For singer/songwriter Wanting Qu, music had always been a way for her to express her emotions, but when she moved from China to Canada, she pursued an education in business. Being an artist in an academic setting, she felt lonely, and decided she needed to make the brave choice of pursuing her true passions and moved to Vancouver to study the software behind music and sound. With her dreams in one hand and practical knowledge in the other, she approached Terry McBride with her EP and became the first Chinese artist signed to the Nettwerk label. Since then, she became No.1 selling artist in Asia and won numerous awards in many categories including Best New Artist, Best Album, Best Single, Best Singer-Songwriter and more. But we learned that among all the glory and success, the best win in Wanting’s mind is the love and that connections she received from millions of her fans.
What are the challenges of being an artist on an international level?
In Western culture, most people have an understanding of a singer-songwriter. Jonny Cash, Sarah McLachlan, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran to name a few. People understand singer-songwriters are not just great singers (some may not even be great vocalists), but they are honest with their lyrics, know how to play an instrument, and they are talented and creative. When they make an album, their time is mostly spent in studios, heavily involved in the creative process, working closely with musicians, producers and mixers to ensure the album is a true representation of who they are. They spend a big chunk of time out of a year to finish an album therefore besides making of the album, promoting the album and touring, not much time is left to do other things such as acting in movies, reality TV shows etc.
In Asia markets though, it is very different. Music companies and the public are so use to dealing with manufactured singers. They expect singers to act in certain way, less opinionated, less political and more confirmative. So for someone like me who have been living in Canada for the last 15 years, going back to Asia to promote my music, working with local music companies and media, I found a bit changeling for them to understand the real me thus I had to do a lot of educational discussions with media and fans on singer-songwriter because after all, I am a lot more vocal and opinionated and political about things that matter. It took them a while to get me, slowly but surely. But I accept the challenges in life. Only makes life an interesting one.
What is your favourite color?
What is your favourite place to go to in Vancouver?
Anywhere that has mountains, oceans and trees. Not too hard to find in Vancouver! Other than that, I have to say home is one of my favorite places to rest, relax, recharge, rewind and rehabilitate.
Since you’re a tourism ambassador, which place do you like talking about?
Hmm, I honestly love everything about Vancouver! Nature, life style, food, people, arts and culture. When I talk about Vancouver, I talk about it in a genuine, grateful and respectful way. People can feel the love I have for Vancouver. Like I said many times before, I wouldn’t be who I am today (a musician, a writer, a composer, an artist, a believer, a singer-songwriter) if I didn’t come here. There will always be a special place in my heart for this beautiful vibrant inclusive city I call home.
Do you write music first or lyrics?
If I’m home playing on piano or guitar, I tend to write music and lyrics together. But when I’m traveling and ideas come, I’ll hum the melody and record it as a voice memo on my iPhone, and the works in iPhone notes so I can always revisit them later.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Real life. Love. Relationships. New stories. Movies. If I feel something, I write about it.
What was the toughest thing about being famous?
At first, a lot of people in China didn’t know much about my western background. They assumed certain ways about me and judged me. In 2012, I fought for my rights to protect my intellectual property – my music. People didn’t understand. They thought I was just being greedy and want money. Internet became a nasty place. Words hurt a lot more than a physical punch. I tried and am still trying to ignore the negatives and not let it affect me, but honest truth is it’s not that easy. I took my frustration out through song writing.
“Shut The Hell Up” (English) and “Us Under The Sunshine” (Chinese) from my second album “Say The Words” are about cyber bullying. I know there are a lot of people are victims of cyber bullying. When we are under attack, our self-defence mechanisms are on guard and want to attack back. But that only results in more hurtful words and more feelings are hurt and there’s nothing positive about it. But instead of me having a rotten feeling about myself, I learned to find reasons and excuses to justify their hurtful words: Maybe they’re young and haven’t experienced what I experienced. Maybe they didn’t hear the full story and the information they got is incorrect. Maybe they’ll live and learn. May the universe will teach them a lesson in the end. When I do this, it’s easier for me to forgive and move on. Fame brought me a lot more positives than negative. So I’m still grateful.
What’s the biggest advice you can give to your fans that want to pursuit their dreams?
There’s always an audience for each genre of music. There’s a market for everyone. It’s just a matter of how big your audience is. You might have 10 people listen to your music. That’s an audience. You might have 100 or 10,000. That’s an audience. You shouldn’t change what you love to do to please the other 9,000. Just focus on the ones who love the real you. That’s what I’ve been doing. I can dance. I can dress sexy. I can hire a big-shot producer who will get me a lot of money. I can hire good writers to write me a catchy song and do a really hot video. I can do that. But is that really who I am? Not really. So I choose to be who I am and how I do my music, and then in my heart, I know there are people out there who will connect with my music, so I’m not going to go out of my way to become someone I’m not for others. That’s my advice for people going into music. It doesn’t mean you always have to stay the same. You can always switch it up if that’s what you want to do; if that’s who you are. You are changing everyday. For example, right now, I want my next album to be more upbeat and more produced. And this is what I want to do now because I’m like that now, but when I first started, it was much more organic and simple. But that’s life. You are getting influenced. And it’s inevitable that you’ll get influenced and that you’ll grow. Everything around you will change you.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
That’s always been a tough question for me in interviews. Answer is I don’t know. I have a habit of knowing what my main goals are, and step-by-step moving towards it. I don’t put a deadline on it. I don’t plan too far ahead. But I do my best to be smart, be driven, be prepared, and be ready for any opportunities that come to my way. So to answer your question, in 5 years, I can see myself everywhere and anywhere! We will see.
When’s your next album coming out? [Note: Interview was taken place in October 2014]
Hoping end of 2015. I have a few side projects that I’m very excited to share with my fans. The current one is I’m working on a song for an American film based on one of the best selling young adult book series. The movie is planned for release in 2015. More updates on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
We want to thank Wanting for taking the time to meet up with us, her experience as a singer and giving us inspiration on how we should follow our dreams. We wish her the best and we are super excited for her new album!
Note: Wanting’s Story Premiers Saturday March 14th @ 7:00PM on CTV W5. There will be two stories this week. The Other Story is Titled: “School of Hard Knocks”.
Introduction by: Rebekah
Interviewed by: Holly & Miya
Photography by: Miya Gu