Beautiful Seed -The Stories Behind the Album
This is the stuff that is being printed in the Japanese liner
notes when 'Beautiful Seed' is released in Japan in September 2007 by S2S/ Major Chord Records.
Just thought I'd share them with you.
[SPOILER ALERT] - For those who want to explore the songs by themselves, please don't read any further :)
As asked by Major Chord Records :Regarding the Japanese liner notes: would you make some comments on each song -- what did you try to express with those songs, what kind of feelings did you have when composing them? Is there any story behind the songs?
1) Love Song For #1
I love observing nature. I love looking up at the stars, or the clouds and trees, knowing that the God who created all this beauty also created me. This is a song of gratitude and love.
Friends support and help each other through difficult times. This song is about friendship.
It is a song to a friend to tell her that I will be here for her through the difficulty she is going through. All she has to do is call me and I will help her in whatever way I can.
3) On The Side Of Me
This is a song about the power of love. No matter how unloveable I think I am, there is someone who loves me a lot. Loves me despite all my faults, my failures, despite my bad habits. I think it’s wonderful to be loved for who I am, no matter what.
4) Five Loaves and Two Fishes
This song is based on my favourite bible story. The story is about how Jesus made a miracle happen by taking five loaves and two fishes offered by a little boy, and using that to feed 5000 people.
I think it’s an amazing story about how, no matter how small we may think about what we have to offer, we should trust that our offerings, our gifts are never wasted. Our gifts and our talents should be treasured for they can be used in many beautiful ways.
5) Beautiful Seed
I think people often forget how the smallest, most seemingly insignificant things can have such beautiful possibilities. All it takes is one person to make a difference in this world. People like Mother Teresa, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. testify to this fact. But often, we are so afraid to try, to speak up, or to make a difference.
I named the album and the song ‘Beautiful Seed’ because I think that a seed is a wonderful metaphor for our lives. We are all like seeds. Seeds grow unseen in the soil and then sprout, and some seed become the biggest, most majestic trees and others grow to eventually bear wonderful fruit, and yet others, grow to provide shade. We are like trees. When we are in our mother’s womb, no one can see us growing, but we are there. And all the potential for our lives is present in that moment, small as we are at that point in our lives, we are who we are now because of what we’ve gone through. And just knowing that, makes me sad to read about the increasing numbers of abortions that occur. People have forgotten that all the potential for life comes from something small, seemingly insignificant, seemingly lifeless.
Recently, I read about how scientists managed to grow a date palm plant from a 2000 year old seed. How amazing.
Bad habits are hard to break. But sometimes, the best thing to do is to find a new way of doing things, to leave the things that are not good for us. This song is about making the decision to start anew, to do things right, to leave the bad situations behind.
7) Scars (Stronger For Life)
Scars form whenever we hurt ourselves, if we have an injury to our bodies, our bodies respond by healing, and often, forming scar tissues over the wounds. The scar tissue is usually thicker and stronger than our normal skin. In our lives, we often encounter events, or situations with people that hurt us, for eg, a lot of us have gone through the painful feeling of a break-up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, or the loss of a loved one, or the pain of being ill. I believe that when we go through the sad and painful events in our lives, we eventually heal, and we become stronger as a result of the challenges we experience.
8) City of Angels
I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 8 years and it’s always struck me as a very interesting city.
It is a city of contradictions, a city of opposites, a lot of glitz and glamour juxtaposed with poverty and grit. It is a city in a desert, and in many ways, the desert is often not just a physical, geographical reality. I feel that the desert, has a deeper, metaphorical meaning in this city. People are often thirsty, hungry for love. Of course, this is a reality everywhere in the world, but it feels more intense here in Los Angeles.
So I thought I’d pour my thoughts into a song.
