Sunday, 18 November 2012

"Opportunities are everywhere. It's what you make of it," says Wu Jiahui, multi-award winning Malaysian singer-songwriter

With more than 150 songs under his belt and multiple award wins, including the Malaysia Outstanding Artist Award at the recent Global Chinese Music Awards (全球華語歌曲排行榜) 2012 held in Singapore, Wu Jiahui (伍家辉) is arguably Malaysia’s fastest-rising singer-songwriter.

He has written songs for some top artistes such as Jacky Cheung 張學友 (Black and White 黑白畫映), Stefanie Sun 孫燕姿 (Wish you happiness 祝你開心), Leon Lai 黎明 (Man with Love 有情郎) and Jerry Yan 言承旭 (One metre一公尺), and sang the hit song One-Half from movie 881 original soundtrack that sold more than 13,000 copies in Singapore.

Jiahui first started as a songwriter writing for other singers, but eventually became a full-fledged recording artist and performer, singing his own material. However, it’s still songwriting, as Jiahui admits, that gives him the kicks.

“I definitely prefer being a songwriter, because I started out behind the scenes. But today, being a singer and a producer allows me to exert more influence and control over the music. Although being a singer definitely brings in more revenue from performances as compared to the efforts put in as a producer or songwriter, ultimately it’s still songwriting and producing that brings me the greatest satisfaction.”

Multiple award winning Malaysian singer-songwriter, Wu Jiahui

“When I first started, I already felt contented just merely by sharing my music through songwriting. Later when I took part in a songwriting competition, I was discovered by a publisher, and was later signed as an artist by renowned Singaporean musician Eric Ng (Funkie Monkies Production). Actually, I feel that as long as I am able to sing for one more day, I would grasp that opportunity and continue to make the music I love and share it with others, because music is my dream and an indelible part of my life.”

We understand that you did not renew your contract with Funkie Monkies (FM) Productions and decided to become independent. Could you share why you made this decision? How different is it having your own label?

Actually, I’m very thankful and grateful to FM Productions for grooming me all this time. My decision to set up my own company was because both the label and I share the same consensus that it’s time for me to step out on my own. I’ve been signed to FM since 2006, and during all these years we’ve experienced so much together, and have built a lot of camaraderie. Our relationship is not just simply that of a label and its artiste, it’s more like a family, and now the parents are very happy to see their child take flight.

The new label starts out with signing myself. It’s called “Dreammy Studio”(吾梦工作室), which means finding one’s dreams. Currently there’s a manager running it for the moment, but later, when the time is right, we will slowly expand or work with other companies who are interested.

The difference between having my own label and being signed to a bigger label is that having my own label gives me a lot more freedom and control to exercise my thoughts and opinions, while a bigger label would have more financial and human resources.

What's the music industry in Malaysia like? Are there more opportunities as compared to Singapore, Taiwan and China? Where does the majority of your fan base come from? Is the media more supportive in your home country?

There are several segments in the music industry in Malaysia. There’s Malay music, English music and Chinese music, and within the Chinese music market, it’s split between local and overseas Chinese music. Actually I feel that the level of opportunities is equal everywhere, it’s all a matter of how you target the market and where you stand. Basically, my fans come from Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia, and I’m thankful that the media here supports me very much.

How many performances do you do typically in a month? Are they mostly in Malaysia or overseas? Now that you have won the Most Outstanding Artiste Award (Malaysia) in the Global Chinese Music Awards, do you see anything changing for you?

On average, I do about three to four performances in a month, out of which usually one is from overseas (but it depends on the market, sometimes we could have more requests towards the end of the year, all at the same time). I feel that winning the award is just a form of recognition, and perhaps a platform for more friends to know me, and maybe because of that there are more performance requests.

Other than the Most Outstanding Artiste Award (Malaysia), your song <我們怎麼LOVE> has also been awarded as one of the Top 20 Songs. What do these two awards mean to you?

I’m very happy because I never thought that <我們怎麼LOVE> would win an award, because when I was writing it, I didn’t have too many considerations or further thoughts, I was simply just writing what I had wanted to express and record down my feelings at that moment. So now it’s really great that the song had won.

What do you think of the future of the Chinese music industry in Malaysia and in Asia would be like?

Malaysia’s music industry has been creating waves and is now on a surge. In the Chinese music industry in general, Malaysian artistes make up a considerable number; and now, as long as we stay united and work hard together, we can definitely achieve even greater success and reach higher levels. I hope that all musicians will put in their very best and their upmost sincerity in every song and every musical note, to move and to encourage more and more people out there.

After note
In the midst of arranging this interview, another of Jiahui's works, , has won Best Television/ Movie Soundtrack at the PWH Music Awards 2012. 《灰》,together with another recent work, 香火, written for a TV serial by Malaysia’s NTV7 of the same name, are nominated Best Theme Song in the upcoming Asian Television Awards 2012.

Certainly a wave-maker himself.


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Ranked No. 1 in Singapore on Reverbnation, Eli T. sets to take on both Asian and Western markets.

