Q&A: Tanya Chua

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 June, 2009, 12:00am

Tanya Chua, a Singaporean singer-songwriter in her 30s, is just like every other city girl: she loves high-heeled shoes - she has at least 50 pairs in a special room at her Taiwan home.

Chua released her English-language debut album, Bored, in 1997 and came first in the unpublished category at the Asia Song Festival the following year. Her first Mandarin-language album, Breathe, came out in 1999. Since then she has featured in Taiwan's prestigious Golden Melody Awards, winning best female singer twice and best producer.

Her latest single Only Love, written for Cartier's current love campaign, declares that: 'Any beauty I possess, I have, all because of love.'

What are the messages you want to communicate through the song Only Love?

Love is what makes me beautiful! In everyday life, we do lots of things for love, no matter if they're silly or great, right or wrong, they're all for love. The song represents that every single thing we do is for love.

How do you view love, and how far would you go for it?

I'm eager to know what love is as well. What is love between people? And what is that bigger love we feel for the whole world? You need to open your eyes, ears and heart and then sense it. Maybe my previous understanding was too superficial. I thought before: if you love me, you must bring me happiness and take good care of me. Love should be bigger than that. I've always been sincere in relationships, but being sincere also means you can easily be hurt. Because I have been hurt, I've closed the door to my heart to protect myself. But in the meantime, I've become unhappy. Now I'm learning how to open up again. I'm expecting love and expecting to be loved in the future. I also think I can go pretty far for love. Because when you do it, you don't think about it. When you get there, you feel it. I think that's when it's all worth it.

What's your bottom line for love?

When we're young, we don't know if there should be a bottom line for us in a relationship. However, I know it now. If the love or relationship has changed you into a different person - you have lost the basic part of you - it's no longer a real love. You should say no if someone demands that you adjust yourself to suit him or her.

Which of your songs do you like the most? And can you tell me the stories behind them?

Two songs: More and More Confused and Darwin. When I wrote the song More and More Confused, I had just moved to Taiwan. One day while I was chatting with some friends, we suddenly realised why we were more and more confused how to make a relationship work as we got older. We become more and more confused over what love really is. You don't know why you fell in love with someone and why you broke up. What is the formula for loving somebody? The discussion that day inspired me and led me to this song. Darwin was a song I had written for Eason [Chan], but one day when I was preparing for my album Goodbye & Hello, it just popped into my head. When I sang it, everybody told me it was for me, and said the spirit of the song, the evolution of relationships, reflected the past several years of my own life. Then I listened to the words carefully and I discovered it was all my thoughts and expectations: after all the competitions and sacrifices of love, we have to evolve and become better people.

It's been 12 years since your first album. What are the biggest changes that have happened to you since then?

During those 12 years, I was riding a roller coaster. Twelve years ago, I was a shy woman. I had hidden myself, worrying about criticism and how people would see me if I expressed what I really wanted. But now I've changed: if I have an opinion, I will speak out. I've conquered many inner demons in the past 12 years: fear, lack of confidence and insecurity. Of course, I have some regrets. But all you can do is learn lessons from the past and hope you can grasp it if you get another chance in the future.

Were there any watershed moments?

Yes, it was 2005, the trough of my life. At that time, my company and I had different ideas about my music; I sang only because it was my job, with no passion at all; I became a singer who did not like singing. I even thought about quitting. Then I went to India and all I did was yoga - a simple life in a simple environment. I met some new friends. They were yoga students too, and some of them brought their guitars with them. Sometimes we played music together. I was so happy and touched by the music. One day, I was wondering why I couldn't find excitement and satisfaction in my career? I told myself that I needed to relearn what music means to me and then I would fall in love with music again. Then I decided to cut off lots of old relationships, move to a new place and start with a new company - just as if I were a newcomer in the music business creating my career. It's all about timing! If I had not been in India, I would not have moved to Taiwan. It's fate.

You said before that it was hard to be a singer-songwriter. Why did you choose to be one?

Because I love music. There's something about the entertainment market that you cannot change: people like female singers who are good looking. So many female singer-songwriters do not like to put themselves on show. But if they don't they might be forgotten by their fans. In recent years, audiences have started to view us differently, and more people are beginning to accept our various styles. Nowadays, if you're a female singer with talent, with some commercial image-building you can be a star. But you must always remember who you are and not let yourself be changed by the outside world.

How do you see yourself?

I am a person who thinks too much. My biggest flaw is that I pay too much attention to others' feelings. When I make decisions, I always try to think how other people will be affected, and what their feelings might be. The decisions I make are often not about my own needs, but always about other people's. I have acted like this for many years and it made me unhappy. Now I want to explore my real needs and who I really am. I can figure out who I was before, but can't see who I am now - I'm still exploring that. But one thing I am pretty sure of is that I should devote myself to what I love. This is who I am - devoted to music and to love.