Jared Rehberg, musician, Babylift adoptee and newlywed, took a moment to sit down with us to discuss his past, present and upcoming album.
Jared Evan Vu Tien Anh Rehberg
I was born somewhere around Saigon, Vietnam in 1974 and was brought to An Lac orphanage under the care of Betty Tisdale and Madam Vu Ngai. I was adopted in 1975 during Operation Babylift and spent my childhood in Northborough, Massachusetts.
Woodside, Queens with my wife, Ying.
What inspired you to do music?
After attending two Vietnamese adoptee reunions in 2000, (Baltimore and Estes Park, Colorado) I realized I had new questions and emotions building inside. Even some older questions came into the light. With a few years of self-taught guitar lessons, I turned my heavy metal cover songs into chord progressions. I mixed in some James Taylor and Indigo Girls records and I was on my way. After hours of brainstorming and drawings, I wrote a few songs and shared them with my family and friends. After numerous requests for a recording, I realized that an audience existed and began making my first record, Waking Up American. My first songs were dedications to my birth family and my blurry childhood. At one time I thought that if my song made it on the radio, I might find my birth family them someday.
I quickly found success within the adoption community, performing at culture/heritage camps for Asian adoptees. I was invited to adoption conferences to meet on panels about my experiences. During the anniversary of Operation Babylift, I had the honor to perform for the volunteers and travel to Vietnam to play at the palace in HCMC. After moving to New York in 2004, I found a special community in Chinatown and became a regular at a small open mic that attracted new artists.
What has been some of the biggest challenges you have faced? How did you overcome these obstacles?
One of my biggest challenges has been balancing my day job with my beloved life work. I wish I had more time to follow new ideas and interests. Finding time to promote my work and pay for music studio time was challenging. I’m grateful for everything I have created and the opportunities I’ve been given thus far. One of my highlights was meeting Tammy Nguyen Lee and joining her husband, George, on the Operation Babylift film that was instantly close to my heart. My employers had been generous enough to allow me to travel for benefit shows and camps. Sometimes, I had to let opportunities go to try new things. In the beginning, I was known for my life story and less for my music. My new record welcomed studio artists into my recordings and greater attention to the music in the song. With my original writing style and talented friends, I could only get better. Dreams of fame pushed me along the way in the beginning. I remember having hopes of being famous. After seven years of playing around the country part-time, I’m so grateful for not being so famous. I truly discovered the gift I offer and the enjoyment of singing for my special community and all who are curious about my journey.
What is the most important advice/message you would like to give?
My message would be about being yourself 100% and letting your heart and brain speak in harmony. In all areas of life, I believe confidence comes from knowing how you feel and what you know. I feel that being raised with an open mind and outlets for creativity helped me express my emotions and gave me an opening for my passion to learn new things and appreciate how big this universe really is. I saw a divided world growing up. I was confused at all the anger and violence over beliefs and how unique we all look. My eyes saw a division in race, religion and economic status. I sometimes felt I was watching the world from the sideline. I didn’t feel white or Asian. I didn’t feel Christian, Jewish and etc. My world was like a movie. I was the main character walking through life waiting for the next opportunity, wondering where I would end up around the corner. My lack of pride for race, religion or economic status has been a blessing. I’m somewhere in the middle.
When are you planning on releasing your new CD?
My new CD, tentatively titled Somewhere in the Middle, will be released in August 2009. This album is a scrapbook of my journey over the past seven years. I’ve worked really hard on this record and have so many wonderful memories working with my friends and family to make this project special. I have songs about adoption, a wedding song I wrote for my cousin and a dedication to a good friend who left me too soon in life. I recently sang a song for my parents at my wedding reception, thanking them for all their support throughout the years. All of the tracks represent the world through my eyes. I hope my audience will see how unique I am and just how much we have in common.
Check out Jared at our upcoming Dallas premiere of Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam on Friday, September 25th with filmAsia Festival at the Magnolia Theatre. He will also be a special guest performer at our Cocktails for a Cause charity event, taking place immediately after the screening at the Dallas Center for Architecture. Tickets to Cocktails for a Cause will be available on our website beginning August 1st.