By Jocelyn Lee
TAIWANESE singer-songwriter Kenji Wu is best known for penning his own lyrics and melodies for almost all his songs, and his latest album, Poems For You, is no different.
And it seems as if fans are lapping it up.
Two songs from the 10-track album, Poems For You and Holding Hands, have become radio hits here since they were released in April. They also stayed in the top 10 ranks of Radio 100.3 FM's charts for almost two months.
The 29-year-old Ekin Cheng lookalike was in town recently to promote his album, which has sold more than 2,000 copies here.
He has also produced hits for other artistes such as A Fool for Taiwanese singer Landy Wen and Crybaby for Taiwanese singer Melody Chiang.
He says he gets inspiration from his everyday life, adding that he prefers writing songs for himself rather than for other artistes as he feels less pressured.
The tanned lanky singer, who has starred in hit idol series such as Peach Girl (2002) and The Rose (2003), will be acting in a teen idol drama later this year, and is planning another album.
1. Why did you name your new album Poems For You?
Many people seem to think that writing poems is a very serious and sombre matter and only people who are very well versed can write a good poem.
But I feel that anyone can be a poet and should have the chance to write something poetic to express his feelings. When a singer like me writes songs, it is similar to writing poems - I express how I feel with my lyrics.
The main message I want to convey with this album is that everyone can be romantic and write poems for someone who means a lot to him.
2. You composed all the songs in your latest album. So what provided inspiration?
My inspiration comes from the things that happen to me every day. In the process of brainstorming for this album, my friends and I were talking about heartwrenching break-ups and I used that in some of my songs, such as The More I Love You, The Sadder I Get.
I also get inspiration from fans who write to me to share their opinions about some topics. If I find them interesting, I include them in my lyrics.
3. What is your favourite song in this album and why?
I wrote all the songs myself, so it is quite difficult to choose. If I really have to pick one, I guess it will be Holding Hands.
It is a very detailed and specific song in which I used the idea of holding hands to represent the relationship between two people. The lyrics are very simple but they are also very touching.
Singing this song was quite a difficult feat because I had to use a lot of emotion to convey the same feeling to listeners.
4. You have written songs for yourself and for other artistes. How different is the process?
I feel more stressed when I get requests from other artistes to pen songs for them. There is pressure on me to make sure that the songs will be a sell-out and will be popular among listeners.
I usually spend a lot of time thinking about it before I get down to writing.
On the other hand, writing songs for myself is definitely a more relaxing affair. The decision-making lies with me and I know myself best, so it is easier.
5. You have acted in idol dramas. Between singing and acting, which do you prefer?
I prefer singing as it is still my first passion. I rejected many scripts in the past two years to spend more time to produce this latest album. Now that I have finally released it, I might dabble in acting.
I want to act in more idol dramas because they give me a chance to fall in love. As I spend a lot of my time flying around to promote my albums, I seldom have time to get into a relationship.
Acting in a drama will give me a chance to fall in love with the female leads and I find that quite relaxing and interesting.
6. What advice do you have for budding songwriters and composers?
Keep on writing. When you first start out, you will probably write badly but that's part of the learning process. As there is no right or wrong, keep trying and you will eventually improve.
7. This is your third visit to Singapore. What do you remember and like most about this country?
I think it is a very beautiful and clean country. Coming here always evokes a very happy feeling in me and I like it. There are also many delicacies here which I love, especially pandan cake, bak kut teh (herbal pork soup) and chilli crabs.
8. Complete this sentence: If I could live my life all over again, I would...
Train harder in basketball. I have always loved the sport and it would be nice if I were a professional basketball player.
Poems For You is out in stores.
This article was first published in The Sunday Times on July 6, 2008.