Ivana Wong, Hong Kong’s most credible female singer-songwriter, tells Squat’s Jenny Tran that inspiration usually comes to her when she is in coffee shops or the shower.
Jenny: Your music career started with winning the CASH Songwriters Quest in 2000. Did you always want a career in music?
Ivana: As a Christian, I’ve always believed that God has planned the best for me.
I am a born music lover and participated in a lot of music quests and performances during my life as a student. But I never dreamt that I’d have my dream career.
J: You won the competition in 2000 but didn’t get signed to Universal Records until 2004. Why did it take you four years to get signed?
I: I wasn’t prepared to start my music career by then. I figured I should think it over and get myself prepared, by taking singing lessons and learning how to use studio gears.
J: The song that won the competition "是一個誤會沒甚麼可悲" [It Was Just A Misunderstanding, It’s Not Sad] was in Mandarin. Was it an artistic decision to enter a mandarin song in a Hong Kong competition? Will you ever include it in an album? It’s a really good song!
I: Thank you for your appreciation. Well, I didn’t really think about the language when I wrote the song. It wasn’t written for entering this competition. It’s just a piece I wrote when I got inspired during a break at my summer job. This song has been released in a compilation album published by CASH. Whether or not to put it into my future album is not decided yet.
J: Similarly, your biggest hit "我真的受傷了" [I Am Really Hurt]—a hit for both you and Jacky Cheung—was a Mandarin composition. Do you have a deep affinity with Mandarin songs?
I: Again, this song was also written at the same summer job. It’s the first song I ever wrote. I find it easier to write lyrics in Mandarin. For me, canto lyrics have always been harder to write.
J: You really came into public focus when you appeared on Jacky Cheung’s Live Concert in Taiwan, singing "I am Really Hurt". How did it feel like performing live in front of such a huge audience with a singer like Jacky Cheung?
I: Focus and be confident—these are the two points I’ve learnt from my parents who are classical singers. These are still the most important two points I keep reminding myself of before I step out on stage to face the audience. So I guess stage fright has never really been a big problem for me.
J: You’ve not only just written songs for Jacky. You’ve written for a lot for other artists such as Fiona Sit, 2R, Kelly Chen and Sammi Cheng. What do you think of their performances of your songs?
I: I’m always looking forward to working with different singers. Every singer is unique. Their interpretations on my songs can be very surprising.
J: People often compare you to Faye Wong. What do you think of that?
I: Faye Wong is one of my favourite singers. I love her style and her voice and basically everything about her. I’m a big fan. However, working on my music, not only have I not tried to imitate her singing, but also I have tried to avoid sounding like her as I know our voices sound quite alike. I spend quite some time building up my own style of singing.
J: There’s been some talk about you and Hins Cheung—so, what’s the story? Is there anything romantic going on between the two of you?
I: Ha! This might sound a bit funny but we enjoyed the rumors. I remember when I first saw the rumours in the newspaper, I couldn’t wait to share the news with him. We made fun of it and carried on being a “couple” in public. Off stage, seriously, we’re super good friends and we’ve shared a lot of moments of happiness and tears together.
J: What about Leo Koo? Anything there?
I: Now being asked, I want to express my gratitude to Leo for letting me sing as a guest performer in some of his shows. He is a friendly guy and it’s quite fun to have him around. Moreover, I respect his appreciation of music and his devotion to singing a song.