I've actually been following this talented artist for quite a while; she first came to my attention when Wang Leehom shared her cover of his song <你不知道的事>(The Things you Don't Know) on his Facebook Page sometime back in 2009. I watched the video and was truly impressed that someone like her could have such a passion for chinese music and for the chinese language! I kept following her, albeit less regularly for a period of time.
Recently, journalist Emmanuel Félix Lesprón contacted me and provided me with an exclusive interview with one of the most promising newcomers in the Taiwanese Music industry today; singer Wang Dawen! I'm honored to have the chance to share his interview with all Asian Pop weekly readers, and hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!
Here's a Spanish version of the interview:
Unveiling the real Dawen-Emmanuel Félix Lesprón
Poetic and caring, funny and smart, Wang Dawen opened his heart in this interview and talks about his past, present and future.
Within two years he worked his way into the music scene, conquering the girls’ hearts and originating a new singing style that most guys love to imitate. His voice and charisma opened the doors to success for him, turning him into a big hit in Taiwan’s stages. This immediately spread in many Asian nations and many more on other continents. Suddenly we all started singing“Beautiful” (美麗) and “Let’s work it out” (練習愛情), two of his most famous songs. Little by little we all became part of the thousands of followers that at the moment, are waiting for his next album.
His name is Wang Dawen, and he received us at the Universal Music offices based in Taiwan, where he opened his heart, unveiling his passion for music, his upcoming projects and, of course, that time when his heart was broken.
E: Let’s start with the good news: congratulations on the two million YouTube visits on the video “Beautiful”. How do you feel? Was this success something you imagined would to happen while writing the song?
D: Thank you! It feels great! I am very happy; I am thrilled!
To be honest, while writing this song I wasn’t thinking of any of that. When we released the album this was the song that escalated it really quickly among the fans and then we realized actually what was going on.
E: Your second big hit, “We Can Make It” featuring Kimberley is following the same trend. How did this song happen?
D: While writing the album I wanted to write a duet. It was something that I really wanted to include in my first work in Chinese. After I finished it, I was looking for people to sing it with. I thought of Kimberley because last year she had this song that I really liked, “愛你” (I Love You). I sent her the song and she liked it. We recorded it and she brought her very personal style to the duet. It was great working with her on this song.
E: The video reflects very traditional things from Taiwan. You have the late party at the KTV, the noodles after it…
D: Yeah! Actually the video was shot in a traditional KTV place. All the videos in “你好” (Ni Hao means Hello in English) reflect very traditional things from Taiwan that I wanted to share with the people that got to see my videos.
E: When did you decide to become a musician?
D: Ever since I was 5 or 6 (years old) I liked music. Then when I went to college I studied classic music and I was deciding whether to become a Broadway-style performer or a classical singer. But then I started writing songs leading me to where I am right now.
E: Five or six years old? What were you listening back in those days?
D: I grew up listening to classical music and Disney, of course (says laughing).
E: What’s your favorite from Disney?
D: There are three that I like the most. Aladdin, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. I think those three have really good music.
E: Your music is very heterogenic. What are the basic foundations of your style?
D: Early on there was lots of music in my house. The living room had classical music so Bach, Mozart and Beethoven were always being played in the common areas.
My brother, he would have different things in his room. He was a huge fan of reggae, jazz, and rock so I also got to appreciate everything from Bob Marley and Charles Mingus to Nirvana. In my room it was all about Disney so I would listen to Fantasia, Aladdin, and The Lion King, so there were lots of things going on.
But what I think kept me grounded definitely was classical music and jazz. Those are my foundations. When I grew older I started to admire single-song writers and started to follow the work of Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman or Stevie Wonder, writers that brought to the table their own music; people who wrote their own words and told stories.
E: You have a previous record called “American Me”. Compared to “你好”, it sounds more jazzy but angrier at the same time. What life experiences led you to compose that album?
D: American Me is a reflection of the experiences that I had living through college. As I became an adult in America I started to be frustrated with certain aspects of American society. I was born in the States, but sometimes I felt discriminated against. And I took all of that frustration and put it in my music. “American Me” is bitter, quietly angry, very serious, and even hard to listen. When I moved to Taiwan my life changed a lot. These frustrations suddenly were only memories and that gave room in my life for new experiences that led me to “Nihao”.
E: Obligated question… Who is this Jay you talk about in the Homonymous song?
D: There is a song on my indie album called I Hate Jay. He is a real person and his real name is Jay. He is someone I knew that I blame for taking away someone I really liked.
