Ted Hu
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Ted Hu

Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Band Alternative Pop

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"Studio Diary: Ted Hu"

PRE-PRODUCTION

What was your pre-production like on this project?

As a pianist, the most important thing was to find the right piano. Unlike other musicians, we don’t usually have the luxury of taking our own instrument with us to the studio. For this record, I really wanted something kinetic with a huge sound. The songs really called for a bit more grit from the piano and a really big, booming bass. My fantastic team at Zippah Recording went on a search, and that search eventually led us to Blue Jay Recording Studio where they had a beautiful grand, just waiting to be played.

How did you originally find Zippah?

I telephoned Brian Charles at Zippah about three years ago when I wanted to record a six-song EP. At the time, I was searching for studios that had a real piano. We set up a tour, which was extremely important, so that I could get acquainted with his studio and I started explaining to him what I had wanted to accomplish. I played a couple of my songs for him and the dialogue just started to flow. It was so great talking to someone who had a similar vision for the music. A studio’s best assets are the people who work there and Zippah’s team is top notch. From there, the six-song EP turned into my first full length album, Wolves, Foxes, and Cranes. This time around, there was absolutely no question. Zippah was where I wanted to be.


PRODUCTION
What kind of sound were you looking for and how did you achieve it?

This is always a hard question for me. I want my music to push the envelope; to both be easy to listen to and to be intricate enough to really capture someone. I wanted a record that was a little bit digital, a little bit rock, some splashes of orchestral, and a whole lot of energy. Also, the piano needed to be big. It really had to take your breath away. Thanks to my incredible team, I absolutely achieved this goal. Without them, this record would not be the same.

What are your thoughts on live tracking and overdubs?

For me, I am a live take kind of guy: piano and vocals in one. My cover of ‘This Woman’s Work’ was done in one take with no overdubs and only a tiny amount of leveling. ‘Path to War,’ however, was a very different beast. Because of the programming I did for the record, and the fact that I still had a full band lined up to play, we really had to take it all apart. It would’ve been too intricate to have done full band takes. Unfortunately, you do lose the live performance flair of it all, but you also get to perfect the music down to the most minute detail. You have to use your resources; the studio is there for the surgical precision and I really like to use that in the best way possible.

What did you try to accomplish in the studio that you’re not able to do live?

Because I’m a solo artist, I really wanted the sound of a full band with effects. Almost always, it’s just me and the piano, and at times the songs really call out for other voices, other instruments.
In the studio, I was able to add vocal harmonies and lush strings to the songs. They became little scenes from movies that came alive. ‘American Perfume’ is a song that really thrives off of the grandeur of the drums and the strings and ‘Anchored’ is completely programmed except for the piano and vocals. The studio really lets me paint with other colors.

What were the toughest challenges you faced?

Programming, definitely. I’ve always been a fan of digital music but never thought that I could do it myself. As a classical musician, I was trained to perform, but with programming, now you’re arranging. I was scared that it wasn’t going to work or that my ability as a programmer would leave the listener baffled as to why there was any programming at all. Brian assured me, ‘You never have to worry about that. We can always make it work.’ Like I said, my team is incredible.



POST PRODUCTION

How did you handle final mixing and mastering?

I trust Brian and Annie [Hoffman, engineer] with my life. I sat in on all of the mixing sessions but could only offer ‘Can we make the strings louder?’ or something to that effect. Really, I just watched as they took the reins and worked their magic. The mixing process always proves to me that your team has to really understand you, simply because they have to make the songs sound the way that you want them to. Even before I would say something, Brian and Annie would be leveling or adding effects to different sections or suggesting ideas that would fit exactly what I wanted. This shows to me that there is a connection to the music and from a musician’s perspective, that means the world.


How does it compare to your last release in terms of style and the creative process?

It took me a while to come to terms with this, but my last album was a bit esoteric. I had really wanted to make an intelligent record with odd melodies, key changes, and bizarre time signatures. Mathematically, this is a great way to make a record. However, you lose a bit - Performer Magazine


""Path to War" - a Review"

I first came across Ted’s talent when I was on YouTube watching Tori Amos videos and covers. I came across a video of Ted’s in which he had combined Tori’s Black Dove (January) with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. It was one of the most clever and haunting things I had ever heard.

