By Jocelle Koh
Design by Allison Sun
My first encounter with Eurasian singer-songwriter James Yang’s music was back in 2014. At that point in time, he was signed with H.I.M, and released a debut cover album titled “Stay”. Enamoured after chancing upon a clip of him performing an acoustic version of Eason Chan’s ‘好久不見 Long Time No See’, I pounced onto the album, only to find that it wasn’t as chock-full of his self-penned works as I had hoped. Yet, a single demo track at the end of the record simply titled ‘Clarity’ caught my ear; revealing a glimmer of undiscovered brilliance. That thought; and the lasting impression the Englishman’s gruff, soulful vocals had left on me remained embedded in my memory, lost but not forgotten until the announcement of a second bilingual album four years later.
Titled “Lost and Found”, the album’s name has multiple facets of meaning for the brooding artist, which is understandable given how meaningful this long-awaited release is to James. Not only was the title derived from outro lyrics on “Hold On”; a track written by James for his grandfather; the name just seems fitting given the artist’s past experiences.
“There are many themes in the album, many of which overlap and interlink: the sea, the colour red, moving forward despite adversity, and understanding that our past helps to define our present and future, but one major concept is the idea of being oneself – Lost & Found is the first time I’ve been able to be myself on an album – the amount of creative input I’ve been given is quite surprising, not solely in terms of music, but also album design, track listings, personal styling, and the album title. Prior to signing with my current company, Cros Music, I had been pushed in directions I was not comfortable with, and that felt like a period of being lost. Creating Lost & Found with Cros feels like getting back on track: being myself, showing my own songs and personality.”
By Jocelle Koh
Design by Allison Sun
Upon interviewing her, we found that Yoyo Sham’s personality is just like her music; mellow, comfortable, and always thoughtful. Although the end of 2018 saw her just releasing her second album, the Jazz/Folk/Pop artist has already made her mark on the Mandarin music industry in more ways than one; boasting a lengthy track record as a professional backing vocalist for the likes of Khalil Fong and Eason Chan, and showing her apparent flair for blending genres and languages into her easy songwriting style.
“I tend to look for comfort in music. I also look for stimulation and inspiration, of course... But I seldom use music to…I wanted to say I seldom use music to express anger or frustration, but I’m learning to as well… I think I tend to like music that makes me comfortable … it’s just natural for me, it’s not something I try very hard to achieve, it’s just how I am.”
Yet her latest album ‘Nothing is Under Control’ sees an evolution of Sham’s uniquely chilled sound; sometimes into more lively, cheeky, territory; whilst reprising and improving on her relaxing jazz/folk offerings. Riding the highs and lows of life, Sham takes us on a journey of the unexpected-no matter how we perceive the latter.
“Nothing is under control is something I find true in many, many circumstances (laughs) ... And I actually took this out of one of the lyrics in the song ‘Ride’. So the whole line was ‘freedom is simply seeing, nothing is under control, gotta learn to let go’… it’s like … something for everyone to reflect on. So when you see the title ’Nothing is under control’ , how do you react? I wanna throw that out there for people to react and reflect on themselves…it’s a neutral concept for me…I like throwing out things to provoke reflections (laughs).”
‘Ride’; as one of the core songs on Yoyo’s album has a bohemian feel à la Corinne Bailey Rae, and skilfully penned lyrics that delicately capture the vivid beauty of letting the chips fall where they may.
“I’m really happy to have a song like that, I’ve always wanted to have a song like ride that kind of…is kind of comforting, and it’s like a reminder for me, the things that’s said and its positive, I like the vibe of the song, its earthy, keeps going.”