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Singer-songwriter Nicole Han balances musical ambitions with personal fulfillment 

Singer-songwriter Nicole Han poses for the cover art for her single “somebody new.” Han uses her platform to represent Asian American women in the music industry and advocates for more diversity and representation within the industry. PHOTO COURTESY OF NICOLE HAN

Amidst the clatter of cups and the gentle hum of conversation in a bustling local Los Angeles shop, singer-songwriter Nicole Han’s world shifted in an instant. Serendipity intervened, with the smell of freshly brewed coffee lingering in the air, as she adorned the cover of Spotify’s “Jasmine” playlist, which spotlights emerging Asian artists. 

“Being Asian American is part of who I am, but I don’t think it has hindered me in my personal journey so far,” Han said in an interview with The Statesman. “It’s been cool to see some of the spotlights that Asian Americans have been able to get, and it’s also cool to build those communities online as well. We just support each other, and I think it’s a pretty special thing.”

From her earliest days of curating jingles at the age of 10 with her sister to pursuing visual art at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), Han had a natural inclination toward music. Always with a notebook in hand, she received a tape recorder from her mother when she was eight years old, sparking her passion for songwriting and storytelling through both music and illustration. Eventually, Han’s love for songwriting took center stage, compelling her to begin releasing music in 2021. This marked her emergence as the muse rather than the creator of melodies with the “Jasmine” playlist.

However, music wasn’t originally her main focus.

Han also harbors a passion for visual art and graphic design. The 22-year-old is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in studio arts with a focus on graphic design at LMU and simultaneously enrolled in LMU’s M-School Creative Marketing two-year program midway through her college career.

“Ever since I was a kid, I had two main passions, and it was music and art,” she said, noting both as “very constant” in her life, despite initially considering music a side hobby. “But then I [realized] how big my love for songwriting was, and I needed to share [it], keep producing and making music.”

Yet, Han’s initial foray into releasing music coincided with the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. After sidelining her music and songwriting during high school, she vividly recalls feeling isolated during lockdown. However, she shared that music provided her solace and a means of expression.

She wrote 10 songs a week in her room. Each day, Han experienced a surge of creativity, composing song after song. She describes this period as a “catalyst” that allowed her to hone her craft and prepare to share her music with the world.

Among her initial releases were tracks such as “how dare you” and “WANNABE,” which were featured in her debut extended play titled “so it goes…,” released in March 2023. Sonically, “how dare you” draws inspiration from Han’s love for artists like Gracie Abrams and Holly Humberstone — two female singer-songwriters known for their introspective lyricism. 

Han detailed pouring her heart and soul into a romantic relationship in “how dare you,” only to experience regret in the aftermath of the breakup, reflecting her struggle to preserve her feelings as the other person failed to reciprocate. Han landed a spot on Spotify’s “Fresh Finds” playlist with the song.

“I remember I was at a coffee shop,” Han recalled. “I was having a meeting with my manager, then he left, and I was still working. Then I discovered that I was on the cover of ‘Fresh Finds,’ and I was freaking out. I called him up and I was like, ‘come back, like, this is insane.’”

With over 11,500 followers on TikTok, Han emphasized the significant role social media plays in her musical journey, allowing her to personally connect with her audience and build her confidence. She remains committed to staying true to her artistic vision and prioritizing her craft over chasing virality, avoiding the popular music that frequently circulates.

Through social media, Han discovered fellow Asian American artists such as Tiffany Day and Katherine Li. She opened for Day at the Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood, Calif. and for Li during two shows at the Moroccan Lounge in Los Angeles, Calif. Han admitted to feeling nervous during her performance alongside Day, a fellow LMU alumna, explaining that she had only played two shows before this experience.

After connecting with Li online, Han had the opportunity to open up for her during her “love, k the tour” this month. The experience contributed to her growing comfort with live performances, which has fueled her excitement to showcase her music in these settings in the future. 

“I think that that’s something that has been cool to see just myself be more confident and comfortable on stage,” Han said. “Even though I grew up doing musical theater, performing my own music and then having to do crowd work and talk to a crowd is a different type of performance.”

Han’s latest single, “I DON’T FEEL A THING ANYMORE,” follows her journey through a tumultuous breakup. Reflecting on how she has changed since her past relationship, the song serves as an introduction to her new musical sound. Through it, Han acknowledges that she is better off without this person, realizing that she is a “better version of [herself] — being happier and healthier.”

Despite her success, Han is no stranger to balancing her academic responsibilities as a senior at LMU with her music career, having secured internships at magazines, production companies and marketing agencies since she started releasing music.

Now, with a platform to represent Asian American women in the music industry, Han embraces this opportunity with humility. She hopes to be a voice for her community, striving to pave the way for other Asian American artists and advocating for diversity and representation in the industry.

“I feel very fortunate to be the voice for some Asian American females in the space, and especially, opening up for other Asian American artists or educating artists,” Han said. “It’s very cool to see the representation grow in the industry, and I think it is great for young girls to look up to people that look like them as well.”

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About the Contributor
Clare Gehlich
Clare Gehlich, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor
Clare is the Assistant Arts and Culture Editor for The Statesman and a senior journalism major with a minor in political science. Since transferring to Stony Brook University in 2022, she has written for both Herald Community Newspapers and WSHU Public Radio.
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