Yea-Ming Chen, like her music, is still water running deep. The San Francisco-based singer-songwriter delivers a pure and simple indie country sound with heartfelt and sincere meaning. Her low, dusky tones recall ‘60s German singer Nico, although Chen was most inspired as a young adult by pop punk indie bands like Mr. T. Experience, The Queers and Dressy Bessy. “Bands like that,” she says, “made me realize the power of a simple song.” At the same time, the drama-filled pieces on her favourite Fleetwood Mac album, Rumours, taught her that despite life being full of difficult moments, “beautiful songs are created because of its complexity. It makes the hard stuff worth it.” A songwriter for 15 years, Chen has learned from experience that a broken heart is the best for inspiration.
Piano was Chen’s first instrument, but as a teenager, she picked up guitar and more recently, the drums. A classically-trained pianist from age seven, she started formal studies in music at UC Berkley, but left the program after finding it to be too academic: “fun and challenging but mostly excruciatingly boring, difficult and useless,” she says. “I craved to be more creative and expressive, which is why I picked up the guitar. I couldn’t be “leftbrained” about it because I didn’t know how to use it. It really opened up me to song writing.”
Solo or backed by a band, Chen can be heard along the West Coast as Yea-Ming and The Rumours (so-named for the album), having performed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and the Davis area in California. Over her career, she has played shows with Calvin Johnson, Paul Collins, Greg Ashley, Gris Gris, The Mantles, The Dodos, Forrest Day, Bart Davenport, Nobunny, Peach Kelli Pop, the Moore Brothers and more. Having been in bands since age 18, she performed for about 10 years with her best friend Anna Hillburg as Dreamdate. The two have recorded three albums.