8 Questions with Linda Wong: The daughter of Wang Yu just wants to sing

Singer Linda Wong (above) on the Singaporean singer. -- PHOTO: S2S
Singer Linda Wong (above) on the Singaporean singer. -- PHOTO: S2S

Singer Linda Wong funded production of her new album to have full creative control

Taiwan-born Hong Kong singer Linda Wong, 46, shot to fame in the 1990s with her breakout hit Don't Ask Who I Am (1993).

With the emergence of new singers in the fickle-natured world of show business, Wong now has people asking her: "Who are you?"

The statuesque 1.75m-tall beauty is not bothered by such encounters.

"I have people who come up to me and ask who is Linda Wong. It's okay. The point is I just do what I love, which is singing. I don't really care what other people think of me," says Wong, who rattled on in her melodious Taiwanese Mandarin interspersed with fluent English.

She was in town last month to promote her new covers album Truly that includes Jeff Chang's Mandopop tune Ai Ru Chao Shui (Love Is Like The Tide) and Eason Chan's Cantonese ballad Bicycle.

Truly is an independent release and Wong forked out a six-figure sum in Hong Kong dollars to cover production fees.

She says: "If I did it the conventional way of signing on to a record label, I wouldn't have full creative control over the album. I wanted to produce it the way I wanted it."

The doe-eyed singer's sweet face and melodious Taiwanese Mandarin is a contrast to her straight-talking nature.

She flinches at questions that seem to hit a nerve - from whether she still longs for children after 13 years of marriage to how she maintains her youthful appearance.

But it is the charming crooner's frank replies that make this sit-down interview a refreshing and enjoyable session.

Wong was known as one of the Four Flowers of legendary music label Polygram Records in the 1990s, along with singers Karen Tong, Winnie Lau and Vivian Lai.

The eldest daughter of former movie star Wang Yu of the One-Armed Swordsman fame and veteran actress-singer Jeanette Lin Tsui made a splash with her debut Mandopop album Don't Ask Who I Am.

She went on to release Mandarin and Cantopop tunes such as A Lifetime's Infatuation (1994), Don't Hide From My Eyes (1994) and Victim (1996).

She had eased out of the limelight after her marriage to businessman Stephen Lee in 2001.

Her love for singing brought her back to the recording studios and she released her comeback covers album From My Heart in 2011.

To commemorate Polygram's 30th anniversary in 2013, Wong took to the stage with her former labelmates in concerts in China and Hong Kong.

She performed at the Singapore stop last July alongside singers Shirley Kwan, Daniel Chan, Tat Ming Pair and Priscilla Chan.

Wong says: "To satisfy my craving for singing, I would take on charity performances in Hong Kong. The thought about releasing an album was always on my mind. I still have a passion for singing."

1 How did it feel to be standing with your former labelmates at Polygram's 30th anniversary concerts?

I made a comeback to show business because of my passion for singing. I really enjoyed the chance to sing on stage.

It's such a rare opportunity for all the Polygram singers to stand on the stage together to perform. We were once under the same label, but everyone went his separate way in life. It's heartwarming for everyone who loves the Polygram label to come together to perform.

2 Why did you choose to fade out of the showbiz limelight after you tied the knot in 2001?

It wasn't my husband who did not let me work.

Please don't misunderstand. It was my own decision. I felt that I wanted to spend more time with my family and I wanted to move on to another period of life. That's why I made the decision not to be so active in show business.

I've been really happy and contented with married life. I started playing tennis and golf and took part in recreational matches. I think I'm pretty good at the sports. I set high standards for myself.

3 What do you have to say to people who remember you only for your classic tune Don't Ask Me Who I Am?

I don't think that's a fair statement to make. I have many other songs that people love, such as A Lifetime's Infatuation (1994) and love duet You Were Meant For Me (1994).

Every singer has to have one hit song. It's the same for other singers, such as how people associate Hong Kong singer Frances Yip and her classic Shanghai Beach. They have plenty of songs, but their signature song will come to mind first. It's not fair to say that listeners don't like the rest of the singer's works.

I'm proud to have a signature song. To be a singer and have a hit that people love, where they can hum and sing a phrase or two. That's quite a feat.

4 You funded your latest album Truly. Why do an independent release and not get a big name record label to do it for you?

It all boils down to the state of the music industry at the moment. Record labels are not making money.

Now if a record label wants to sign on a singer, the label would want to earn commission from managing an artist's activities such as commercials and concert performances. Previously, the record labels were only handling the release of albums as they could make money solely by selling CDs.

I'm an established singer. I don't feel the need to commit to a record label, where I will have plenty of work engagements to ensure that profits are made from releasing an album. It would be like paying a debt. I don't want to lead such a hectic lifestyle.

5 How did you pick the 10 songs to include on your covers album Truly?

I picked songs that moved me. When I pick songs that I have a feel for, it makes it easier to emote when I sing.

For instance, I can feel the emotions of Hong Kong singer Eason Chen's Bicycle which tells the story of a father and a child. The lyrics are meaningful.

It's rare to have songs that revolve around father and child in popular culture. Most songs are usually about romantic relationships.

6 Do you keep tabs on the current music scene? Who are some of the singers that you think are good?

I like Taiwan's Weibird Wei and Singapore's JJ Lin. I go by gut feel when I listen to songs. The singer doesn't have to have powerhouse vocals, but if his singing moves me, that's enough for me. Lin is one of those singers.

7 What is your secret to staying so youthful?

First, I don't think I'm old. Second, I don't think it's that big a deal. Many artists, even those who are more senior than me, look the same as before.

When I was young, I used to listen to Hong Kong singers Sally Yeh and Sandy Lam. When you look at them now, they look the same as they did before.

I'm nothing compared with them. I don't know how to answer your question.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

I don't need people to remember me. I just do what I love, I just want to sing. I'm a Buddhist. I believe that everything is transient in life.

No matter how popular an artist is, there will be a day when he is forgotten by the audience.

Of course, I'm grateful for the love from my fans.

nggwen@sph.com.sg

Truly is available at CD-Rama stores.