Crowned Hello Asia’s Best Newcomer at the recent 2016 C-pop awards, this accomplishment was by no means the biggest achievement of Taiwanese indie singer-songwriter Zooey Wonder’s year. First coming to my attention after her song ‘Wonderland’ was featured in award-winning film director Armando Bo’s short film Lifeline (starring Olivia Munn and Wang Leehom), I was even more bowled over after finding out more about her story and her music. Proffering a warm, soothing brand of Folktronica and Ambient music, her lyrics are profound yet uncomplicated and her voice unwaveringly gentle as she sings about societal issues close to her heart. Her latest album ‘Wonderland’ and its title track just about says it all.
“This song wishes to express the most pure beauty of this world, where no one holds hate or suspicion in their heart, where everyone respects and loves each other, and there are no divides.”
And it is these beautiful, pure ideals which draw listeners into Zooey’s world of utopian wonder. Previously signed to A Good Day records, the demure singer first started off releasing and performing as more of a folk musician. However, her passion for Folktronica and ambient music has always been a direction she wished to pursue. Zooey shared with us how she discovered and honed this unique musical direction.
“From when I was really young I liked to look for and listen to lots of different genres of music, perhaps it was due to my parents’ influence. My father likes to listen to Jazz, my mother likes to listen to more House, electronic music. While I was at school there was a period where it was trending to listen to post-rock, so I listened from the sidelines, slowly uncovering and discovering that I personally am passionate about Ambient genres of music. These genres allow me to feel at peace, feel the flow of life, and the variations of rainbow lights.”
Full of sincerely optimistic rhetoric that is delivered in all shades of pastel, she’s almost like the younger, electronica version of Peggy Hsu. Yet her ability to produce such comforting, positive messages comes from a bout of adversity which threatened to irreversibly change Wonder’s vocational direction.
“In 2013 I experienced vocal chord injury. That year I was unable to sing, and the doctors said that I would have difficulty in making singing my career. Day in and day out I fell into deep depression and chased after hope. That was also when I began to really come to terms with my faith and understand it a little more. So I wanted to put all I’ve experienced, be it disappointment, obstacles, innocence, or goodness, turning it into comfort and strength through my works for many others.”
So after all that she’s been through, there must have been a higher power who wished to push Zooey in the right direction, joining her fate with that of internationally-acclaimed film director Armando Bo who featured her song ‘Wonderland’ in his 2016 film Lifeline.
“This experience was really quite special, one day I was contacted by a music supervisor in New York, he wrote to me telling me that director Armando Bo saw me singing this song (Wonderland) on YouTube. He really liked it, and hoped that I would be able to give them permission to use the song within their video. At that time they were still filming, everything was under wraps, so at that point I was still thinking that it might be a scam because it really seemed too unbelievable. This was a song for which a single full version could not be found online, and the video that the director watched only had 5000 views. But after discussing with them in more detail I realised that it was all true! I excitedly told my peers this news, everyone was also really shocked! After the final product came out, I repeatedly watched it many times, the director hid many mysterious and ingenious elements in the visuals which required one to continually think and digest, I am also really in awe of the director’s storytelling! Being able to listen to my idol (Wang Leehom) from when I was little singing and playing my song, that feeling is really new and wondrous!”
Having such an opportunity to have ones’ music heard in an international capacity was certainly not wasted on Wonder, who has always maintained the mindset of a global citizen given her preference for Western music (she named albums by Bon Iver, Daughter, Sigur Ros, and Coldplay amongst her favourites). In a rare move, Wonder has gone solo, turning entirely to crowdfunding to garner interest in her works and showcasing a forward-thinking mindset that instils reassures my faith in the future for Taiwanese creatives.
“In the past I’ve seen many international indie musicians use crowdfunding to produce their albums, on one hand one can have more interactions with audiences, on the other I hope to use the strength of crowds to finish this piece of work together, allowing everyone to understand the production process of albums. I also hope that through this all the collaborators who have worked behind the scenes on this project can receive acceptable and fair compensation!”
With her album releasing sometime in March this year, Wonder already has tours set up across Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung, and spent most of her Chinese New Year break finishing up recording and tying up loose ends with the help of her like-minded crew. Underneath Zooey’s kind, soft-spoken exterior lies the heart of a fighter with a passion for making this world a better place. If anyone were to represent Taiwanese music in the international market, I believe that she would be as good a choice as any. With her comforting tunes, I’m sure after the mess that was 2016 everyone could sure do with a dose of a little Zooey Wonder. Pop those earphones in, go onto her SoundCloud and you’ll immediately be transported into her wonderful little world.
Zooey Wonder’s ‘Wonderland’ album will be released in March 2017. She will be playing to crowds at Taichung Legacy on the 10th of March, 18th of March at Kaohsiung’s Warehouse, and on the 22nd of March at Taipei Legacy.