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Joanna Wang Ruo-lin released her debut bilingual album, Start From Here, in 2008, when she was 20. It was a huge success, selling more than 200,000 copies across Taiwan, Hong Kong and the mainland.
It seemed Wang was on a fast track to musical fame, but despite her success, she says: "I hated my first album".
"I really did, there was so much I wanted to do creatively and the album was the antithesis of everything I ever wanted to do, it was sappy, empty, and most of all, completely lacking in all things wonderful and imaginative," says the 24-year-old husky-voiced musician. "Sadly, there was really not much freedom. Working with a parent and a major label can be very tough and emotionally turbulent."
Wang's debut album was produced by her father, Mando-pop producer Bing Wang Zhi-ping, who has also produced albums for pop singers Jay Chou and Yoga Lin.
Her image back then was of a sentimental lady, who sang about happiness and lost love.
Joanna Wang Ruo-lin will sing in Beijing for the annual Strawberry Music Festival. Provided to China Daily
Since then, she has gained more creative control over her work. Wang produced her latest album, Galaxy Crisis: The Strangest Midnight Broadcast, herself.
"It was wonderful, deeply satisfying and I've never been so proud of anything I had ever done," she says about her first time being a producer.
Now, with her new role as a producer and newly dyed blonde hair, she will perform in Beijing on the first day of the annual Strawberry Music Festival, which will be held April 29 through May 1 simultaneously in Beijing and Shanghai.
Having performed at outdoor music festivals since 2009, Wang says she likes taking the time to make exciting arrangements, and she loves hearing music come together.
This year's Strawberry Music Festival is headlined by Scottish alternative rock band Travis, Australian singer-songwriter Lenka, local rocker Xie Tianxiao and pop singer-songwriter Shang Wenjie.
Wang, who rarely appears in public aside from performing at music festivals, will sing tracks from 2011's The Adventures of Bernie the Schoolboy album and her latest album.
Wang co-produced Galaxy Crisis: The Strangest Midnight Broadcast, with an American musician, Roger Joseph Manning Jr.
She also designed the covers for the double album, which were all illustrations that she describes as "such good doorways to what kind of world you'll be falling into when you listen".
Born in Taipei but raised in Los Angeles in the United States, Wang was exposed to many classic pop music acts, including The Beatles, Queen and Oingo Boingo. Her major influences are Danny Elfman, Yoeko Kurahashi and video-game soundtracks. She wrote her first song on piano at 12, which was a video game melody.
Despite having achieved so much over the years, Wang insists she remains true to herself.
"I haven't changed at all. If anything I think more people are beginning to see through that stupid image from the first album and realize, oh, she's actually just this 24-year-old who's constantly making stupid jokes," she says.
She is currently working on a cover album with the concept, "Midnight Cinema", which she describes as: "a little bit left of center movie themes with lush orchestral arrangements".
As for the next original composition record, it'll be House of Bullies, a concept album about a bunch of mean and evil children.
She is also having a great time working on programming video game music with Finnish dance producer Jaakko Salovaara.
Wang says she doesn't consider herself as a singer because it doesn't properly represent what she does.
"I really consider myself more of a musician, because a lot of my own music is actually instrumental. To me, it's not about the vocals, it's about making a less than three-minute piece of music that evokes certain emotions, through the melodies and sounds and rhythms chosen. That is my craft," she says.
"I want to make music that I'd like, especially a 10-year-old me would like. I want to make trippy music for children."
Beijing Strawberry Music Festival will be held at Beijing Tongzhou Canal Park.
Shanghai Strawberry Music Festival will be held at Shanghai Expo Park.
(China Daily 04/26/2013 page22)