9) My Little Nephew
The first time I held my nephew in my arms was a wonderful moment of realization that I am now an aunty to my brother’s son. Children change so fast as they grow and my nephew lives in Singapore, as does the rest of my family. I on the other hand, live far away in Los Angeles and despite my wanting to be able to see him change and grow, and to be around for family gatherings such as his birthday, it’s hard to only see him now and then, whenever I go back to Singapore. I sat down at the piano one day, and wrote a song for him.
10) Slow Down
It’s hard to watch my grandparents getting older, and walking a little slower as the years go by. I thought about how life starts off with kids, teenagers and young adults rushing around with the exuberance of youth, and how, as we get older, we all slow down.
I also thought about how sometimes, working adults run around so much, focused on careers, on all the things in life that seem so important, that they lose sight of the really important things in life, things like time with the family, for instance.
11) Green-Eyed Monster
The term ‘Green-Eyed Monster’ is used to describe someone who is jealous about somebody else’s success.
I think most of us have been through an occasion where we find ourselves comparing our own achievements with those of our peers. Sometimes, in comparing ourselves with others, we end up feeling bitter and resentful, and that is not the way that we should be feeling. I wanted to write a song to tell myself that there is no use in comparing myself to others. I have my own story to tell. I have my own path to walk. No one else can walk the path I am meant to walk. So I should not compare my own life with others. It is a waste of energy and time. So I decided to write a song about this.
12) On My Way
I’ve travelled a lot over the past few years, to Singapore, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, Maine, Philadelphia, etc. as I’m often going to various cities to perform my music. Most of the time, I’m on the road by myself, driving to various venues. Sometimes I get lost, sometimes, I get into traffic jams…
I think that life is like being on a journey. We have a final destination to get to. We’re all travelers on this road of life. I think that life is like a winding road where it’s hard sometimes to figure out where the road is going to go, and sometimes it’s easy to get lost and confused. ‘On My Way’ is a song of hope and encouragement, that no matter how far the journey is, every little step that we take, brings us closer to our final destination, and as long as we keep on walking that journey, we will get where we need to be eventually.
When I turned 33 last year, I thought to myself, that Jesus was 33 when he lived his last year on earth. I thought that it was pretty amazing that I was now the same age as him. So somehow, that made me wonder how it would have been if I had lived during the time of Jesus. Would our paths have crossed? Would we have been friends?
It also got me thinking that some lives are so short, just like Jesus’ was, and some lives are much longer. But ultimately it doesn’t matter how short or long someone’s life was; what matters is that life is lived to the fullest, no matter how much time you are given to live.
14) Shelter (Cherry Blossom Edition)
Even though I listen to mostly English pop music, as a child I often listened to the Chinese pop melodies that my grandmother would play on the radio, and my father would teach me some Asian folk songs. I was inspired to write a Asian-styled piano arrangement to ‘Shelter’ after listening to Kavin’s string arrangement for the song. Lately, I’ve been experimenting more with pentatonic keys and modes and so, I decided to try an Asian-styled arrangement on the piano. I loved it very much, so we decided to include it in the album because it adds a different, more dramatic feel to the song.
Besides the above: please see the questions below:
1. What is the major influence in your music? Would you name artists and/or songs?
Growing up, I listened to quite a lot of classical music as I studied classical piano from a young age and had to play a lot of classical piano pieces. My favourite composers were Beethoven and Mozart. As I grew older, I listened to music arranged and composed by David Foster who writes very good melodies. I also listened to the Carpenters and to Abba, and to James Taylor. I loved the musical ‘My Fair Lady’. I also listened to a lot of Top 40 pop on radio. Nowadays, I’ve been listening more to artistes like Imogen Heap, John Mayer, Keane, Bobby McFerrin. I love Joni Mitchell’s lyrics. They inspire my own.
