Though it may seem that Coco Lee’s been maintaining a low profile these past few years, she’s hardly been slacking. Fresh off a Vegas show stint, she’s put together a mega concert for her Asian fans.
Having started her career making compilation albums with other famous singers like Sammi Cheng and Andy Hui, Coco stood out with a unique way of singing, and her ability to easily belt out the tunes in both Mandarin and English. By the time her first album, Coco Lee, hit the stores, it because the best selling album of 1996 in Asia. She became known internationally when she her song Before I Fall in Love was included in the Julia Roberts’ hit Runaway Bride. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Here, Coco Lee sits down with inSing.com for a one-on-one interview to talk about performing at the Oscars, having children and what she does in the shower…
Asia Weekly named you one of the Top 50 Most Powerful People in Asia , E! Channel says you’re one of the Top 25 Sexiest Divas (she came in at number 15, above even Kylie Minogue and J.Lo), and so far you’ve been the first Asian to perform at the Oscars. How do you feel about having achieved all these accolades across so many different fields?
I’m very honoured, extremely honoured. And some of them I didn’t even know that they had remembered me – like the Top 25 Sexiest Divas, and it was my friends who called and told me. But the point is it’s through all these years of hard work and to finally be able to see the fruit of it, and it feels good because I’ve worked hard and been recognised for it.
To be honest, I’d like to be a positive influence on the next generation. When you’ve got all these fresh new faces and singers, and they come out and say ‘I want to be just like Coco Lee’. I really hope that they can surpass whatever I’ve done.
You’ve already done a number of Hollywood soundtracks (Runaway Bride, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Rush Hour 2,) but do you ever want to do more acting?
Yeah, of course. It’d be fun! I did one movie with John Lone (Bamboo Shoot), where I played a farm girl and it was a really interesting experience. We shot in China and with film, you really learn to appreciate the art that involves so many people. It’s really a team effort – it’s not about you, it’s about the entire crew. And you really learn a lot from them because it’s hard. But you know what, I’d really like to do it again.
Having recorded in both Asia and the United States, how do you decide where to record your songs?
Depends on who the producer is – sometimes if the producer’s in the states, then I’ll record in new york or LA, and if that person is in Taiwan, then I’ll be in asia. But sometimes the person will fly in, if I’m more comfortable in my studio in hk. Yeah it’s totally flexible.
You sing, obviously very well, but also in both Chinese and English. Which do you prefer?
That’s a hard one cos I like ‘em both. But language wise I think I express myself easier in English. In Mandarin, I need my lyric sheet in front of me and I need a lot of pin yin to make sure the intonations is all right. So it’s easier for me to sing English.
When you first started out, you shot to fame singing ballads, but you’ve also progressed into other genres now, how did that shift come about?
A lot of times the album I put out is how I feel at that time, and the type of music I want to introduce to my fans, and songs that are a reflection of how I am at that time. This time I’ve done hip hop, while before it was more trance, disco, was more Euro-pop. It all really depends on what I’m listening to at that time. Right now I care more about ballads and songs that are happy. I’m actually a really happy person so to be singing a lot of sad songs doesn’t make sense to me.
I did notice that you’re quite a happy, bubbly person, and is there anything that can make you instantly happy when you’re feeling a bit down?
It would have to be hearing the crowd cheer. It makes me feel really happy and so touched. Like in Taiwan, which was the first stop, that was a powerful concert because the fans went nuts. They waited 12 years, and a lot of them grew up with me, so it was emotional for them. And they screamed from the beginning to the end and they told me that they lost their voices.
As a musician, you’re often surrounded by lots of different sounds, but what do you find the most beautiful sound?
The crowd cheering. It really gets me going, and it almost makes me cry sometimes. Although I try not to because then it smudges my makeup and I don’t look so good anymore!
Do you sing in the shower?
Oh of course, the acoustics are great in there! It’s a terrific place to try out new material.
Some artists choose to concentrate on their family once they get married – what about you?
Oh definitely, I want to start a family eventually but not just yet. There are still a lot of things I want to do, and I think I’ve got plenty of time before I think about having kids.
Let’s talk about your East2West tour now – how long did it take you to put together this tour, and where did you get the inspiration for it?
I’m very hands-on when it comes to the details, even the fabric and styles of the costumes I’m wearing, so from the initial planning all the way to being on stage, I’m involved in each step of the process. I know exactly how I wanted everything done and it took about a year of planning to get to where it is now. I’d taken a lot of the inspiration from the show I was doing in Las Vegas, but it’s a much longer show, so it had to be adapted into a concert-style. What I love about Vegas shows is that you don’t really need to know who the performer is, but you know you’ll always have a good time, and that’s what I want. You won’t need to know all my songs to really be able to enjoy it.
We’re excited! What should people expect from your concert in October?
Expect to have a great time! It’ll be really really fun, I promise – a lot of fun and energy. I believe that there are a lot of fans in Singapore who grew up with me, people out there who’ll come and enjoy the show. It almost feels like a family affair, you’ll definitely come and enjoy the show and feel like a part of it. It’s a really a lot of fun.
The Coco Lee East2West World Tour is on October 2, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Tickets are from $88 to $178.
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