Musician finds true calling
Name: Phil Lam
Born: Nanaimo, Canada
Chinese zodiac: Ox
Albums: Loaded (2010)
In elementary school ... I chose music as an elective. Then in Grade Seven, I picked up the saxophone. It's the youngest age they let you [use a saxophone], because it's expensive. You had to be really serious about it. I thought it was nice and cool, and I liked the sound of it, so I picked it up.
Every week you had to practise about two hours ... a requirement to pass the course, and have your parents sign a form. When I was around 14 or 15, I started practising about three or four hours a day. That's when I really fell in love with the saxophone.
In 2007... I entered a music competition in Vancouver and won the singing contest. I came to Hong Kong to participate in the world finals. I did pretty well in that and got some awards. That gave me confidence and made me think, 'maybe I can do this'. One song I performed that really stood out for me was Wang Leehom's . It had R&B, English rap, and it was about Chinese living overseas. I thought, that's so me.
I came to Hong Kong ... two and a half years ago with a dream. I've always wanted to be a musician. But wanting and reality are two different things. I was like knocking on doors, basically ... doing demos and sending them out to different people, companies and producers - to try and get any response at all. First there was nothing. And every time I sent a demo and got no response, I felt defeated. My passion to pursue music faded each time.
Then I started writing my own lyrics, music, doing production and recording - I did it all myself. One day I sent a demo to Sony and they replied. That's how they found me! That was about a year and a half ago.
At the University of British Columbia, Canada ... my major was cell biology and genetics. I was always good at maths and science. I had two dreams: One was music-related; the other was to be a scientist or researcher, ideally in the medical field. With this major I have a lot of options and all the prerequisites to get into medical school. These are things I always thought I could do. And I'm pretty good at it, so if I wasn't in music, I'd probably be in school right now.
Sony Music ... arranged most of the lyrics [on Loaded]. When they called me to prepare for the recording, the lyrics were already written by Fong Manshan. I was really surprised. I didn't know what to say. At that point I didn't know who was writing the lyrics, and I didn't even know it was in Mandarin. But then I figured that if it's Fong, it's got to be in Mandarin. I think in Hong Kong people like to listen to Mandarin just as much as Cantonese nowadays.
One of my favourite tracks is ... (Writing Poetry). There's a saxophone part in it, and people were asking how I'm going to play the saxophone for that song [while singing and playing other instruments live]? We figured I could play the sopranos and switch in time to play the musical solo and in time to finish singing the song - all together. At first it sounded a bit crazy, [laughs] but I think I can pull it off.