Brenda Xu
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Brenda Xu

Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter


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""A Little Illusion" Album Review"

Brenda Xu
A Little Illusion

Xu’s rich songwriting skills are evident in every track on A Little Illusion. With a country lilt that sneaks in when you least expect it, Xu opens with a driving beat underneath a velvety-smooth, Suzanne Vega-esque voice and transitions into a captivating combination of acoustic guitar with an ethereal production that sounds almost as if it were being played in reverse. Leaving behind her delicate nature from previous songs, she tears a hole in the album with the standout track, “Count to Ten,” in which she growls under a slapping percussion with a voice seemingly influenced by PJ Harvey. Xu’s abilities as a vocalist on this album appear to be wide-ranging, if not boundless. And joined by the talented musicians with whom she’s surrounded herself, Xu has found a combination that will undoubtedly lead her to success—or at least the attention and acclaim of alt-weekly freelancers. Nicely done!
—Justin Roberts
- Citybeat

"Musician Interview" - San Diego Reader

"Local Bands/Performers Profile" - San Diego Reader

"San Diego Troubadour CD Review"

Brenda Xu "It's True"
by Simeon Flick

Many fledging artists are often forced to conceal an unrefined vision and lack of experience behind youthful exuberance and full-band production values. Some may take years to uncover the glint of promise that will make Singer/songwriters with stipped-down, starkly orchestrated debuts run an even higher risk of revealing a dearth of craft development. Still, every once in a while someone emerges with an album that manages to tap into an unexpected groove and bring a surprising glimpse of fruition to the latent present. Witness Brenda Xu, who has managed to acheive this with "It's True."

Despite being sonically sparse, this less-is-more EP is ominously intense. Sven-Erik Seaholm produced the equisitely recorded acoustic and electric guitars and lushly sung vocals with vast aplomb, but the dynamic peaks and valleys of Xu's material and performances are at the eye of this quietly raging emotional storm. She could have easily let the static yet harmonically intriguing acoustic guitar riff from "Count to Ten" rest on its laurels; instead, Xu builds up the intensity with several different and equally alluring vocal hooks (some edgily distorted), the shock of clacking sticks following a brief lull, and the kind of deft vocal phrasing that can resurrect the wisdom of hyprid cliches like "Just live it up one day at a time."

Sure she's young, exhibiting the time-honored case of bed-spins from progressively subjugated ideals, and she comes perilously close to abusing her Coldplay priveleges on four of the six tracks (DAH dun dun DAH dun dun DAH dun), but Brenda Xu is definitely on to something here. - San Diego Troubadour

"Xu quickly establishing herself in the local music scene" - North County Times

"Performer CD Review"

The first track on Brenda Xu’s new EP, “Count To Ten” not only sets an interesting tone for the disc but also a high standard for the tracks that follow. As Xu sings a warning to all, the steady and ominous rhythm of her guitar, combined with the distortion mixed into her voice, sends a very clear message that this quiet singer/songwriter doesn’t mess around. Conjuring the energy of witches dancing around a cauldron to tell of impending danger, Xu cautions, “I’d count to 10 before I dive in,” and a small feeling of fright (the good kind) comes over the listener as this tensely hushed acoustic song adds what sounds like a drumstick banging on a kitchen pot.

Drawing off the strength of the first track, It’s Time unfortunately begins to lose momentum, starting to repeat ideas instead of inventing them. In four out of the six songs, Xu uses the exact same rhythm, leaving the listener satisfied with a good idea but a bit disappointed at the lack of variety.

Xu’s lyrics stand as one of the best things about this EP, and despite the guitar parts that could use some developing, Xu shows potential for a striking full-length album with the strength of her thoughtful and meaningful words. She gives both a personal and dark performance in “She Knows,” singing, “He’s there just a little more each day / Too much to put your dirty laundry on the line,” painting the picture of what seems to be a girl being stalked by a man.

Despite its room for improvement, It’s Time features quality vocals, the development of solid themes, and a fiery passion that could burn brightly with the right fuel. (Self-released)

-Dave Boodakian
- Performer - West Coast Edition

"Featured Artist: Brenda Xu"

Brenda is originally from Harbin, China which is close to Russia’s southern border. She came to the United States to live with her grandmother when she was five until her mother arrived five years later. It was then that her mother began teaching Brenda how to play the piano and it was not a positive musical experience at first. She wanted to quit after four or five lessons and did not rekindle her love for music until she was inspired by the radio to learn the guitar instead. Brenda is an alumna of UC San Diego and currently resides in San Diego. For a few months after she started performing at local venues, music was all she focused on and found the time to record her EP “It’s True.” The need for food and shelter eventually forced her to take on a day job again but she hopes to make music her full-time gig someday.

