to host a concert,” says Chloe.
Taylor writes most of their songs and consults with her sister to gain input. “Chloe’s really good at looking at things from a bird’s eye view,” says Taylor.
Chasing Lovely’s lyrics are inspired by life experiences or issues that they learn about from others, such as body image. Their first song, “Glass Slipper,” written in 2010, used Cinderella metaphors to illustrate “a relationship where someone didn’t take initiative and make a move.” A Belmont University seminar, where a group of women spoke about their struggles with mental illness, inspired a song titled “Out of My Mind.”
“It’s a lot of what we ponder in life–” says Chloe.
“—trying to understand human emotion or interaction,” adds Taylor.
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Grace Jahng Lee is a contributing writer to KoreanAmericanStory.org.