Joanna Wang interview

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Joanna Wang is a young woman who prefers to let her music do the talking. Known to be shy in interviews, the 20-year-old Taiwanese-American singer – who has drawn comparisons with Norah Jones and Lisa Ono – is coy with words, and, apparently, with discussing her craft. “There is no message that I’m attempting to communicate to the audience with music,” she tells us via email. “When I write music, I don’t think about conveying any messages to anyone. It’s just a combination of words and melody and chords that make me feel something.”

For so many, that has proved more than enough. Her 2008 debut album, Start From Here, hit number one in Taiwan, and topped Hong Kong HMV’s charts for weeks. The title track has yet to take hold in the US, where Wang, daughter of famed Taiwan producer Wang ‘Bing’ Ji-ping, was raised, but, with its easy melody, catchy hook and understatedly emotive vocals, it would play well on the easy-listening charts. Comparisons to Norah Jones are apt – Wang’s mature-beyond-her-years singing voice has a smoky element, which lends itself well to the light jazz inflections she brings to otherwise standard mainstream pop songs.

Having just released her second album, Joanna & 王若琳 – “The concept of the name is to showcase the different aspects of my musical career, singing and songwriting” – Wang comes to Hong Kong for the first time, to play two shows at HITEC. Though she is a relatively recent arrival on the scene, she has already developed a huge fan base across Asia, and is showing early signs of reaching musical maturity. “This record has achieved one thing the previous record didn’t, which is correct representation of me and what I’m doing,” she says, suggesting an increased role for her in production and songwriting.

Now she just has to get used to the idea of interviews. “I am not really a shy person,” she offers in defense, after a string of frugal responses to questions. “I just think with some interviews it’s hard to express myself, because sometimes the questions are just that – and you can’t really elaborate on the answers.”

But never fear – at HITEC, you can expect someone with plenty to say, albeit purely through her guitar and singing. “The Joanna on stage and off stage are not too different. When I have to deal with people or music that I don’t want to deal with, I’ll make things short and concise. When I get to spend time with people I like and songs that I like to perform, I will have a most wonderful time doing just that.”

Hamish McKenzie, with additional reporting by Henry Chung

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