Hello Asia editor Johnny Au chats with Taiwanese classically trained cellist, actress, model and writer Nana Ou-Yang. Nana was in Australia to film the new Jackie Chan movie Bleeding Steel. In her first English language interview, Nana talks about what it was like starring opposite Chinese movie icon Jackie Chan. Nana also spoke about her music career and the release of her latest album 15. We also find out Nana’s plans for the rest of 2016 and her thoughts on Australia.
Nana Ou-Yang welcome to Australia! Is this your first time in Australia?
Yes this is my first time. I love Sydney so far because there’s good weather and good food here. The most important thing is I’m filming a new movie called Bleeding Steel here. I’m really excited about it.
What’s been your favourite part about Sydney?
I think Sydney is really clean! Everywhere I go is so nice. The first thing I thought of about Sydney before I got here was if I would see kangaroos and animals everywhere. But its not like that at all. I think Sydney is a good place to live. You can stay here for a month and you can go to the zoo. Its a place you can chill.
Did you get to see any kangaroos?
Yes I went to see them at the zoo. Some small ones but not the big ones. It’s my first time seeing kangaroos. I went to a zoo where I can touch the kangaroos so that was really nice. In Chinese there’s a word called ‘Meng’. It means cute plus silly. It’s a word that really suits kangaroos!
The reason you are in Sydney is to film scenes for the movie Bleeding Steel. How is the filming going and what was it like working alongside Jackie Chan on set?
This moving is the first action movie I’ve done so its a new challenge for me. Working with Jackie Chan is like every actor’s dream. He’s everyone’s idol; doing kung fu, acting really well – everyone likes him! It’s a really great experience to work with him. Jackie is my mum and dad’s idol and he is really nice to everyone. He takes care of everyone on the set – not just the actors. He asks everyone “How is your day?” and he cares about everyone. He’s a great person.
Has there been any funny moments filming Bleeding Steel?
I think its a really happy time to film in Australia. I love our Australia team and crew. In terms of funny moments the main actor in Bleeding Steel, Show Luo, he’s the funny guy in the movie. Everytime Show Luo and I film together the funny scenes pop out. You can see how funny we are when Bleeding Steel is released! (laughs)
You’ve ventured into many different fields like acting, modelling, performing and of course music. Which do you prefer the most?
This is a difficult question because I enjoy everything I do; acting, playing the cello, magazine (shoots) and reality shows. I really love doing things I love to do. I’ve played the cello for about 10 years so its difficult to choose which is my favourite. Acting and playing music is my main thing I like to do in my life but I just don’t take it so… I take it serious but not that serious. I want to do what my heart tells me to do.
Let’s talk about your music career. You are a classically trained cellist. Why did you chose the cello and when did you first realise you had a passion for music?
In my family no one understands classical music that well. My mum and dad are singers and so is my aunt (Feifei Ou-Yang) but we didn’t really know how to play violins or cellos. I got to know classical music when I went to this class that introduced opera classics such as Mozart and Beethoven. My sister who went to this class with me didn’t like it but I really enjoyed it. At 5 years old I told my mum I wanted to play the piano and I learnt this for one year. When I was 6 years old I started to play the Cello. I think its the sound that attracted me. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to be a cellist when I first started playing but day by day I learnt more. I went to concerts to watch the masters perform. So eventually I decided I wanted to be a Cellist. My mum have always told me that in your future career you should be doing things that you love and you need to have passion in it. When I was 8 I decided I want to be a great cellist and bring great music to everyone. Now the dream is still continuing.
You’ve worked with so many big names in the classical music industry already. Who has been the most memorable person you have worked with?
When I was 8 years old my first Cello idol was Yo-Yo Ma. Everyone loves him. So Yo-Yo Ma really inspired me. So he’s my first Cello god! (laughs) But the person to have inspired me the most was my first teacher Mrs Yao. She’s like my mother because she took care of me. She’s nice but she’s not nice to me when I’m practicing! I think if she didn’t push me when I was younger I would not be here doing this interview! (laughs)
When you are up on stage in a recital do you get nervous with the large audience watching?
When I have a concert I will be nervous but its not because of the audience. I think I’m nervous because I care about my concert, I care about my music, I want to try my best and do my best. I have lots of concerts but every concert whether it is big or small I will be nervous every time. Being nervous is not a bad thing. Its a good thing.
Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with in the future?
There are many! There’s a really famous songwriter in Japan and he is called Joe Hisaishi. I really love his music so that’s my dream (collaboration).
You have just released your album 15 in Australia. Congratulations! Can you tell me a bit about the album? Do you have a favourite track from the album?
I’m really shocked I’m releasing my album in Australia. When my boss told me my album was going to released in Australia I went “Really?” I’m happy about it because my dream is to travel to every place (around the world) and bring my music to everyone. My album is called 15 and the number 15 is very meaningful to me. I was 15 years old when I recorded the album and I recorded 15 tracks. So this album is my baby. I never thought I would get the chance to release the album at 15 years old. Its difficult to say a favourite track. Everyone loves “Popper: Concert Polonaise” but I have two favourites. One is “Rachmaninov: Vocalis” and “Fauré: Après un Rêve” (After A Dream). Its kind of sad because everyone likes fast, upbeat music but I like pieces that tell a story.
How long did it take to record 15?
Its took 3 days to record in a concert hall. For the whole record it took three months. It turned out to be everyone’s baby. At the beginning we talked about the style and what songs we are recording. The 3 days to record was the most difficult days in my life because it was really long days and it was tiring. But you cannot give up, you have to do your best. It was difficult days but I will never forget it.
I believe you are also a writer? How do you find the time? Are you in the middle of writing anything at the moment?
So the book is a book I’m writing with my mum. Its my music journey about how I learnt to play the Cello, how I started in classical music and every story that I want my fans to know (are in the book). I’m not a really good writer but I try and tell stories about me. The book is in Chinese. One day I will write an English book. I hope I can improve my English!
What is next for Nana Ou-Yang? What’s your plans for the rest of 2016?
This year will be a really busy year. Its really great being 16 years old. Sweet Sixteen! I will continue filming Bleeding Steel but the most important thing is my next album. I will record my next album. This year there will be more travel because I want my album released elsewhere. I want to bring music to everyone. That’s my wish.
And do you have a message for your fans?
Someone asked me if I have any Australian fans and I said I’m not sure. But during the month of filming in Australia I made friends so maybe my friends will go and buy my album? (laughs) I took a flight from Japan to Sydney and I met an older couple and we were chatting and I told them I was going to release an album in Australia. And they said they would go and buy my album! So I’m sure there’s a couple that would buy my album! So thank you! (laughs)
Nana best of luck with 15 and we hope you come back to Australia and hold a concert!
Thank you guys. This is my first English interview so we need subtitles! (laughs) Thank you!
15 by Nana Ou-Yang is available for purchase digitally on iTunes, stream on Spotify and Apple Music and at JB HiFi here.
Questions by Jocelle Koh, Wendy Troung and Johnny Au.
Photos 1 & 2 courtesy of Bleeding Steel & Village Roadshow Asia.