Kit Chan is getting older, wiser and happier

Kit Chan took on the role as overall executive producer for her new album, The Edge Of Paradise.
Kit Chan took on the role as overall executive producer for her new album, The Edge Of Paradise. PHOTO: TAIHE MUSIC GROUP

Singer Kit Chan returns with confidence after a 12-year break

Home-grown singer Kit Chan is happily embracing the advancing of the years, proclaiming: "I've seen only the benefits of ageing."

Releasing a new album of original material after 12 years and facing the media in Taipei after such a long break is not as daunting as it could be for someone else because she has experience on her side.

At the launch of The Edge Of Paradise in Xinyi, Taipei, earlier this month, Chan, 43, is elegant in an off-shoulder, flowy, pale blue dress. She exudes an easy confidence as though she never left show business.

Meeting major media representatives for a group interview, she realises that they were like "a bunch of kids".

"In the past, when I saw these senior reporters, I had to be so careful. Now, I'm the only jie (elder sister) there," she says.

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It is not just 12 years that separate the new album from 2004's East Towards Saturn; the crucial difference between the two collections of original material is that she is much happier now.

Speaking to The Straits Times after the press event, she says: "I knew Saturn was my last album before I don't know when. I got approval to just go crazy and be experimental and that's what I did.

"At that point, I needed to get that out of my system. I don't do very well with restrictions, yet I put up with them for a long time. So I think that album was like a reckless gesture."

Albums such as Heartache (1994) and Sadness (1996) had turned her into a star in Taiwan, but making them was not much fun, she says. Producers would be assigned a couple of songs each and they would not communicate with one another. Sometimes, songs would be chosen to plug holes when, say, a faster track was needed.

The albums ended up feeling like "rojak", says Chan. "It just felt a bit disconnected."

For Paradise, she was the overall executive producer and that ensured that the album was coherent even as it dipped into different genres, from the jazzy Don't Ask Me Why I Love You to the ballad People Who Are Separated By Wind.

It helped that 12 years after Saturn, there were no strong expectations of what a Kit Chan album should sound like. "The passage of time helps because it's almost like there's no point of reference. It's like carte blanche. My last studio album was an album of covers, which on its own was quite baffling for a lot of people," she says, referring to 2011's Re-interpreting Kit Chan.

Her collaborators for Paradise include Mandopop veterans such as songwriter Pan Hsieh-ching, composer-producer Hsu Chang-de and singer-songwriters Kay Huang and Jimmy Ye.

Chan says: "With new people, you're looking for chemistry. But with familiar people, you're looking for what else can we build, what else can we learn from each other."

In the past, she was simply presented with the songs and the themes. "They cook up the story and you just have to sell it."

This time, she was involved in the new album from the start and the story came naturally. She says at the press conference: "I've learnt about the beauty of imperfection. My paradise is not that everything is hunky-dory, but you're at the edge, you see the light and perfection, but you're not there yet. That yearning and hope are most beautiful."

After Saturn, she took a break from entertainment, venturing into public relations for a spell and marrying her long-time Singaporean boyfriend in 2012.

But the call of music seems to be too strong for her to resist entirely. Early last year, she took part in the popular China television competition I Am A Singer and subsequently embarked on her first regional tour.

There has certainly been greater interest in her music after the highprofile television stint. The tourcomes full circle with the Spellbound Homecoming Concert on Sept 10.

It marks Chan's return to the Singapore Indoor Stadium after 15 years and she promises that it will be "more of an extravaganza", with big-scale production comprising lights, costumes and technical effects. Of course, there will be songs from the new album as well.

This is a departure from the more intimate shows she has been doing, but it barely fazes her.

"I discovered in Hong Kong and Guangzhou that I now have the ability to create intimacy even in a big space. I felt as if the space did not make the audience seem far away. I still stubbornly have no dancers and that means you cannot disconnect. You have to be on all the time."

• The Edge Of Paradise is out in shops.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2016, with the headline 'Older, wiser, happier'. Print Edition | Subscribe