Young singer sees debut album as calling card

Jin An composed the melody of all the tracks on her debut album.
Jin An composed the melody of all the tracks on her debut album.PHOTO: COURTESY OF JIN AN

Back when home-grown singer Jin An was busking with her rock band in the English city of Norwich, passers-by were already asking where they could find her music.

"I felt a bit disappointed that I didn't have an album for them to listen to. I wanted to produce an album of my own, so that it is like my name card," she says. The 25-year-old was pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Technology at the University of East Anglia from 2009 to 2012.

Now the independent artist, whose full name is Cheng Jin An, has finally achieved her dream as her debut album Light will be released on Wednesday.

Along the way, her business consultant father and housewife mother provided both moral and financial support as the Mandopop album is funded by an $80,000 loan from them.

While her mother was initially concerned over her daughter's choice of an unstable career, she is now arguably Jin An's biggest supporter.

"After my parents listened to the CD, my mum texted me to tell me that she cried. She was so touched that I finally finished it.

"In her group chat with her secondary school friends, she advertises my CD. It is adorable," the youngest of three siblings says.

In contrast to her powerful rocker vocals in the dynamic title track Light, she comes across as soft-spoken in her interview with The Straits Times last week. Busking on the streets is one thing but doing interviews and posing for the camera is another.

"I think I'm not photogenic. It was hard to capture a nice expression during the shoot for promotional pictures. I feel stressed being in front of the camera," she says.

But she is prepared to do these promotional activities for the sake of her music.

She is happiest when she is singing and creating music. She plays the piano and guitar and has amassed about 150 songs since she started writing tunes at the age of 13. She composed the melody of all five tracks on her first record and also wrote the lyrics for the wistful ballads Quiet Ninja and Wings.

Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places - including an unintentional peek at a stranger's phone.

She says: "Once, I happened to see a person's message about a break-up on the MRT. And I thought, oh interesting. I noted it down mentally."

Her ultimate dream is to write a song or sing a duet with her idol, home-grown success Stefanie Sun.

Recalling how she listened to Sun's hit song I'm Not Sad during her school days, she says: "She inspired me. She's Singaporean and she can sing so well. I felt it would be so awesome if I could be like her one day."

• Light is available on digital platforms such as iTunes and KKBOX from Wednesday. For physical copies, go to Jin An’s Facebook page for details.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2016, with the headline 'Young singer sees debut album as calling card'. Print Edition | Subscribe