Interview: Waa Wei – Adapt like a Cloud, Coordinate like an Octopus, her Road to Creativity

With a soothing, silken set of vocal chords and a flair for innovation, it is no surprise that Taiwanese singer-songwriter Waa Wei has been nominated year after year for her works at the Golden Melody Awards, and was voted by Hello Asia ‘Best Mandarin Female Singer’ of 2016 for her latest album ‘Run! Frantic Flowers’.

The critically acclaimed album includes ten songs that were written specially to fit within the “Run! Frantic Flowers未路狂花” concept of the album, which is a phrase that means to bravely pave a path in life drastically different from what others have chosen. Waa shares the organic and whimsical conception of the album theme:

“Under the circumstance of not finishing the songs, I had already thought of the name of the album; I just saw “Run! Frantic flowers” these four Chinese characters somewhere, and felt that it was so suitable for an album’s name so decided to just use it!”

So it seems that the indie goddess has unconsciously even allowed this theme of forging innovative pathways to permeate the production process, turning traditional creative processes on their head and starting on songs for the album from scratch. Yet when gauging the execution of her initial idea, her incredible foresight showed her skill in constructing artistic vision.

“This album, from conception to production to distribution was quite a smooth road, in saying this I mean that there were not too many differences from my initial idea, because beginning with my previous album I had begun to do my own backing vocals, and so understand the versatility of my voice, and the performance of my songs and sound, I feel that the relatability and listenability of this album has improved a lot.”

Waa Wei – I Will Be Fine

Yet the process was by no means easy. In fact, Waa divulges that the production of this album was the most stressful for her, out of all the four albums she has released thus far, even leaving her so frustrated that she sat down at her desk and bawled at one point of it!

“Because this album was supposed to be released in October, but afterwards was delayed, I had many performances going on while I was still finishing the songs, it was like I was burning a candle at both its ends. For the first time, both my producer and I felt that we really weren’t going to make it, so were really stressed. That’s why I sat at the desk and cried, but luckily afterwards everything went smoothly!”

When I listen to Waa’s music, I am always in awe of the sweet-throated indie darling’s ability to express herself artistically. Although music is often her main source of creative expression, Waa has also been known to dabble in art, radio hosting, photography, musical theatre, acting, and even handicrafts to widespread acclaim.

Waa Wei – Ten Thousand Ways To Not Look Back

Certainly, she can (and is) considered one of the Taiwanese independent music scene’s glittering gems. Yet when quizzed about her thoughts regarding the possibility of international acclaim, the down-to-earth all-round artistic wunderkind who has represented Taiwan in performances at famous festivals worldwide such as Glastonbury and MIDEM says it is not widespread acclaim she desires from her music, but inner fulfilment.

“Actually I have previously performed in Japan, Korea and Hong Kong, and participated in music festivals in Italy and England, and performed in Paris and Cannes, France. No matter where I am, I have to be true to myself. Music is very subjective, so I can only work my hardest at being myself.”

Although she doesn’t seem to place much importance on fame and money, Wei is nevertheless an active participant in the global music community. She shared one of her most memorable compositional experiences with us; a songwriting camp that she attended in Finland.

“I would probably say the time I participated in a songwriting camp in Finland. Previously I felt that creating was a solitary process, but in Finland every morning we would be put into new groups, and had to discuss and write songs with Finnish, Japanese, Korea and even Norwegian people. At that time language really wasn’t important, because music allowed us to have a different means of communication, so we also wrote many different types of songs as a result.”

When asked to use a song to symbolize her hopes for the rest of 2017, the humble singer-songwriter chose ‘Cloud’ by Mainland Chinese band Card Society, once again showing her eclectic yet wide-ranging musical influences, and poetically explained her choice as such:

“I hope I won’t be trapped, but like a cloud can lightly adapt.”

Card Society – Cloud

Although our conversation was asynchronous and brief, Waa’s penchant for expressing creativity shines through. An indie singer who has mainstream appeal, a ‘hipster’ type with a raucous laugh and adorable sense of humour, a lyricist, composer and artist in equal parts, it is amazing to see how Waa has managed to divide her time between her various projects and personas while tying them back to herself all the same.

Yet what exactly is it about the multitalented artist which allows her brand to stay consistent? I believe one aspect of it is the sheer depth and quality of work she has produced since her debut, creating works which deeply and consistently resonate with the human experience from Waa’s own perspective. The other; her lack of need for categorising herself and her works. It seems to me that Waa certainly adapts like a cloud, housing all her talents under the ‘creative’ roof and packaging them merely as a mode for her to express herself creatively as she pleases.

Waa Wei – Yuki ONna

If I were to use an animal to describe Waa, I would pick an octopus; having multiple hands to coordinate her various creative exploits yet at the same time being able to coordinate them all using one mind which has no doubt over what it wants.

In this complicated and ever-changing world, it is surely inaccurate to make assumptions regarding self-awareness. However, whether or not Waa has truly been able to ‘find herself’, she is nonetheless very present on her creative journey to self-enlightenment. And that, is what I find so mesmerising about her and her music.