Go Away With ... Amber Liu

Musician Amber Liu says her first solo tour of the United States is giving her a chance to be a tourist in her own country.
(Stefanie Michova)

As part of the group f(x), Amber Liu has grown used to performing worldwide. But this winter marks her first ever solo tour, to promote her mixtape “Rogue Rouge.” Her Gone Rogue tour kicks off December 5 in Chicago. Born and raised in Los Angeles, the singer-songwriter splits her time between L.A. and Seoul. The Taiwanese American artist recently signed deals to be an ambassador with both L’Oréal and Nike. Liu, 26, did this interview while on a break from shooting with Nike in New York City.

Q. Why did you choose this point in your career to do your tour?

A. I wanted to tour the United States because I feel I owe it to the community that I grew up in. When I was growing up, the only people I saw on TV were Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Jet Li. Our representation as Asians wasn’t big, but I wanted to be like Lucy Liu and then Maggie Q. Now we have “Crazy Rich Asians” and other Asian-American artists and actors out there. (Rapper/actress) Awkwafina being out there doing the monologue and hosting “Saturday Night Live” was huge. I’m not trying to be the next big thing, but being part of this movement and showing that we exist and that we’re here is important to me.

Q. Has living abroad given you a taste of what immigrants go through in the U.S.?


A. Yes. People don’t know what it’s like being the foreigner until they are one. The song was basically about my mom and this really long conversation we had a couple years ago when I was having a lot of trouble adjusting to living outside of the U.S. She talked to me about what it was like for her when she was new to the States. (She said) don’t be afraid and just keep going.

Q. Where have you been to where you thought, “Wow, why aren’t I living here?”

A. I recently went to Portland. I wouldn’t live there now, but if I wanted to run away, I would move there.

Q. How have your travels affected your sense of style?

A. I’m from Los Angeles and we have 24/7 sun pretty much all year round. At home, all I would do is walk out in basketball shorts and T-shirts. All my model friends are trying to teach me and tell me I need to dress better, and I’m like, “True.” But when I’m in countries or states that have four seasons, it’s a whole different game. In London and New York, people just naturally seem to dress really well and that makes me want to do the same. In Seoul, too; in L.A., I’m just like, “Eh.”

Q. If scheduling wasn’t a consideration, who would you travel to see in concert?

A. I would like to see Pink, Rihanna and Gwen Stefani. They’re amazing and would be fun to keep up with on tour.

Q. For someone who has never been to Seoul or L.A., what are a few things you would tell them they must do or see?


A. In Korea, you have to run at the Han River. That’s my favorite thing to do. It stretches down all across Seoul and is awesome. For L.A. ... I don’t think people understand how weird L.A. is. Every other block, you’re going to be in a different world. But driving around L.A. would be the best way to see the environment and get a feel for the city.

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. It was either Las Vegas or Mexico. It was probably Mexico, because I was really young -- maybe six years old. My parents and me and our family friends went and we rode ATVs and went to the beach. That’s honestly all I can remember, but it was fun.

Q. What do you look for in each new place that you visit?


A. What I like seeing these days when I’m in different countries is the architecture. I like seeing how the buildings were built and I think, “Oh, that’s pretty. How come we can’t build something like that in L.A.?” (Laughs) Like it’s so easy, right?

Q. Besides architecture, what do you wish for that you can’t get in L.A.?

A. I wish we had pizza like they do in New York. The pizza is so good!

Q. What are your five favorite cities to visit?


A. Seoul, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando and the Philippines. I can’t pick just one city there.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A. My laptop and skincare, because, oh my gosh, I need that. When you’re on a plane your face just does not want to listen to you. And recently I’ve been bringing my receipt box, because I have to keep all my receipts. I take it everywhere with me so my wallet doesn’t fill up and start hurting when I sit.

Q. Some artists say they can’t create on the road. Can you?


A. Yes, which is why I sometimes never sleep. I have learned to deal with my thoughts even when I want to work. For instance, I’m in the middle of this interview with you right now and can concentrate on this and wait to write music, whereas I couldn’t always do that well in the past. (Laughs)

Q. Besides your new music, what are you working on?

A. I just talked about this with one of my friends and we’re going to do it. I want to do woodworking. (Laughs) I want to build furniture. It looks like fun and would be therapeutic for me. I need to not think about things sometimes. It’s just a hobby I want to start doing. I’m not looking for a new career.

(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at You may also follow “Go Away With...” on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)