Recently, Ted has released a full album titled Path To War. He asked me to review it for him. I was honoured and also terrified, because the point of a review is to be completely and utterly honest so that other people will get something out of it, too, and I am a critical listener. I don’t easily like something.

Let me tell you, my fear was unfounded.This album had me by the proverbial balls from the first haunting notes.

What becomes instantly clear is that Ted is talented. Immensely so. He plays the piano and sings in such a way that the two forces create something together, and instead of one carrying the other, it’s a synergy. Additional instruments like drums, guitars, strings and horns are incorporated in all the right places in a non-screamy kind of way.
It seems that in some songs Ted has a flair for the dramatic and theatrical, while in other songs he seems more modest and lets the music speak for him.

Everything comes together on this album. Classical, pop, rock, but all done in such a way that it’s unique. This is an album which cannot be put into one category, which is probably why my iTunes cleverly refers to it as “alternative”. This is by no means background music, because it compells you to really listen. So in a way it’s a conversation killer, but in a really good way.

The album opens with the dark and haunting Horsemen Prelude, which has instantly become one of my favourite songs on the album, along with Anchored and The Engineer. In La Danse Ted even sings in French. Magnifique! Another gem is American Perfume, a seven minute journey that will leave you wanting more. The album closes with the modest American Lullaby, a perfect and calming closing song for this emotionally charged record.

Ted has the talent to pack different styles and moods into one song. This album is haunting, beautiful, happy, sad, burlesque, theatrical, modest, uplifting. It has the ability of conjuring up imagery in one’s mind and it’s something that should be in everyone’s cd player. The only minor downside is that there are no written lyrics with the cd, but maybe that should be considered a clever move because it makes one listen harder.

I know as well as anyone that a review is an opinion, so I suggest you buy Ted’s album and find out for yourself.
Honestly, you’ll thank me for it. - thevelvets.com


"Track by Track Review of "Path to War""

Last year, I wrote about my stumble upon Ted Hu for a music website. It was truly delightful to hear from him last week with news of his most recent debut, Path To War. I am humbled and pleased to work with him again, as he is not only an absolutely incredible, talented artist, but also a wholehearted, down-to-earth person.



Upon receiving the anticipated package (above) in the mail this afternoon, I removed Elliott Smith's From A Basement on the Hill, and inserted Ted Hu's brand new, Path To War. With a mug of coffee at my side, notebook in my lap, and ink pen in hand, I pressed play. Without further ado...



I restarted the "Horseman Prelude" for the third time, taken aback by the exquisite beauty of the instrumental introduction to this album. It begins with a combination that includes the piano, which is where Ted's passion for music started, courtesy of lessons from his parents during his childhood. His heritage and personal history are evident as the album begins. Stunned by the raw magnificence of his talent, I read the message on the inner sleeve (below) where Ted gives thanks to all who made Path To War possible.



"As always, my team at Zippah really made the record. Without Brian and Annie, I would only have bare bones," Ted said. So grateful, he is! However, take a few moments to listen to any of Ted's music, and you'll be amazed at the power and boldness of his rare, self-titled, 'bare bones' of music. They are flawless. Instrumentally, vocally, melodically, and lyrically fluid with grace and a magnetic force that urges you to truly listen as he sings. It's refreshing.

"La Danse" follows the "Horseman Prelude," as I press play for a second round. The words in this track bring it to life with a message so universally empathetic. With lines like, "I need you in this life," and, "I will blame you, fight or flight," I think every listener will relate. It personally sent chills straight down my spine. "I can't give you all that; still I need you one last night."

The songs of this album contain a mix of bilingual lyrics. They fuse so effortlessly as the universal language that is music, as stated by 19th century American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.



"Anchored." The third track of the album is quite possibly my favorite song of them all. It's hauntingly honest and heartbreakingly gorgeous, with lyrics like, "I'm the one that's left here, bound and tied."

