Formally trained in classical music, Ariel Bui’s overall sound strives to be classic, yet subtly experimental bridging between a variety of American genres while influenced by artists ranging from Fiona Apple and Angel Olsen to Bjork and Radiohead.
“I consider music a language,” she says, I’ve moved a lot in my life and find that every region has its own overall sound. Having lived in the American South most of my life, moving to Nashville inspired me to explore my southern roots. For a long time, I’ve wanted to explore the idea of modern day slave songs inspired by African American spirituals that evolved into rock’n’roll, jazz and blues. I wanted to honor those artists in a way that felt true and genuine. What ended up happening was I sang a lot about my deepest emotions in the form of short pop songs inspired by rock’n’roll, jazz, blues, folk and country.”
Experimenting with combining deceptively simple pop and dark singer-songwriter undertones, the result on her self-titled LP is an intentional cerebral deception. The album not only features her skills as a singer-songwriter but as a guitarist and lyricist, with lyrics touching on topics of love, death, childhood trauma, feminism, independence, philosophy, fate, the desire to elope to gain citizenship and even student loan debt.
“Many of the songs are meditations on death,” she says, “How you can feel as though you are dying of a broken heart, how the loss of loved ones sends ripples through our lives, the inevitability that all things pass, how we often live our lives in denial or fear of ugly truths and how facing and accepting the ultimate truth allows us to truly live.”
With the help of Andrija Tokic (Hurray for the Riff Raff, Alabama Shakes) at the Producer helm in his analog studio The Bomb Shelter and the assistance of studio musicians plus various collaborators, Bui created an album that represents a crucial and very personal cosmic shift in her life.
“This album is also a musical coming of age in my life,” she says, “I’ll be turning 30 this September. Societally and astrologically speaking, 30 is a very pivotal year in one’s life. I have been told by different astrologers, tarot readers, palm readers and fortune tellers that I would begin to fulfill my life’s purpose at around this point in my life and I have been waiting for this time for many years now.”
It was something otherworldly that led her to arrive at this point in her musical career . “I believe that there is a dynamic tension between fate and free will,” she says, “I believe that there are an infinite number of circumstances why we end up where we are, where we’ve been, what we choose and where we’ll end up.”
“Growing up with very musical and artistic parents and a mother diagnosed with severe chronic mental illness, music was always a healing force in our lives,” she says. “My parents immigrated to the U.S. as teenagers at the end of the Vietnam War and we had an excellent music collection of mostly analog vinyl from the 60’s and 70’s. In high school, while I was deeply into my dad’s record collection, I started to play guitar, write and perform music.”
Bui’s mother’s terminal illness, heavy medication and hope for recovery is a vital point of inspiration in the songwriting and all-analog process of Ariel Bui. “In many ways, this album is dedicated to my mother, who dreamt that the child in her womb would become the first Vietnamese female composer conductor.” “I have found that listening to the honest emotions of others through the medium of music has profoundly redeeming and healing qualities,” she says, “so that is what I try to convey through my own music.”
“I nearly wrote an honors thesis on Music and Transcendence, theorizing that our brains function similarly when we are composing music as when we are experiencing deeply spiritual trances through meditation, chant, or other similar states. This is when I was introduced to the field of psychoacoustics, the study of how sound waves affect the neurological processes of the brain.” “Now I want the quality of the sound waves I produce to be in the most healing form possible, and I consider that to be acoustic and analog sound waves.”
Bui attended Rollins College, where she studied voice and majored in Piano with a focus on Piano Pedagogy, the art and business of teaching piano. Through the power of music, Bui transcends the classic singer-songwriter formula, becoming a vessel to expand the education of music beyond herself. In a collaborative effort, she formed Melodia Studio that currently acts as a sole project for Bui, servicing over 20 students with lessons out of East Nashville and Germantown. Ultimately, she plans to launch an infant & toddler music class to educate youth as early as possible while continuing to establish herself as a musical artist in her own right.
Through the 11 self-penned songs on Ariel Bui, she has truly defined herself as an artist unafraid of transparency and the commonality of humanism that connects us all. Bui effortlessly tackles autobiographical songwriting with little fear. She simply writes in her truest form of self, weaving her own stories into the fabric of her songs. In a sultry, smoky voice, she bewitches with despair on a truly authentic, cathartic effort. Perhaps it’s why on her fourth release she has arrived at her self-titled record, her most intimate and ambitious album to date.