2. If you compare the new album with the previous works, what do you think is the largest difference?
I think my songwriting has evolved. Lyrically and musically, this album is more mature and personal. Songs like ‘Beautiful Seed’ and ‘Five Loaves and Fishes’ are songs about beliefs that I cherish. I think that musically speaking, I am also trying different things in terms of writing more songs in a minor or modal key, such as the songs ‘Scars (Stronger For Life) and Green-Eyed Monster, so there is more of a richness and diversity to the music. I also helped to produce this album with Kavin and so I feel that my musical, creative fingerprints are all over this album as I was more involved in this album with the way the music sounded.
3. When do you write songs? Is there any particular mood or feeling in which you like to write songs?
For this album, I wrote songs mostly in two places. One was at my piano in my room, usually in the night, when it’s just me at my piano, with a candle burning in a darkened room. The other place where I wrote my songs was in the coffeehouse that I went to almost everyday, during the daytime. I would sit at the coffeehouse with a cup of my favourite Darjeeling tea and write from 10 a.m to 2 p.m for most days. I would have at the table, my rhyming dictionary, my favourite pen, and my notebook of ideas, then I would look over the lyrics for songs that I needed to finish and write them, or I would write down ideas for new songs in my journal. I would write most of my lyrics this way. I would also have the melodies in my head and when I went home after writing at the coffeehouse, I would try out my music ideas on the piano in my room.
For writing songs, I have to be in a introspective, thoughtful frame of mind.
So it helps to sit at a coffeehouse. This particular coffeehouse also had a good vibe because there would be classical music playing in the background, and the furniture was very nice dark wood, so it looked classy, but very comfortable.
4. Some songwriters, by writing songs, releases their inner feelings, thoughts or visions, or escape from real world. To you, does song writing make your real life any easier or better?
Songwriting does help me to express my innermost thoughts and to express the things and emotions that I feel strongly about. It helps me to understand myself better and to deal with my sadness, my frustrations and my joys and happiness.
5. Song writing is in a sense expression of feelings or emotions.. Which feelings or emotions (such as, anger, joy, sadness…) is the easiest to express in your music?
It’s funny, but I do find that the easiest emotions to express in music are those that make me feel thoughtful, mellow or sad. I guess that when I’m sad about something, I get more emotional about it, and songs tend to flow easier that way. When I feel sad or pensive about something, it’s easier to sit at the piano and comfort myself by playing a good melody.
6. Is there any particular thing you do to create a atmosphere for recording (such as, lighting candle, etc)?
I turn down the lights so that the lights are not too bright. I like to light candles too, but during the recording for this album, I didn’t light candles because it got too warm in the studio.
For the songs ‘Love Song For #1’, ‘33’ and ‘My Little Nephew’, my husband and producer Kavin, left me alone in the house for a few hours with just the piano and so, it was easier to get into the mood of recording the songs, especially since these songs were more intimate since they are just vocals and piano arrangements. I felt more comfortable just putting all my emotions into the playing and recording of the songs when I was alone, with no one else to observe me.
7. Would you name other favorite writers, film directors, films, etc? Please also name your favorite musicians and artists.
Favourite writers : Pico Iyer, Jhumpa Lahiri, St.Therese of Liseux, Shel Silverstein, Anthony Bourdain.
Favourite films : Shawshank Redemption, Star Wars (original trilogy), Back to the Future, Prospero’s Books.
Favourite musicians : James Taylor, Sarah McLachlan, Bobby McFerrin, Take 6, Imogen Heap, John Mayer, U2, Dave Grusin.
9. What do you do in your spare time?
Take a drive to walk along the beach, or to walk at the farmer’s market, or 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica, go out with friends for a meal, go to the coffeehouse to write my journal or read and drink a nice cup of tea.
10. Please describe your character or preference in simple phrases, such as, outdoor active or staying home, dog lover or cat lover, good at cooking, like traveling, etc etc.
Tea drinker, cat lover, musician, singer-songwriter, good driver, catholic-christian,
piano-player, curious, optimistic.
11. What do you think you will be like in ten years?
Still writing and making music, maybe helping to mentor other singer-songwriters, perhaps having a family of my own.
Labels: Beautiful Seed