No song on Path To War sounds too similar to the previous or following. Each uniquely stands strong in its own story. All the while, they're clearly equipped with Hu's signature artistry, melodic voice, and succinct style, keeping the cohesion of the album intact. One word comes to mind: Brilliant.

Track four is titled, "The Engineer." This one begins with a fresh, seemingly lighthearted melody, which quickly turns a bit more... complex. With lines like, "I'm looking like I should have said sorry," and then, "I will just watch your body burn just like my brothers..." and "You're lookin' like you should've loved me; you're lookin' like you should've known me." Instrumental fireworks grace this number with such a beautiful combination of sounds; quite the compelling ear candy for any and all who listen; I am certain of that.

"Follow me over the edge until you hear your bones split against the rock," he sings in the fifth track called, "Man." This song is strategically dark, incredibly profound, and undeniably moving. The sincerity in his storytelling through music is among the best I've encountered. Eloquence meets honesty with a mix of pain and sensitivity in the best way. "We have done this all before, years ago..." he sings.

Track six is titled, "Orange Revolver," as it begins sweetly with the line, "Little clementine, little love of mine, was I all you hoped I'd be?" The lullaby-esque beginning twists harmonically into a heartfelt tale; impeccable. "Some fruit is rotten from within," and "I will never be an honest man; - Caboom-sass.com


"Track by Track Review of "Path to War""

Last year, I wrote about my stumble upon Ted Hu for a music website. It was truly delightful to hear from him last week with news of his most recent debut, Path To War. I am humbled and pleased to work with him again, as he is not only an absolutely incredible, talented artist, but also a wholehearted, down-to-earth person.



Upon receiving the anticipated package (above) in the mail this afternoon, I removed Elliott Smith's From A Basement on the Hill, and inserted Ted Hu's brand new, Path To War. With a mug of coffee at my side, notebook in my lap, and ink pen in hand, I pressed play. Without further ado...



I restarted the "Horseman Prelude" for the third time, taken aback by the exquisite beauty of the instrumental introduction to this album. It begins with a combination that includes the piano, which is where Ted's passion for music started, courtesy of lessons from his parents during his childhood. His heritage and personal history are evident as the album begins. Stunned by the raw magnificence of his talent, I read the message on the inner sleeve (below) where Ted gives thanks to all who made Path To War possible.



"As always, my team at Zippah really made the record. Without Brian and Annie, I would only have bare bones," Ted said. So grateful, he is! However, take a few moments to listen to any of Ted's music, and you'll be amazed at the power and boldness of his rare, self-titled, 'bare bones' of music. They are flawless. Instrumentally, vocally, melodically, and lyrically fluid with grace and a magnetic force that urges you to truly listen as he sings. It's refreshing.

"La Danse" follows the "Horseman Prelude," as I press play for a second round. The words in this track bring it to life with a message so universally empathetic. With lines like, "I need you in this life," and, "I will blame you, fight or flight," I think every listener will relate. It personally sent chills straight down my spine. "I can't give you all that; still I need you one last night."

The songs of this album contain a mix of bilingual lyrics. They fuse so effortlessly as the universal language that is music, as stated by 19th century American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.



"Anchored." The third track of the album is quite possibly my favorite song of them all. It's hauntingly honest and heartbreakingly gorgeous, with lyrics like, "I'm the one that's left here, bound and tied."

No song on Path To War sounds too similar to the previous or following. Each uniquely stands strong in its own story. All the while, they're clearly equipped with Hu's signature artistry, melodic voice, and succinct style, keeping the cohesion of the album intact. One word comes to mind: Brilliant.

Track four is titled, "The Engineer." This one begins with a fresh, seemingly lighthearted melody, which quickly turns a bit more... complex. With lines like, "I'm looking like I should have said sorry," and then, "I will just watch your body burn just like my brothers..." and "You're lookin' like you should've loved me; you're lookin' like you should've known me." Instrumental fireworks grace this number with such a beautiful combination of sounds; quite the compelling ear candy for any and all who listen; I am certain of that.

