By Jocelle Koh
This article is part of Asian Pop Weekly’s “Smoke and Mirrors” series. Click here to read other articles in the series.
Owning a dulcet, sultry set of vocals laid over an atmospheric mix of R&B with electronic elements, WANYI is a singer-songwriter after our own hearts. Born and raised in Hong Kong to Singaporean parents whilst including time spent in the U.S., Taipei and London, WANYI has created a cosmopolitan sound truly reflective of her diverse influences and upbringing. Presenting a tightly produced sound that is both moody and open-hearted at the same time, we felt the need to dig deeper into this diasporic artist with so much to offer.
Could you introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m WANYI. My artist name comes from my given name in Mandarin, 宛儀. I’m Singaporean, but I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I’m a singer-songwriter; I write all of my own music. I like my lyrics to feel very personal, almost like they’re diary entries. I would describe my sound as pop, with hints of R&B and electronic inflections; I love using analog sounds inspired by the 80s and 90s in my music.
My latest single ‘Our Escape’ is out everywhere on August 14th. I adore this song and am so excited that I can finally share it with you.
We love your latest single ‘Our Escape’. Could you share a little about what inspired the song, and the message you hope it leaves with readers?
Thank you so much! To me, ‘Our Escape’ feels like summer. It’s that romantic getaway scene in a movie. You’re with your favourite person, blue skies overhead, wind blowing in your hair. It’s really uplifting and reminds me of big open spaces.
You mentioned that the song reminds you of that ‘romantic getaway’ scene in a movie. What’s the most iconic romantic getaway scene for you?
That boat scene in The Notebook where Noah and Allie are out on the lake and surrounded by white birds. It’s such a visually stunning scene and so romantic!
You’re currently based (and grew up in) Hong Kong. Can you share a little about how you became interested in music and knew you wanted to pursue it further?
I’ve always loved music. I grew up listening to whatever my parents and my older siblings were listening to. When I was really young I was in a choir and I used to join singing competitions, talent shows, that kind of thing. I played classical piano but I was always more interested in more contemporary styles like pop, R&B, musical theater, jazz. That naturally developed into playing and singing together, and that turned into making melodies and then songs.
I studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts on a scholarship, where I majored in songwriting and performance. I graduated from Berklee and in 2018 I moved to Taipei to explore the music scene there (at that time I was also traveling to Shanghai, Beijing, and Chengdu), but I moved back to Hong Kong in 2019 as my family is based here. Since then, I have been working between Hong Kong and London (most of my team is in the UK).
Hong Kong seems like a very east meets west place to us! Why did you decide to write your music in English in particular?
When I was growing up, all of my favorite music was in English. I can read and write in Mandarin as well but English is my first language. It’s the language that I think in and it’s what I speak at home with my parents.
We hear you’re very inspired by artists such as Troye Sivan, Ariana Grande and Carly Rae Jepsen. What is it about these artists that makes them inspiring for you?
I just really, really love their energy! I always have fun listening to their music. The level and quality of production on all of their songs is incredible.
We hear you are working on a larger project that this latest single is to be part of. Would you be able to share a little about what you have in the works?
I’m building towards an EP, which I’m in the process of finishing. I might release one more song off the EP as another single before releasing the full project, but I’m not sure yet.
‘Smoke and Mirrors’ is an article series about femininity. What does it mean to you to be a woman in this day and age?
To me it means being in touch with your softer side. Embracing qualities such as empathy and kindness, rather than disregarding them as weakness or incompetence. It means being comfortable in your own skin, being independent and strong, and standing up for yourself and what you believe in. It means having a voice.
Embracing a heady, freewheeling atmosphere in her music that comes from WANYI’s personal philosophy, this artist is surely one to watch. Embodying abandon and femininity in her unique offerings, her music is a poignant snapshot of youth in this often confusing day and age. I look forward to seeing how she continues to blossom on future projects.