Driven, sophisticated and exceptionally gifted, Taiwanese Classical-Jazz pianist/singer-songwriter Amanda Wu’s lengthy title is a mouthful for most, but is a testament to her long list of achievements and eclectic musical tastes. Born in Taiwan, the child prodigy started studying the piano at age 4, rapidly advancing her musical prowess before undertaking further study at the McGill University in Montreal in Jazz Piano. She has now played with the likes of Cirque Du Soleil, composed and arranged for Taiwanese artists Joanna Wang and Liu Hsuan, as well as travelled the world as an accomplished pianist and performer in her own right. She talks to us about how her passion first came about:
“When I was 3 years old, I loved a famous TV drama called “一代女皇” and watched it every day. One day, I started to sing the whole song with the completely accurate melody, pitch and rhythm. Moreover, at that time, I have not learned piano yet, but I just climbed on the piano and played the melody of the song. My family was very shocked!”
Having realised she was gifted from that point onwards, Wu has since travelled the world and accumulated much experience since. Her advice to those struggling to make it into the industry was honest, but uplifting:
“If you clearly know that you are gifted, don’t waste this wonderful gift no matter how much difficulties that you might face. However, don’t do it just because you want the fame, attention, and fortune. It is a tough path, not smooth at all, you just have to be consistent, confident and patient. Also, to be open-minded to admire other people’s success are very important, too.”
Through her words and of course through her music, Amanda’s wealth of experience is clearly seen. Alas, she is as eloquent a speaker as she is a performer. The motivated 30-year-old infuses her compositions with personal anecdotes and words of wisdom, and her latest EP 'Journey On Earth: Volume 2' is no different. Amanda shares with us the idea behind her ‘Journey On Earth’ series:
"'The Journey On Earth' is the series of my original music. Volume 1 is more specific for the “Unknown” stage of life. There are 3 songs in Volume 1. The first 2 songs are composed when putting myself to explore the mysterious Unknown at age 20 in Montreal (studying) and age 30 in New York (seeking for higher goal for career and life). I wrote them to inspire people that life is never easy, but just need to be fearless and consistent. The third one is to express that the solid love is the most powerful thing to support us conquering all the difficulties in the Unknown. I have a cousin and love him very much. When I feel struggled, as long as I think of him, I feel happy and positive right away. It is dedicated to my beloved cousin.
Volume 2: “Stories of Time” is a broader concept. Because living on earth is living with the stream of timeline, as time goes by, we are growing, changing and also producing so many stories. Timing is telling us so many stories as long as we pay attention closely to listen to and observe on ourselves and others. I wrote them because I hope people can be more aware of the change of their inner world and the whole era.”
Yet although the title of her latest album sounds classical, don’t let it fool you, as Wu’s music is an immiscible fusion of the Jazz and Classical genres. She tells us that her appreciation for a diversity of genres comes naturally to her, and explains why Jazz and Classical have become her poison of choice.
“These musical genres are the divisions of my personality. Since they are all parts of me, so they can easily move me and resonate with me. It feels natural to perform and write music in these genres…
Classical: I think classical music is such a great training for music theory, musicianship, musical esthetics, technics, and understanding of the music evolution. Additionally, it trains you to be disciplined and focused.
I am lucky to grow up in a very authentic/high level classical music education system.
Jazz: I love the freedom of improvisation as well as the groove and rich/mysterious harmony. Compared with Classical, there are much more rooms for Jazz musicians to express their own voice and thoughts. The logic of these 2 style is just completely opposite.”
It is astounding Wu’s voracious appetite for music both in depth and variety, but what is even more mind-boggling is her slate of various other talents she keeps hidden up her sleeves. As a performer who sings in Chinese yet promotes her music to Western audiences, Wu shares with us what it takes to manage a business around her music, and what obstacles she’s faced in bridging cross-cultural gaps.
“[On Obstacles] Sometimes I feel the lack of resources or efficiency to make things happen quicker. Also, I often need to play many roles…sometimes a content creator doing creative things, sometimes a business woman planning a budget, sometimes a manager to book venues and look for musicians….etc. So it is like I am constantly switching the side of my brain…It gets very tiring sometimes… I think it is about time to (start) building up my team!”
It has certainly not been easy for Wu to manage her own career while chasing her dreams. However, few Taiwanese artists can boast that they’ve toured the world as much as this inspirational pianist/singer has. Having lived all over the world in places such as Taiwan, Montreal and New York, she shares with us her considered insights on two of her favourite cities; New York and Milan.
“I love Both New York City and Milan equally for different reasons.
NYC: Everything happens in NYC! So many things are going on! The society is open for new possibilities and creative thinking. Not much bindings of the old values or tradition. It is absolutely energetic and there are always things to do. It is easy to meet ambitious, interesting and cutting edge people.
Milan: It feels like home of my soul! I love Italian fashion, design, wine and coffee. Everything makes so much sense to me! Milan is like a small boutique city. I felt very comfortable there. and of course, fashion is in the air!”
By the looks of it, Amanda Wu has very certainly ‘Journeyed The Earth’! Showing a breadth of knowledge in her field of expertise that few others can boast of, Wu’s track record continually impresses the more you get to know her. From our short conversation, I feel she is extremely down-to-earth despite her gifted abilities, and a woman who is driven by a deep curiosity to push spatial, cultural, and musical boundaries. With a unique outlook that invokes spirituality while keeping both feet firmly fastened on the ground, although Wu is now a woman and no longer a ‘child prodigy’, she has shown that talent is nothing without hard work and a heart full of faith.
For those of you who are in New York and like what you see, catch Amanda's "Journey on the Earth Volume 2" EP release show at Rockwood Music Hall on the 24th of April at 8PM. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram too!
Welcome to Asian Pop Weekly's new Features section! Here's where you'll be able to get your fix of exclusive interviews with up-and-coming Asian artists, all in English.