"Follow me over the edge until you hear your bones split against the rock," he sings in the fifth track called, "Man." This song is strategically dark, incredibly profound, and undeniably moving. The sincerity in his storytelling through music is among the best I've encountered. Eloquence meets honesty with a mix of pain and sensitivity in the best way. "We have done this all before, years ago..." he sings.

Track six is titled, "Orange Revolver," as it begins sweetly with the line, "Little clementine, little love of mine, was I all you hoped I'd be?" The lullaby-esque beginning twists harmonically into a heartfelt tale; impeccable. "Some fruit is rotten from within," and "I will never be an honest man; - Caboom-sass.com


"A Fateful Stumble Upon Piano-Pop-Rock Musician, Ted Hu"

After a relentless search for an enjoyable male cover of Anna Nalick’s soothing hit song, “Just Breathe,” my search end as I clicked on Ted Hu’s Youtube link. After the first few notes, I was completely floored. Not only by his vocal chords, but also as a reaction to the passion in his performance; it knocked the wind out of me. In the simple search for a cover song, I stumbled upon this magnificent musician. I knew at that moment that I had to write about him; I had to share with others his incredible talent and infectious passion.

Thankfully having connected with him on social media, I learned even more about Ted Hu—that he’s a humble individual with a kind heart and a sweet soul, all the more reason to write about him. I made a comment about the lack of a great selection on YouTube when searching for the cover for Anna Nalick’s song, and Ted responded, “Yes, YouTube is filled with very colorful people, but that’s okay. It’s meant for everyone, and if you don’t like something, just close the window. Some people get REALLY nasty on there, which is really absurd to me simply because, well… it’s as easy as a click to stop watching.” See what I mean?

After releasing his first album just last year, Ted is currently in talks to be in a documentary. He is also in the process of recording his sophomore album at this time.

“It’s going to be pretty awesome, in my humble opinion,” Ted said.

Ted Hu grew up in North Andover, Massachusetts. Having been born into a traditional Chinese family, he learned to play an instrument, the classical piano, at the young age of five, courtesy of his culture. By age 17, he played a Mozart concerto with the Longy School of Music’s orchestra after placing fourth in the Massachusetts state competition at the tender age of 12.

With Chopin, Tori Amos, Charlotte Martin, and Kate Bush as his greatest inspirations, Ted ventured beyond his classical roots and attained a loyal group of fans as he performed at Club Passim, Phoenix Landing, All Asia Café, and Hennessy’s Hooley House in downtown Boston. With a main genre of alternative music, and secondary of pop, Ted Hu is the result of piano pop rock at its finest. He performs to make art with the purpose of communicating thoughts through sound, and he is set out to tour the world and share his music with as many listeners as he possibly can.

After listening to his music online, my favorite track is Orphan Waltz, followed by This Calls for Paper Cranes, Science, and then Metal. To get a taste of his magic, click here to go to Ted Hu’s YouTube page at and you will soon understand why I was so driven to share his talent. - www.illmusica.com


Discography

Path to War (2012)
Wolves, Foxes, and Cranes (2010)

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Bio

Ted Hu grew up in North Andover, Massachusetts. Born into a traditional Chinese family, he was forced to learn an instrument, as all good Chinese children are. His sentence, the piano. From the age of 5 he began studying classical piano and by the age of 12 had placed 4th in the Massachusetts state competition and by 17 had played a Mozart concerto with the Longy School of Music's orchestra. Today, he is ever grateful that he was never allowed to give it up.

Ted began singing in choruses in high school when a teacher walked up to him and said, "Listen, I really need guys to be in this choir. I don't know if you can sing, but maybe just give it a shot?" From there on out, Ted joined several singing groups. At the age of 16, a late bloomer perhaps, he began venturing beyond his classical roots and began composing.

Ted's biggest musical inspirations are Chopin, Tori Amos, Charlotte Martin, Kate Bush, and anything electronic with organic instrumentation. In the past three years, Ted has acquired a loyal following online and his live performances have included shows at Club Passim, Phoenix Landing, All Asia Café, and Hennessy’s Hooley House in downtown Boston. His festival performances include benefit concerts for the Nivasa Foundation and Yankee Homecoming. Armed with a piano, he’s out to tour and see the world.