With his 2009 major hit song “Record Breaker” sung by multi-platinum selling Filipino artiste Sarah Geronimo, 2 award nominations "Best Singer/Songwriter" & "Best Solo Artist" in the 2012 "All Indie Music Awards" held in Hollywood, CA, and more than 33,000 likes on his Facebook page as of writing (an impressive number for a Singaporean artist), Eli T. is an upcoming electro-pop act certainly worth tuning into.

Born in Singapore and grown up in Canada, Eli reveals that his East-meets-West identity as an artist poses many challenges for him. Nevertheless, with the love and support from his fans “which mean the world to (him)”, he continues to stick true to himself.

 “It was pretty tough for me when I first got back to Singapore. I just didn't fit in. Collectivistic culture is an interesting thing that doesn't take well to sore thumbs. I was told to chisel away aspects of who I am to be more accessible. I sing, write, produce, arrange, perform and am extremely particular about the execution and presentation of my art form. Critics have tried so many times to box and compartmentalize what I do. Thankfully my fans see the larger picture and stick by me because they understand that I view the entire process as part of the art form too.”

Eli T. - Voted Female magazine's 50 Most Gorgeous people in Singapore and Cleo Magazine's 50 Most Eligible Bachelors in Singapore

You started out as a producer behind the scenes. What made you decide to step into the limelight and become a performer instead? Was it something that you were always working towards? Tell us more about this journey and what you have learnt.

Yes, I got my start professionally as a producer. Stepping into production was a growing phase in my career. There's something special about taking a song in for a good "buff and shine". Writing, producing, arranging and re-mixing bring me large amounts of joy and satisfaction.

That said, I've always been performing but it was only in 2011 that performing took precedence. I've always been an Artist (learnt that the hard way, haha) and I needed a larger outlet for expression.

There's something cathartic about flushing your thoughts, emotions and experiences into a song and production. Performing it just takes it to a whole other level. There's just nothing like it.

I feel like I'm always learning, which is great, cos I never want to be stagnant as an artist. Travelling down this road has also hardened me a fair bit. Artists are sensitive creatures but anyone who decides to go for a spin in the industry will have to learn that business and art are mutually exclusive.

What made you decide to leave a bigger label and become independent?

For me it's all about the art. I wanted to have the ability to create and deliver my best. It was exhausting - trying to be moulded into the "next so and so". I am much happier just being me.

For now, I want to make art on my own terms.

Could you tell us more about your fan base and how you stay connected with them?

I love my fans. They are a huge source of strength and encouragement. I talk to them on Facebook and Twitter whenever I can and it always brings me such joy to see them.

We've been touring/performing extensively and the power of social media has allowed us to connect. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a workaholic. I aim to give my fans the best.

Apart from the many social platforms that we have, there's an app for the fans to get instant updates about shows as they get come in.

You have released your debut album "Revolt" in March this year. How has been the response so far?

It is a really exciting time for my team and I as well. We released the record at our show for Mosaic in March. Truth be told, I can only say that we feel extremely blessed for everything to have come together the way the way it has. Just this year alone, we've travelled to so many places and played at major festivals and venues like M.E.A.N.Y Fest (New York, US), Mosaic (SG), City Showcase (Napier, NZ), Singapore Arts Festival (SG), Music & Mens Fashion Week (SG), Indie Week (Toronto, CA) etc.

The album is now available in multiple countries and across all major online platforms including iTunes and Amazon. In June 2012, we signed a distribution deal in Korea and the album is currently distributed across all Korean online portals like Mnet and Olleh Music. We currently rank #1 in Singapore on the Reverbnation music charts and we couldn't be happier.

Right now we're in New York getting ready to go on tour again. This leg of the tour will see us through, New York, L.A. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. There's just so much more to come. It's going to be an amazing experience.

How do you and your management team work things out, artistically and financially?

My team and I are really close and we function like a family. It's all part of the art form for me and I feel deeply blessed to have a manager that is so patient and understanding. We sit through long team discussions to learn together and make decisions.

I am also so grateful that my team entrusts me with the creative vision. It's not often you get a bunch of crazies working so great together. haha

You are not only a producer, singer, songwriter, but also a model and actor. What do you enjoy doing most?

I would say that I am a musician who can act and I was lucky when I was younger to stumble around a little bit of modelling. Music is definitely the heart of me. Acting comes a close second, but music is so all-encompassing that it's a whole different world than acting for me. I would say that they are all rewarding but the best part about all of this is that it keeps me on my toes. I keep learning and I keep getting inspired to put new elements into my music.

What do you think of the future of the music industry in Singapore and in Asia? Is Asia also a place where you will be focusing on too?

The music industry in Singapore is growing. It is my opinion that it is not near as flourished as the Philippines, Japan or Korea at the moment (which is surprising cos Singapore is so forward with so many things). That said, a number of talented artists released records this year and that is a huge sign of growth and that makes me super excited.

North America shaped a large part of who I am but it was in Asia that I got my professional start as a musician. I also feel really close to my asian fans and I can't wait for 2013 to come around so that I can see them again.

We're in the 2nd leg of our North American Tour, among other things but I try as much as possible to live in the moment.

The journey's so much more enjoyable that way.

My dream is to connect with as many people as possible through my craft and every day I feel grateful for being able to do just that.