On Jan. 3, Chinese artist Leah Dou turned 20, a date she really hoped to spend with friends, but she couldn’t find the spare time. The Beijing native was in the recording studio most of her birthday, working on the follow-up to her 4AD-textured 2016 debut “Stone Café.” She says, “I had lunch with my dad and dinner with my mom, but that was it.” The daughter of musical royalty — renowned musicians Dou Wei and Faye Wong — couldn’t turn down invitations from her folks. Serious about her compositions, she has set her sights on America.
You resided in the U.S. for awhile, but you returned to Beijing, A lot of Asian expats are leaving the West these days, right?
Yeah. And I don’t know why. But now everybody thinks it’s a good time to come back. And the older I get, the more it’s obvious to me that Beijing is my home, and where my roots are. And whenever I come back, it takes me right back to that — it just feels right, like I’m home.
You were in Hollywood, a music industry center. Why leave?
Well, for me, I was having trouble with my visa, so I had to come back. But when I was in Los Angeles, it was hard for me to blend in to the music scene — I wouldn’t go out to see any shows because I was under age, and with most of the venues there, you had to be over 21 to get in.
How was it growing up around such famous parents?
Well, there were different stages to it. When you’re a toddler, you don’t know what’s going on. There are just always people following you, always people pointing cameras into your face. But when you’re a teenager, trying to find your identity, it’s really hard when everyone’s always bombarding you with information about your parents. So you feel neglected. But when I was 16, I started realizing that it was all in my head. It was definitely a process.
Was there a moment you understood your purpose?
That, too, was a gradual process. But there was this moment where I was finally like, “Oh, this is what I want to do!” It was when I was applying for this art school in Michigan, Interlochen, and I had two options there – a vocal major or a singer-songwriter major. And the vocal major was leaning more towards classical singing and opera, so I went for the other major, even though I hadn’t written a song before. And once I tried that out, that’s when it hit me.
IF YOU GO
Where: Hotel Utah, 500 Fourth St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Jan. 28
Tickets: Sold out
Contact: (415) 546-6300, www.hotelutah.com