From ‘American Me’ to ‘Hello’ Taiwan
A slightly modified version of this post appeared previously on Bicoastal Bitchin as ‘Hello Taiwan’.
Hello! Dawen here, blogging from thousands of feet up in the air, somewhere across the Pacific. I can’t even begin to describe how it feels to be returning home to the States after being away for nearly two years. On Thursday I’ll be joining Canadian singer-songwriter Wanting in Los Angeles, opening for the West Coast leg of her Say The Words Tour. We’ll continue to San Francisco by tour bus, before hitting up Portland and finishing in Seattle.
So how on earth did I get here? It seems so unreal to me sometimes when I think about it. The short end of it: About three years ago, famed Taiwanese music producer Adia saw my cover of Bruno Mars’ Just The Way You Are (produced by my brother George Wang) on YouTube and passed it along to Universal Music Taiwan. The year was 2011 and Universal Music contacted me through YouTube to ask about my musical background. You can imagine how skeptical I was when I first received a short message like that, a message sent through YouTube from someone claiming to be Universal. I thought it was a joke, initially. I soon realized, however, that the inquiry was legitimate, and after extensive video chats and a trip to Taipei, I signed with Universal Music Taiwan in 2012.
Upon arriving in Taipei, the first thing I did was enroll in Chinese language class. Although I considered myself already bilingual, I quickly realized that my vocabulary in conversation was seriously lacking. Furthermore, if my goal was to someday write lyrics as well as music in Chinese, I would have to improve my speaking and writing comprehension. I went to school for 6 months, all the while, trying to expand my fluency. The following year was a series of personal and cultural developments that culminated in my debut Mandarin album “Hello” (Nihao) on Christmas Eve of last year.
“Hello” is distinctly different from my indie album ‘American Me’. Nine of the album’s ten songs were written after moving to Taiwan and are in Mandarin. Writing in Mandarin also meant that I had to completely reconsider how I thin k about melody and how it relates to culture. At first I would write in English and translate it to Chinese but often times the result wasn’t very good so I abandoned that method very early on. Which is to say that just because something sounds good in English, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will sound good in another language. The title track ‘Hello’ was the first time I ever tried writing completely in Chinese and you can hear it in how rudimentary and direct the lyrics are J. Musically, “Hello” features more acoustic Pop, in contrast to the R&B /Soul of ‘American Me’. ‘Hello’ is not a complete 180 though, in terms of style. ‘Acid Rain’ features a groove that is very much in the vein of ‘American Me’ and my song, ‘Shoes’ (the only English language track on the album) that I wrote for Kollaboration Acoustic 4 back in 2010, was finally recorded and points to my earlier jazz influenced piano style.
* * *
There are currently three hours left to this flight and I’ve just realized that I’ve been rambling. (My bad). My eyes are beginning to glaze looking at this screen. I must also confess that in addition to writing this post, I watched Frozen and The Hobbit in succession. But before I turn off my laptop for some shuteye I do want to acknowledge how important the Asian American community has been to me and how grateful I am to each and every one of you who have supported me from all the beginning. A particular shout out goes to the blogosphere: AngryAsianMan, Bicoastal Bitchin’, Hyphen, 8Asians, A-Tunes, not to mention my fam at TaiwaneseAmerican.org, Kollaboration and TNP!! I love you guys and can’t wait to see you all. “Hello” is out on iTunes and Spotify, so give it a listen when you get the chance. The other person I want to acknowledge is my older brother George. In addition to knowing me for as long as I’ve been alive, Geh has been my best friend and number one supporter, as well witness to all the past highs and lows. It’s safe to say that if he didn’t light that fire under my ass I would not be on this flight coming home today.
The flight attendants are now handing out breakfast so I gotta go! Can’t wait to land at LAX, meet my brother, smother Sweet Pea the dog, and take my shoes off when I get in the door.