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Pittsburgh Artist of the Week: Yunge Xiao

Renee Rosensteel

Yunge Xiao won WYEP’s Singer Songwriter Competition in 2021 and has been working hard in the studio with producer Sean McDonald ever since. A songwriter since she was a kid, Yunge is drawn to the emotional aspect of the craft, as evidenced on the song “Two,” a contemplation of the difficulties of long-distance relationships.

Yunge recently spoke with WYEP’s Joey Spehar about the creative community she’s found at Pitt, her love of Dodie, and slacking on music lessons.

This conversation may be lightly edited for content, clarity, or length.

What’s your musical history up to this point?

Growing up, music was always a big part of my life.

Despite my flaky commitment to piano and saxophone lessons, I found great joy in participating school music ensembles throughout my high school career. My favorite, of course, was choir and school musical productions.

While I stopped participating in music groups in college, songwriting continues to hold a special place in my life. I started writing full songs in 7th grade, and fell in love with being able to capture my emotions, storytelling, and imagination through a medium that was meaningful to me.

How do you describe your sound?

I’d probably describe my sound as light and acoustic. I love raw, unfiltered voices and try to emulate this intimacy/delicacy in my music and performance.

Tell us more about the song “Two.” What inspired you to write it?

I wrote “Two” during the beginning months of being in a long distance relationship with my partner, Ashika. The song embodies the bitter, longing, but also hopeful feelings I experienced when first adjusting to long distance. I wrote it on my bedroom floor after an emotional phone call.

The number two has always been my favorite number, in part because I thought “one” was too lonely and needed a friend. Similarly, I have found that some of the best things in life come in pairs and/or are shared with others. These sentiments are reflected in the song.

“Two” holds a special place in my heart. While some of its lyrics are quite sad, “Two” is ultimately a song of appreciation for all the moments that I have shared and will share with my partner.

What was the first album that really changed your life? 

Any Dodie album, but specifically Dodie’s "Human" album.

What’s the best part about making music in Pittsburgh?

Being able to explore Pittsburgh and its diverse cultures and communities has unlocked a whole new biosphere of experiences for me. Anyone who knows me knows I love a long walk outside–it is on my long walks throughout the city where I reach for my voice memos app and record any tune or lyric that comes to mind in that moment.

As a college student at the University of Pittsburgh, I am surrounded by some amazing, creative young adults. It is hard to not be inspired by peoples’ passions here!

Which Pittsburgh artist(s) do you wish more people knew about?

I honestly don’t keep up as much with music artists (i.e. I couldn’t tell you who is from where…), but I do know the talent in this area is plenty. I’m hoping to explore the Pittsburgh arts and music scene more and more!

Any other super interesting things we should know about you?

I got into ultimate frisbee during college, which has been quite fun.

I’m also going to graduate school next year for public health epidemiology. I am quite passionate about serving and empowering my local community.

I guess a music fun fact is that I’ve written over 50 songs since I started songwriting, but don’t ask me to elaborate on the quality of all of them.

Learn more about Yunge Xiao:


Check out previous Pittsburgh Artists of the Week here.

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.