“Count to Ten,” that’s the number of seconds it took for me to like Brenda’s voice. Powerful, yet gentle enough to sooth the ears. I can already picture myself sitting at a café performance, listening to acoustic versions of her songs, mesmerized by the simple beauty. I didn’t have to think too hard to make sense of her lyrics and it was just enough for me to relate. There are only six tracks on the EP and my favorite is, “She Knows.” Although I like the simplicity of her style, after awhile, the music became a little continuous for me. At some points I was expecting or maybe hoping for an out breaking cry, a scream, of some sort. Maybe that is an angry component I crave and need to work out on my own. Nevertheless, it’s all worth it in the end and I would definitely keep on the lookout for any new material. It’s only the very beginning for Brenda, she is just creepin’ up on the music scene.

- Boston Progress Radio

"Bert's Fan"

If given a chance for an alternate profession, Brenda Xu would work for Sesame Street, “writing skits for Bert and Ernie. Bert’s such a great ‘square’ character. I love his mundane sensibilities.”

The San Diego resident and UCSD grad — originally from Harbin, China — has been busy recording and playing guitar in local venues on weekends. When we last talked to her in November 2007, she had just started out, paying her dues and gaining experience at the acoustic and open-mike nights at Lestat’s, Swedenborg Hall, Vinbladh’s Swedish Fusion Cafe, Ocean Beach Farmers’ Market, and artgallery openings.

“There is no right way to do things, and you just have to learn by trial and error what venues suit your style of music,” she says. “How you should promote your music, who can really help you, and who is just telling you things you want to hear. It seems like everyone has advice to offer about how you should go about doing things, but I’ve found that my gut decision often tends to be the right one.”

Playing out has been a test of her confidence. “It took me about a year to really believe that I had something to offer people in terms of music,” says Brenda. “That I wanted to and could possibly do it as a career. I still question if I can.”

Brenda Xu released a CD in 2007 called It’s True. Out of 60 songs that she wrote for it, 6 made the final cut. Her next release, A Little Illusion, will be full-length and is due out this November.


“I bought it from my friend, who purchased it off craigslist. It is a Taylor 310CE and retails for $1500, but he got it and sold it to me for $450 because it has a crack in the back and was Super-Glued together. I am slightly fearful that it will split open one day while I’m playing.”


“Trying not to trip on a cable in heels.”


“It was in a small coffeeshop, and there were about six people there. I left my purse on a chair in the back, and during the second song I heard my phone ring. I pretended not to notice and kept on playing. During my third song, the phone rang again — this time continuously — until one of my friends took it out of my purse and then said, ‘It’s your mom.’ ”


“I believe in lust at first sight.”


“Singing karaoke.”


“Singing karaoke.”


“My day job. Oh wait, it’s not a dream!”


“Gregory Page’s All Make Believe. There’s one song that I listen to on repeat: ‘Sleeping Dogs.’ I love everything about it. And Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine. She’s one of the few artists who has consistently put out great albums. I love her style and candor.”


1. Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. “I listened to this album religiously and read all the liner notes when it first came out…I bought it on cassette. They were an amazing band back then.”

2. Tori Amos, Boys for Pele. “It has everything an album needs to make you feel satisfied after listening to it all the way through.”

3. Aimee Mann, Bachelor No. 2. “This album changed the way I thought about songwriting. The characters in her songs are so poignant, and her melodies are beautiful.”

4. Sarah McLachlan, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. “She explores relationships and internal dialogue like no one I’ve heard before.”

5. My album, It’s True. “So I can remember what it’s like to create music and be inspired to continue creating [after the world ends].”


1. Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa. “Because of all the yummy Asian restaurants.”

2. Forever 21. “I like to be a girl sometimes.”

3. Torrey Pines. “Fresh air is good for the soul.”


“Seeing the colors of M&Ms as they melted in my palm.”


“ ‘Do something that makes you happy.’ — My mom.”


“Please refer to my songs.” - San Diego Reader


A Little Illusion available on iTunes, Amazon, and all major online retailers
It's True (EP) available on and, songs available on
Songs played on San Diego radio from EP and full album include "Count To Ten," "What I've Got Inside," and "Losing The Moment"



Brenda Xu (pronounced “shoo”) was born in Northern China in the city of Harbin. At the age of 5 she moved with her grandmother to California. As a teenager, she would record herself singing along to Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan, and taught herself how to play guitar. After graduating from UC San Diego with a degree in Political Science, she wandered from job to job, ignoring her creative inclinations. It was not until she started writing her own songs that she found direction and purpose and finally pursued her true calling.

Brenda began her music career in January of 2007, playing 4-5 open mics per week for 4 months. After releasing a 6-song EP that year, she soon became a staple in the San Diego music scene and began playing shows at venues such as Lestat's, Dublin's Square, and festivals such as Ray At Night and Artwalk. Nominated for Best New Artist in San Diego's Honoring Acoustic Talent Awards that year, she has since opened shows for international touring artists such as Gregory Page, and Renata Youngblood.

Her music has been described as haunting and melodic with a rock influence, and has been compared most often to that of Aimee Mann. Her songs have received airplay on various radio stations, including San Diego's KPRI 102.1, Boston Progress Radio, and Insomnia Radio and her debut EP has been written about in The SD Reader, The North County Times and Performer Magazine. She has just released her first full-length CD this winter.