We caught up for a chat to get to know her a bit more.
LookingGlass: Hi Kristina, thank you for catching up with us. Can you briefly introduce yourself and your music?
Kristina Lao: Hi Looking Glass team! I'm a nerdy, wordy singer-songwriter whose mission is to inspire the world through the love of words. My heroes are Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Regina Spektor and various local artists (a lot of whom play at the Looking Glass with Sessions - Gareth Esson, Ciara Vizzard, Declan Carrier and more).
LG: Hong Kong born, raised between New Zealand, UK and Canada. You’re a globetrotter citizen of the world, how was it to grow up exposed to so many different cultures?And how did it affect your creativity?
KL: It has been, and continues to be a gloriously tumultuous journey into my own identity. Sometimes, I think it's hard to articulate how it felt to be a trans-national and mixed heritage kid, because, as human nature goes, I tend to surround myself with fellow world-wanderers and global citizens.
Both of my parents moved a lot when they were growing up, so they did an amazing job of taking the geography out of 'home'. Being immersed in different cultures had a profound impact on my emotional development. Some phases of life I felt so ostracised - as if I could never 'fit in'. I wasn't Chinese enough to be Chinese (or Nepalese, for that matter). I wasn't British enough to be British (nor was my father - he's half Polish). Despite that, I fully embrace my cultures, my heritage, and my family history. They're mine to have, and to love.
The languages around my family table range from Hindi (my mother was born in Calcutta) to Cantonese, to English, and French. I learned how to be good at observing and adopting behaviours, accents, and idiosyncrasies, but I always felt like I was either trying to convince everyone else, or myself.
When I was a teenager, at a time when so many of us can be our most cruel, I finally asked my father how he defined himself. He told me that he picked values to live by, and let them, rather than geography, culture, or society, dictate his choices. It allowed me to take control of who I was, past belonging to a 'tribe' or a 'way of being'.
So, I carefully chose, challenged, and decided upon my values, which have lead me well through my continued shapeshifting: Freedom, and Honesty.
Creatively speaking, I think my joy in observation has been a great outcome of a culturally dissonant childhood. A passionate curiosity and flexibility defines me, as well as an appreciation of language, of our differences, and our similarities. Music can transcend those differences and remind us of those similarities, and is a wonderful medium for freedom of expression. That's an exceptionally long-winded way of me saying I've grown to like me more over the years, despite being rather weird and ambiguous-looking and more than a bit odd.