Home-grown singer Tay Kewei launches Mandopop album

And in a pivotal step to achieving regional music success, Tay, 31, has launched a Mandopop album, Turn Back & Smile (above), which is out in stores today.
And in a pivotal step to achieving regional music success, Tay, 31, has launched a Mandopop album, Turn Back & Smile (above), which is out in stores today.
Tay Kewei (above), who performed at this year’s National Day Parade, helped to write nine of the 10 songs in her new album, Turn Back & Smile. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN
Tay Kewei (above), who performed at this year’s National Day Parade, helped to write nine of the 10 songs in her new album, Turn Back & Smile. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

Singapore singer Tay Kewei has launched a Mandopop album and dreams of regional success

Home-grown singer Tay Kewei wants to be the next Stef Sun or JJ Lin. But before you brush her off as someone who merely thinks big, she does have a track record in realising her dreams.

She once told Life! she would love to sing the National Day song. She performed at this year's National Day Parade and was also featured in the music video, We Will Get There & One People, One Nation, One Singapore.

And in a pivotal step to achieving regional music success, Tay, 31, has launched a Mandopop album, Turn Back & Smile, which is out in stores today. She had previously released two albums comprising mostly English covers with her label S2S. This time round, she helped to write nine of the 10 songs and the process was not an easy one.

After the release of Fallin (2012), she began working on new material. Speaking to Life! at a press conference, she says: "I was learning to play the guitar and wrote a lot of songs. But most of the songs are very self- indulgent, which nobody likes."

Her label wanted more radio-friendly and commercial songs. Her manager had said: "When I hear it, I would know it."

To which Tay responds: "It wasn't constructive at all but I tried to squeeze out as many songs as I could. I don't know how I got it but somehow I did."

Reflecting her own interest as an erhu player - her father teaches the traditional stringed Chinese instrument - the album contains a few tracks with a distinct zhongguofeng (traditional Chinese flavour). For the track Nostalgia, she says: "Even the way I sing, I tried to sing like an erhu, the way it inflects."

She adds: "I do think the sound of the album is quite diverse."

The album includes emotive ballad Heart Shaped Void, acoustic guitar number Missing You as well as the more upbeat title track. The plan is to launch the record in Singapore first, followed by a solo concert here late next month and then move on to Taiwan and Hong Kong next year to promote the album abroad.

She has done back-up singing at the gigs of top stars such as A-mei, Wang Leehom and David Tao. But the lesson she takes away from working with them is not a musical one. She says: "Leehom is such a humble person. He remembers the names of people around him that you don't expect him to remember.

"Small things like that make such a big impact on people. I used to feel I'm such a small fry but he chatted with me and it made me feel good about myself."

Music is also her sister Kexin's chosen path. Kexin, who is five years younger, released her debut EP, Get Set, Go!, in December 2012.

There are requests for them to perform as a sister act, but Tay says: "We want to develop in our own ways. If not, she'll always be in my shadow because she's younger. And I feel she's doing great in what she's doing."

Apart from releasing her original Mandarin album and singing for the National Day Parade, the past year marked more firsts for Tay. She got to record two mini English albums in Japan for the Japanese market. Recalling the experience, she says: "They're so courteous. I was a bit nervous and had to make sure whatever I recorded was good enough for me as everything seemed to be good enough for them."

She also made her theatre debut in the Toy Factory musical Innamorati. She enjoyed the experience and says: "I'm interested in acting now as I went back to being a student again, learning how to convey emotions well."

And so she has set new goals for herself - act in a movie and sing a Disney song. The big fan of Disney movies and songs says: "My favourite princess is The Little Mermaid. She sings, loses her voice and then it is by her voice that the prince later recognises her. Singing is a big part of her story."

bchan@sph.com.sg

Turn Back & Smile is out in stores today.