(He took a moment and then he confessed)
OK… There was this girl I was really close to and things did not work out between us. He ended up dating her and this experience traumatized me; that’s why I turned it into a song. The weird thing is, he became a fan of the song. He really liked it, even though he knew I was talking about him
E: How do you define both of your works so far?
E: “American Me” and “你好” are very different in topics and they were written in different languages while I was living in different countries. “American Me” is very complex and is very jazz-structured. It is full of jazz, soul and funk and actually is not very accessible. It is very direct and heart-felt about issues and topics I related to while living in America.
“你好” is very different… very happy, very positive. It’s me writing for the first time ever in Chinese and that for me was a big challenge. It was challenging switching languages: each language has its own rhythm and beauty. Even though I spoke a little Chinese before and my parents are Mandarin speakers it was still difficult for me to grasp Mandarin creatively. So “你好” represents a whole new beginning to discover a new language to sing it.
E: What do you think about Taiwanese musicians?
D: I think my knowledge about it used to be pretty limited. While living abroad I started to follow it with David Tao, and the Taiwanese rock from the 90’s and early 2000. After I moved to Taiwan I followed Jay Chou, of course, A-Mei, JJ Lin, A-lin, and Wa Wa. I feel Taiwan music is so broad and has so much style…
E: Do you have a bucket list? Was being a singer part of it?
D: Being singer wasn’t part of it but the goal.
Still I have a couple of things I really would like to do. I want run a marathon, skydive before 50, travel more and learn more languages. I have a small bucket list.
E: More languages? How many do you speak now?
D: I can only count English and Chinese. I used to speak Spanish when I was 15 years old because back then I was living in Salamanca (Spain), but “no me acuerdo mucho”(“I do not remember much”, says laughing).
E: Spanish audiences are exactly the ones that were asking for this interview…
D: I think that’s awesome! I saw sometimes people from different countries sending messages through Facebook or Twitter and I get very surprised about the places I am getting through my music. There was once a message from Argentina… It’s crazy how music is an international language and all you need is Internet so you can listen to anything. Actually there are lots of Latin artists I admire like salsa singer La India or the old Buena Vista Social Club.
E: We see that you take lots of time to reply to your fans…
D: I love people taking time to listen to my music and I try to read everything and interact a little bit with them every day. Thanks to them I do what I love and that is the way I can share with them a little of my everyday experiences.
The singer, who had to leave to (yes fans you can calm down) write and record some of the new songs for his next album, said good bye with a big smile on his face and a final message for all of his followers:
“Thanks everyone for listening to my music and all the support. I’m working on my second album in Chinese. It’s too early to tell but… anything can happen. The mood is going to change. I’ll play a little bit of funk, but it’s going to be fun!”
Mr. David Tai.
Universal Music Taiwan.
A big welcome back to songstress Joanna wang who made a long-awaited comeback with the release of her latest album <Midnight Cinema> on the 29th of March.
Joanna has expressed her immense satisfaction with this album, as she was able to take creative control over this album without compromising her ideals. The album is a selection of personal covers with a vintage and Hollywood glam feel to it, but as Singer-Songwriter Khalil Fong points out, there is more of a rebellious side to this album than what is represented on the surface.
Knowing Joanna and the pains that she goes to to make her work not just as a singer but as an artist known, I'm really happy to see her so excited about how the creative process was all her own work, without being shot down by her record company.
Working in Finland with co-producer and arranger Pessi Levanto, the album is definitely something I'd recommend to anyone willing to listen to some great music! It's also been lauded by friends of Joanna such as Lara Veronin and Evan Yo, the latter of which notably said 'if you don't listen to this album, don't bother buying albums anymore'; and I fully second that opinion.
Joanna's been emphasisng how on previous albums she has always had to compromise in order to get her original compositions onto the album, causing her a great deal of heartache due to her need to express her creativity as an artist. Although other artists may be able to deal with the restrictions that record labels may pose on their creativity, I really admire Joanna for her strong headed opposition to this. She's a strong and opinionated person who is extremely talented, which is why I've been supporting her until this day.
I really am proud of everything she's achieved thus far, and am grateful to be able to share in her happiness. It's a fresh start for her, and I hope it heralds even more great, original music from her to come!
Whoever's out there looking for the next big thing may as well stop now, because I think I've just found it. Well, to be specific, him. Known simply as James or 杨永聪, this British heartthrob captured the hearts of many with his performances and his personality on mainland singing program <Chinese Idol>.The scoop is, he's gearing up to release his own album on the 28th of February this year, and it could not come any sooner for me!
