Interview with Melody Yeung
Melody was born in LA and grew up in San Marino, CA. Throughout her childhood, her greatest hobby was singing and performing, which prompted her to compete in many local talent competitions. By the time she was in Jr. High, Melody was experimenting with song writing and was participating in musicals and choirs. In high school, she joined a Christian band and spent her free time on the weekends singing and learning the guitar. By the time she arrived at college, she took the leap to pursue music full time and recorded her first pro demo.
In the spring of ’03, Melody received a call from Jeff Huang offering her an opportunity to record hook parts for the sophomore album of the platinum selling group, Machi. Seeing this as not only an opportunity to do professional music, but also to learn Mandarin and gain experience in the industry abroad, Melody made the move to Taiwan.
Within two years, Melody learned a good amount of Chinese and performed in hundreds of shows throughout the island. She co-wrote the hit “Mei Ban Fa” and collaborated on many other singles for stars such as Stanley Huang, Nicky Lee, F.I.R., Bibi Zhou and Van Ness Wu.
In ’07, Melody released her first solo album and toured on her own for the first time. She wrote 8 of the 10 songs, and her single “You Don’t Know” was in the top ten for 11 weeks.
In ’09, Melody changed management companies, aiming to go a different direction in her musical taste and signed with Zoom Muzik, collaborating with ballad superstar Sam Lee in a duet named “Jet Lag.” In ’10, she released again, this time an EP with 3 new songs, two of them written by Melody.
Aside from music, Melody has acted in the Taiwan drama, “So I’m Not Handsome,” guest starring in an episode as the spunky cousin of the lead part played by JJ Lin. She has also endorsed numerous products including Adidas, Doritos, HTC, Diesel, and Carnival.
Melody is currently finishing her 3rd solo project and hosting the fashion design show, Taipei in Design for TVBS.
It is great to meet you, Melody. Thank you for this opportunity. It seems you were interested in music and performing at a very young age. What was the attraction?
Melody: I learned to whistle when I was two, and I’m still not sure how I did that– then I learned lyrics from listening to the radio (in baby talk) at a remarkable speed. The whole musical ability thing thrilled my mom, and it was her, really, that pushed me into doing little performances at a young age. She kept pushing me to learn new songs that she loved on the radio (mostly Madonna songs, haha) and over the years her interest became my interest.
When you were growing up in the US what kind of music did you listen to?
Melody: I listened to slow 80s music – like Journey, Richard Marx, Linda Ronstadt, Whitney Houston, Peter Cetera, Air Supply, Rod Stewart – I had no freedom of music! It was pretty much what was playing on the radio when my parents drove me anywhere, and my dad was the master controller of what music my brother and I would be subjected to. By the time I hit middle school, I finally got my own radio set and was able to listen to a larger range of music of the time like Ace of Base, TLC, Zero 7, and Alanis Morisette. I had to make up for lost time with classic music of my childhood (Run DMC, Duran Duran, Nirvana…etc) during college because I wasn’t allowed to listen to it when I was younger.
When you first moved to Taiwan to record with the group Machi, how was adjusting to the language and culture for you?
Melody: It sucked. My Mandarin was neither here nor there. I spoke a little Cantonese at home, so I used that as the basis for what Mandarin should be like. I would first translate what I would say from English to Cantonese, and then try to use the Cantonese to translate to Mandarin. Most Cantonese words don’t exist in Mandarin, and most Mandarin words are not used in Cantonese, so it was a nightmare. Also, they wanted me to get a grasp of the Mandarin language ASAP, so my company was constantly berating me on how much my Mandarin sucked.
Singing “Last Memory”
Singing “All in”
Culture wise, it was okay. I had this notion that Taiwanese food was a certain way from what I had experienced in the states, so when I realized that lots of what I thought were Taiwanese staples like beef noodle soup and zhua bing were not readily available everywhere, I was kind of stumped. But aside from not being able to communicate that well, everyone in Taiwan is much, much nicer and more patient than Americans.
Van Ness Wu is an investor in Machi and you also have collaborated with him. What is he like to work with?
