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Eileen Sho Ji: 'Genesis'

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A black and white collage of five images of a side profile of an asian woman looking down.
 (courtesy of Marc Spencer Tejada/Collage-by-Spencer Whitney of KQED)

The Sunday Music Drop is a weekly radio series hosted by the KQED weekend news team. In each segment, we feature a song from a local musician or band with an upcoming show and hear about what inspires their music.

Eileen Sho Ji grew up in Hayward with a family that constantly consumed and created art, including her parents and brother. She began experimenting with music as a teenager by playing the piano and making beats using her iPhone. Part of her experimentation involves different genres of music.

“Some days I’m making folk, some days I’m just playing my guitar and singing, and I’m not recording it, and I’m just enjoying the sound of a voice over an acoustic guitar or like my electric guitar through a bunch of interesting pedals and filters,” she said.

While enrolled in UC Berkeley’s Media Studies program, Sho Ji said she struggled to stay on top of her schoolwork and couldn’t focus on making her music the way she’d liked.

“I would go to sessions and make things, but it was from this really stressed-out space that almost felt obligatory, like, in order to maintain that identity as an artist in my own mind and in the mind of my community, I was kind of forcing it, I think,” Sho Ji said.

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After graduating during the height of the pandemic, she worked as a freelance artist for around two years. However, it became unsustainable when she realized that she didn’t have time to pursue her own music. Now, she is trying a different approach by creating songs in isolation. While making her song “Genesis,” she thought a lot about capitalism and feeling worn down from having to work all the time to pay bills.

“I was watching myself commodify my body and mind as somebody who’s constantly posting on the internet trying to get engagement, get the music heard, make artwork that is engaging, and then I was modeling as well, and so I’m literally, like, I am a product,” she said.

To hear Eileen Sho Ji live, she will be performing at Gray Area in San Francisco on Feb. 29 — part of San Francisco’s Noise Pop Festival.

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