Some of you may have seen him most recently dueting with Where Chou on her most recent album in the remake of a golden classic <冬季到台北来看雨>(Winter Rain in Taipei), or in Anthony Neely's Christmas youtube video shenanigans where he collaborates with James on the song <Happy Christmas the war is over>, originally sang by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. You can also see more of his performances on his own youtube page, including a few covers such as <wo yuan yi>(I accept), <Apologise>, <sha zi>(originally by yoga lin) and <Someone like you>(Adele).
But he's not just some pretty-faced mainstream pop cover artist. One thing that I've really started to appreciate about him, despite a brief interaction with his works, is the adeptness with which he performs with a guitar. With a lot of other artists who sing and play at the same time, for me there's usually a feeling of uncertainty hanging over (because that's the kind of pessimistic person I am), but with James, no explanation is needed to see the passion and confidence that he sings and plays with. When he plays, the guitar is not a prop to show his skills as an artist as might be regarded in other cases, but instead is used to actually fill out each song with the atmosphere it needs. Needless to say, his voice is a matchmade in heaven for the guitar, with smouldering grit played out against underlying tones of velvet in his vocals.
Ultimately, its his musicianship that gets me as he puts out the message that he's not just any singer with a guitar, but a true performer. The rawness of emotion that he sings with is astounding despite his lack of proficiency with the chinese language as he captures each and every note and word with real feeling. Very impressed by this guy, and would definitely recommend him to anyone who's looking for some fresh talent!
Star potential: 4.5/5
Comment: The faith is strong with this one.
More updates will be available on his new album as they come, so stay tuned!
Anyway, if you like what you see, please don't hesitate to support him by liking his facebook page by following this link:
But on a last note, he will be releasing his own album with H.I.M records on the 28th of Fenruary, so stay tuned for more updates! Hope you all can support him and help his fanbase grow! Such amazing talent should not be wasted.
If you ask me, Wei is like the residential nice guy on the scene, at first a newbie with a lot of talent,but not really seeming like a breakout artist in the music scene. But he has an almost lethal weapon that has brought him critical acclaim and success ever since his debut, making people, even the likes of one of the largest successes in the music industry David Tao take notice of him. What would that be, one might ask? And I have to say, it’s his niceness. To elaborate further, I feel that it is his genuine love for music, and the honest, feel-good vibe that he has going for him that has won him the admiration of many a fan, and not to mention the best newcomer award at the 2011 golden melody awards.
Before I was introduced to Wei’s music, I had no idea that Folk Rock could be transformed in the way that he transformed it. I didn’t know how much I would love it, or how happy it would make me until I heard him sing, and that was enough for me to gain interest not only in the genre, but in Wei as an artist. It’s hard to imagine how large an impact an unassuming nice guy such as Wei could make, with just a friendly smile and his acoustic guitar, but a single song could change even the meanest cynics’ opinion. In the midst of the Yen-J vs William Wei debate for the 2010 winner of the prestigious newcomer award at the Golden Melody’s , I as a Yen-J fan and having never heard Wei’s music before was slightly miffed when he won. On an impulse, I bought the album and I have to say, he had me entranced from the word go. From the first sentence of the first song <我没有> , “Turn off the radio” it was like he had cast a spell on me, the melancholy soulfulness of his voice being unlike anything I had ever heard before. It was a little like déjà vu hearing that song, as if I had heard it in my dreams. Through this simple melody and arrangement, I feel that Wei has captured a sliver of pure, unadulterated human emotion with a superhuman precision that is rare even within the most talented artists.
I think he really gets what it’s all about. Music is about touching people, spreading a message. It is altruistic, and a reflection of each performer’s innermost thoughts that can be transferred to others. Unfortunately, a lot of people forget this in today’s music industry, but not Wei. He knows it, and never takes music for granted. Every single song he puts out is done with love and care, coaxing each melody as a nice guy would, making it talk to him, and he to it. The way that he communicates and understands music is a phenomenal skill, making each and every piece a unique reminder to himself and to his listeners of who he is and what he’s set out to do.
But while his songs urge us to find ourselves in more ways than one, his voice as the glue holding it all together is comforting, yet motivating at the same time. The genuine honesty with which he sings all his lyrics,that little bit of humor and that ever-present warmth gives listeners such as myself so much happiness and comfort.
Wei is an outstanding singer that reaches out past the microphone and past the recording studio into the hearts and minds of listeners; his genuine love and passion for music is an inspiration to listeners everywhere and I have absolutely no doubt that he will go far as an artist and performer.
Photo from: http://taozhe.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/dt-matzka.html