Alumnus Leo Xia releases sophomore album ‘384’ at listening party

Leo Xia, who graduated in 2017 with a degree in industrial and systems engineering, says the inspiration for his new album stems from his grandmother’s passing earlier this year. (Jessica Ma | Daily Trojan)

This past Saturday, USC alumnus Leo Xia hosted an album release party for his sophomore album “384” in Downtown Los Angeles for fans and family.

Although he received a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering in 2017, Xia has been pursuing music as a career since graduation. Since then, he has co-hosted the podcast “Now, Pour The Tea,” had his songs featured on Buzzfeed and performed at events hosted by Asian American groups around the Los Angeles area.

Before the show, attendees mingled around the lounge and some congratulated Xia on his album release, while others caught up with old friends. Xia said he was just glad that his friends and listeners  were there to support him and share in the experience.

“I know a lot of my close friends are coming today and people that have never seen me perform, too,” Xia said. “I’m just happy that I can experience music — at the end of the day we have music as humans and that’s so amazing.”

To start the evening, Xia invited an impressive lineup of artists to perform before him. From content creator Chris Lam, who used to work for Buzzfeed Video, to spoken-word artist and USC alumnus Alex Luu, who spoke about Asian and immigrant struggles, these performers impressed and moved the audience.

Xia’s inspiration for producing “384” stemmed from the passing of his grandmother who he had a strong bond with.

“Five months ago, my grandma, or my laolao, passed away, and she was the one that taught me Chinese growing up,” Xia said. “So I’ve had other grandparents pass away, but I wasn’t affected as much. But this one really hit me.”

After Xia traveled to China right after his grandmother’s passing and visited his childhood home, he was overwhelmed with emotion. These feelings originally only existed in the form of random notes on a phone notepad, but soon became more than that, he said.

“I wasn’t even writing songs at first — it was just like notes on my phone, like thoughts like how you would write an article. Just for me, eventually that turns to a song and everything moved really quickly from there,” he said.

His grief morphed into songs on “384.” Surrounded by a crowd of about 50 people at the release party, Xia explained the origins of each song that he wrote.

“Keep,” the third song on “384,” had nostalgic undertones, and was written from the point of view of a parent watching their child leave home after caring for them for their whole lives. “Will you remember me when you go flying free, what can I keep?” he sang.

“Sliced Fruit,” on the other hand, took the act of cutting fruit for a loved one into a song about a parent’s unconditional love. Each song emphasized relations between family members in a different way and allowed the audience to reach a higher appreciation for family.

As for what he wanted people to take away from his album, Xia stressed the importance of maintaining good social and familial relations.

“I appreciate my family members so much more now … Like you see your parents not as invincible, but they were children once too,” Xia said. “So I think in that sense, kind of like treasuring the people around you, not necessarily just family but like friends too.”

Another important message Xia hoped to convey was self-forgiveness.

“I feel like the message is also like don’t beat yourself up about what you haven’t done well in the past,” Xia said. “Guilt doesn’t accomplish anything unless it’s transformed into action of some kind, and I was lucky I had my grandmother, who would come from the city to teach me Chinese on the weekends. So when you flip it instead of a sadness about loss, make it into gratitude for what was.”

On Saturday night, Xia felt grateful. Amid the cheers after the end of his final song, Xia bowed with a large smile on his face.