Singer-songwriter Crowd Lu once went on 11-day hike to clear mental block

Taiwanese singer-songwriter Crowd Lu’s new record, What A Folk!!!!!!, reflects a more mature world view.
Taiwanese singer-songwriter Crowd Lu’s new record, What A Folk!!!!!!, reflects a more mature world view.PHOTO: ROCK RECORDS

When you run into a mental block, you might take a walk to clear your head.

That was what Taiwanese singer-songwriter Crowd Lu did when he hit a creative wall last year. Except, his walk was a hike from Taipei to his home in Tainan, a journey of 315km that took 11 days spanning over January and February last year.

After his album Pop Songs With Guitar came out in 2012, he had to adjust to life anew as a full-time professional singer. No longer was he a schoolyard singer, having graduated from Tamkang University that year with a bachelor's degree in Spanish literature.

Then from 2013 to 2014, he served a year of compulsory military service.

Speaking over the telephone from Taipei, where he is based, he says: "These past four years have been a pretty low point. As a student, putting out albums was a fun thing to do. By the fifth album, it had become my main work.

"I was feeling a little lost and I ran into a creative bottleneck."

On his journey from Taipei to Tainan, Lu, 31, encountered fierce wild dogs, blisters and fatigue, but epiphany was elusive.

He says: "I was so tired and I had to keep holding my pee. I didn't dare urinate by the side of the road in case I was spotted."

But once he was home, safe and sound from the travails of the road, he realised something.

"I'm really quite fortunate as there aren't too many who have the freedom to do what I did," he says. "My classmates are tied down by jobs and life. And so, my worries and grievances just disappeared."

His new record, What A Folk!!!!!!, was released in June and it reflects a more mature world view. The song Sleeping Here Today, for example, draws on his encounters with homeless people.

He says: "Material which touches on care and concern for society at large is something different from what I sang about as a schoolyard singer."

Another topical subject is the vice-like grip smartphones have on many people, which Lu explores on the Minnan track, Little Phone (1), and the acoustic punk number, Little Phone (2).

"I used to be glued to my phone and I was hooked on the mobile game Tower Of Saviors," he says. "When I woke up, the first thing was not to brush my teeth, but to play the game.

"My mum would be speaking to me for a long time, but I wouldn't remember what she said."

He has since weaned himself off the game and is immune to the lure of the hugely popular Pokemon Go.

Another sign that he is getting more mature is his wish to fall in love and settle down. "I think my parents are pretty worried as I'm the only son, so there's quite a bit of pressure," he says.

And he is not averse to getting match-made as a classmate's elder sister is happily married with children after taking that route.

He says that since university, he has been the type to quietly admire from afar. "If a girl makes the first move, that would be pretty cool. I look forward to that."

• What A Folk!!!!!! is available in stores.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2016, with the headline 'An 11-day hike to clear mental block'. Print Edition | Subscribe