Singer-songwriter Kevin Tsui Ka-ho gears up for Clockenflap

By Melanie Leung

The musician who risks everything is finally getting a chance to share his sound with international talent-hunters - under a flyover in Kwun Tong

By Melanie Leung |

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Hopefully Kevin won't have to actually sing for his supper any time soon

Singer-songwriter Kevin Tsui Ka-ho really loves Hong Kong - he's written songs called Tai Po, Sham Shui Po and Kowloon City - but there's another reason why he can't travel as much as he'd like to.

Since he last spoke to Young Post more than a year ago, Tsui has quit his full-time job to focus on music. We caught up with him ahead of his gig on Thursday, when he'll showcase his music to international labels.

Hi, Kevin! What are you up to right now?

I'm just chilling at home. I played a show last night at Pizza Express' Mid-Movember Party, but I have to get back to rehearsing soon. I've got six shows this month, so I've been busy.

On November 26, you'll be playing at Clockenflap Pro, where managers from big record label are invited to check you out! How did that happen?

I played Clockenflap two years ago, on a very small acoustic stage in the afternoon. There weren't a lot of people, but it was one of the highlights of my career. About a month ago, I got an email from Justin [Sweeting, Clockenflap co-founder] inviting me to play in a special showcase of local acts - I think they're asking managers of bands playing the main festival to come check us out. I really respect Chochukmo and Choi Sai-ho, the other acts in the line-up, so I'm really excited! We'll be playing under a flyover in Kwun Tong - hopefully people will be able to find us!

Which other unconventional venues have you performed at?

Playing at the Blue House in Wan Chai was awesome, it's a historical building. Early in January this year I performed at a campsite in Kowloon Peak as part of Grasscamp. It was freezing cold, but there were more than 100 people huddled around a campfire, and it felt like a scene from a movie.

That must have been epic. Tell us - what's the smallest audience you've played for?

My audiences can be as small as two people. Sometimes the crew members outnumber the crowd, especially at some open mic nights. Local people aren't as supportive as crowds in England, Japan, or Taiwan. Once I performed alongside Chochukmo in Kitec's Music Zone, and there were only about 10 people there. But Chochukmo still gave it their all with an amazing performance. They told me I had to give 100 per cent no matter how big the audience. That was really inspiring, and I still remember it to this day.

Things we learned

Favourite food: puff pastry egg tarts
Favourite song: Imagine by John Lennon
Favourite movies: Toy StoryBack to the FuturePulp Fiction
Funny habit: rearranging the eggs inside the fridge

Back to Clockenflap Pro. Who do you hope will come hear you play, and what would you perform?

It doesn't really matter to me. I'm so happy and excited. But if Damien Rice were to come, that'd be amazing. He's one of the original acoustic singer-songwriters, before Jason Mraz and Ed Sheeran. I fell in love with his music in high school. I have 20 minutes to perform at Clockenflap Pro, so I'll play four original songs. It'll just be me, a guitar and a looper. One song I'll most probably sing is LKF. It's energetic and upbeat - definitely one of my favourites.

Let's talk about your latest EP, Gachapon. How has the response been?

Personally, I think this EP is a lot better produced than my last album, Dear Florence, but the response hasn't been as good. I guess it's a new learning curve for me. I didn't think about the market when I was making it, I just wanted something I was really proud of.

Why aren't you selling your music in physical stores this time?

Music stores support indie music, but only if they see a profit. They would put My Little Airport's albums on the front racks. But I've tried looking for Dear Florence at a music store, and the staff had to dig it up from a corner for me, so people who weren't intentionally looking to buy my album wouldn't ever see it. Last year I sold just 10 copies of Dear Florence from physical stores, so I just didn't bother this time. Most people buy my music online, or I bring copies to gigs. If I manage to sell five CDs after a gig, I'm already really happy. It's not so easy.

Definitely not. How are you coping after one year as a full-time artist?

I'm surviving. I can manage my rent and living expenses. Dealing with the insecurity is tough. I get invited to play gigs pretty last minute, so while I know I have a few more shows in December, I have no idea what will happen after that. I love travelling, but when my bank balance is just three, four digits, I don't dare look up flights, even on HK Express. But it's motivation for me to keep making good music, so the gigs will keep coming.

Not many people dare live the way you do right now?

During my second year at university, I did a hitchhiking trip all the way from England to Morocco. It absolutely changed my life - it made me realise that life is short, and you just can't live with regrets.

If a record label decides to sign you, would you be afraid of losing the creative freedom you have now?

As I'm growing as an artist, I'm becoming open to different possibilities. If that opportunity comes, I think I'd be open to signing with a label.

It's 2020. Where do you see yourself?

Hopefully a singer-songwriter with music that many people recognise! Hopefully life will be less of a struggle. I also want to write more music for movies, and for established artists. I studied art history at university, and I miss drawing. So it'd be great if I could do more drawing as well.