Melody: He is definitely a true artist. He thinks outside the box and always comes up with something new and exciting and super stylish. He works extremely hard! His perfect abs don’t come easily and he makes it seem so effortless. I wish I had half the discipline he has. He’s also a strong man of faith with a good head on his shoulders. Working with him is inspiring because he knows what he likes and he’s so confident about what he has to offer. He’s also on top of his own projects creatively, and I respect that a lot in an artist.
Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists and is there someone you would like to work with in the future?
Melody: I do like working with other artists because extra feedback always brings an extra something-something to my music. After writing fifty songs back to back, it’s nice to get a fresh pair of ears to help bring in more ideas and inspiration. I’m more productive writing alone at home, because if I were stuck in a room with someone else doing music I’d probably just not work and chat all day, but I don’t mind sending files back and forth and building on a song with someone else that way.
How would you describe your music?
Melody: My music alone- with no collaborations is more pop-folk-soft rockish. I tend to write more power ballads and songs that are born from the quiet around me. But to keep people from falling asleep – I do work with some dance music producers and I write synthy dance songs as well to round out the album. The result is kind of eclectic with some power ballads, some Disney-esque kumbayah songs, some edgy alternative songs, and some dancey pop music.
You have also been hosting “Taipei in Design” for TVBS which is similar to Project Runway here in the US. Is fashion of interest to you?
Melody: I LOVE fashion. If I had all the money in the world, I would dedicate it to beautiful clothes and accessories. I have a soft spot for shoes (obviously), coats/outwear, and jewelry. My fashion taste has changed dramatically over the last ten years. I went from kind of slutty (backless tanks with booty shorts and stiletto platforms) in high school to a much more demure, classy kind of look (cropped slacks, chunky knits, and blazers). It’s funny how age refines ones taste. Aside from pre-styled photo shoots, I would never be caught dead in real life wearing anything overtly revealing.
The TVBS taping was fun because I got to wear my own clothes on the show – and based on the themed outfit of each week, I created a different look starting from the hair and makeup all the way to my clothes and shoes each time. Real life Barbie dress up. So fun!
You have also branched out into acting appearing in the drama “So I’m Not Handsome”. Is acting something you would like to do more of?
Melody: I do like acting. I did quite a few commercials as a child in the states (like Barbie) and a ton of extra work as well. I never had legitimate training and I would prefer to get some more training as an adult now before I jump with both feet into this, but in Taiwan, it’s a little hard for me. Unless somebody writes an American in Taiwan part for me to audition, my Chinese accent is much too strong to be a believable native Taiwanese character.
How do you come up with the lyrics for your songs? Are many of them based on your personal experiences?
Melody: Both. Sometimes when there are things on my mind, or if I’m feeling strongly about something, my lyrics will reflect my real life. It’s not necessarily recent. Sometimes when I’m in the midst of feeling something, I’m not ready to write a song about it, so some songs reflect feelings that I’ve felt maybe a year or two prior to writing the song. Other times I write gibberish lyrics that best fit the mood of the song. When I’m on deadline, I have to churn out quite a few new songs, and my life is just not interesting enough for me to have that much material to cover. Although, I’m less attached to these songs, obviously because they mean a lot less to me. I always hope that the personal songs get chosen to be singles because they feel a lot more authentic to sing.
You are recording your third CD now, can you tell us a little about it?
Melody: My first album had a lot of slow, sad songs and the fast ones were written by super producer, Jae Chong. In my second release, I tried writing my own fast song and that was pretty exhilarating. This time, I want my third solo release to be 100% me, all songs written entirely by me. It will also take a more light hearted and whimsical approach. I think at this point in my life, I know myself much better, and I’m not really a mopey, sad, kind of person. I love beauty, adventure, smiles, vibrant color, and confidence. I hope this album will be able to express that.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Melody: I see myself living in the states instead of Taiwan, doing music and finishing college. I’ve lived in Taiwan for almost 10 years! My entire family, who lives in the states, misses me a lot, and I miss them so much too. I lived in Taiwan to get to know the landscape, the language, and the culture. I think I’ve finally grasped that, and the great thing about music, is it can be written anywhere. I think being in my homeland again will bring a new kind of inspiration to my future music and I really look forward to that. Also, I never finished college. I came to Taiwan when I was 19 years old, so getting my diploma at last would really bring me over the moon, and my life would feel a little more complete.