Catching up with Taiwanese artist Jia Jia after her phenomenal performance at the recent Golden Melody Awards Festival Showcase was one of the highlights of the week for me. The statuesque singer was gracious yet playful in equal parts throughout the interview, cooing over koalas (that was before she found out they were dangerous) at one point when five minutes ago she was seriously giving pithy words of wisdom about self-love and whatnot. Many parts of our interview showed me that after two albums, Jia Jia has truly begun to come into her own; be it through her music, her relationship with herself and her experiences. So read on, won’t you?
Coming into her own (i) Self-Composition
It’s been a quiet year from the soulful Taiwanese Aboriginal singer, who’s released two singles in the recent past, but no news of an album…until now. Revealing to us that her new album is currently in the works, she also let slip that it will be a little different from her previous works:
“It will still include some of the ballads, but will have a new kind of feel to it. As for a new direction, it will include some self-composed songs.”
Moments before I met with Jia Jia, I was reveling in the flawless final notes of her last song, wondering to myself the exact same question. The way I usually build a connection with artists is through their compositions. To me, it doesn’t matter if they aren’t professional singer-songwriters; even just one self-composed track or a track they wrote lyrics on is enough to pacify me, leaving me with what I’d like to think is a shard of their innermost thoughts and ideas. But enough about me. Back to Jia Jia’s self composed songs.
It seems that Jia Jia has always written her own songs, even when putting together her first and second albums! So why haven’t we seen them sooner?
“They [my self composed songs] have always had quite a different feel from some of the other songs on the past albums, and thus haven’t been included previously. But now this album will include songs that were written perhaps in the past when those other albums were released, altogether this time”, says Jia Jia.
Jia Jia’s single “She Was Beautiful”.
Coming into her own (ii) Practising Self Love
Given Jia Jia’s voluptuous shape, Jia Jia has more than once taken flak from the Taiwanese media pressuring her to lose weight. But what I so admire about her was her courage to take a stand and publicly speak out about her comfortableness in her own skin, and with her unique body shape. I praised her as a role model for young girls out there, when she heard that she let slip a hearty laugh and said in disbelief, “really??”
However, she nevertheless took it in her stride and proceeded to give a few words of advice to fans about loving themselves: “I love who I am. I love my body and how I look…No matter what is going on, you need to learn to not hurt yourself. I think people-girls especially-need to learn to love who they are on the outside and inside. They need to learn to love their feathers.”
Coming into her own (iii) Fated To Sing
Sometimes coming into your own can be seen as a cumulation of experiences that build up to create who one is as a person in the present moment. Although we all know Jia Jia to be a natural at singing, she recalls that she didn’t always know that she would become a singer, leaving her destiny all to fate.
Of when she first realised she could sing, she had an affectionate yet teasing anecdote to share:
“I think [I realised]…when I was in my mother’s belly (laughs). I’m joking. When I first started crying I think my cries naturally already sounded very good (laughs). Joking again. I think it’s all because of how I grew up. My culture is embedded in the music, from when I was listening to my grandparents and so on. When I was young I would sing in the shower while showering with my mother, and I told her once “mum I want to become a singer” and she said “stop your shenanigans and just shower” (laughs). But I think at some point everyone just realised I could sing, I think it was at a gathering or something like that when I was in kindergarten, I was singing and everyone was kind of like “she actually sings pretty well!”.
Jia Jia even described her relationship with singing as a kind of fate, sharing that she never actually thought about being a solo singer before being discovered:
“My mother said to me “I’m a backup singer, why don’t you go do that too?”. So I was one for a while-I initially was a backup singer – and actually never seriously said “I want to be a singer”. So I guess me and singing have always had that kind of fate.”
And it is exactly that fate which has allowed Jia Jia to stand tall as who she is today; a singer by profession, a person who has made peace with her inner self, and perhaps in the near future a budding songwriter? I guess we’ll leave that to fate too.