Photo provided by Diana Wang

Interview by Jocelle Koh with Diana Wang
Transcript by Grant Zeng

We’re floored to invite one of our favourite singer songwriters Diana Wang 王詩安 to chat with us on Everywhere and Nowhere and herald in the new lunar year together!

Born in the Netherlands but having set her sights on the Greater China scene since her debut, the singer-songwriter and all-round creative who’s known for chart-topping hits such as ‘HOME’ and ‘愛存在’ as well as groundbreaking alternative R&B works such as ‘Poem 一步成詩’ spoke with us about how she usually celebrates lunar new year, how the moon inspires her creations (such as her mini album ‘月 Moon’) and what’s next for her as she prepares for her entrepreneurial debut.

-start of transcript-

Jocelle:
So welcome Diana, finally to our show, I’m pretty sure we played at least one of your songs like almost every month. But it’s really nice to have you like finally on this show. What have you been up to since we last chatted?

Diana:
Well, it depends on from where I should give you the update. But to begin with I had the greatest summer ever, which was, for the last three months, in Europe of 2022. And I’ve been travelling to Croatia, to France, Denmark, was driving to Scandinavia, like Denmark, Sweden, flew to Istanbul. And I reunited with my dad, my half sisters, my stepmom, and all my classmates, my old besties, and I just needed like a really long break. Because before that I was in lockdown in Shanghai… So I felt like okay, let me take a break, go on a holiday and then come back. So I decided to come to Taipei, which is where I’m based right now, but I was actually not planning to be based here. I was just going to be here for 20 days, and then leave again to Shanghai again. But then I decided to stay here because a lot of interesting connections were created here in Taipei. So this is how everything led to new ideas, for example, like starting up my own company and finding all the partners that I’m potentially going to work with. And it all started here, so I’m like, okay, 20 days is not enough. So I decided to just stay here. So yeah, and I made this my home for now.

Jocelle:
Wow. That’s, that sounds like quite a couple of months. But it all sounds really, really exciting as well. And you mentioned that you’ve been based in so many different places, like you’re born in the Netherlands, and then I know, you spent some time in like Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and also Shanghai where some of your family are based. How do you make a place like feel like home immediately? Because you’ve done it so many times? I’m sure.

Diana:
Yeah, I mean, just like how I released the song “Home”, and it also kind of made me think like, ‘hey, yeah, the topic about home, what does that mean to me’. I think as a kid, wherever I was with my parents, and wherever school was, that was home, like family, and you know, the home, my bedroom and everything in it. And I think, my own space, my safe space is very important to me. And the things that I do outside of my safe space, which is work and the people that I meet during the day.

So as for now, I think I have a similar feeling, which is wherever work is. And wherever I feel like it has the potential for me to build new connections and new ideas and to actually create and to take action. Like if this place can give me all those opportunities, and it seems like it’s going to work then I would call that place a home because I think we’re all just some kind of creatures that live on a space rock in space, and Earth is like a big, huge basic rock. Yeah, so actually, it doesn’t really matter where you live on this rock, because it’s just the same rock. But I think it depends on which spot would give you like, all these things that you can do. And you need to feel great, too.

So I think you need to feel very alive, like alive as in, there’s a lot of motion, like a lot of things that you can do. So I feel very fully productive. And I feel a lot here back in Taipei, maybe because I used to live in Taipei for nine years before. Yeah, when I was 18 till my 27th which is 2008 until 2017. So that was a big part of my like, younger, like early 20s, and so coming back it’s it’s still feel similar yet like a lot has changed, but I feel home here in Taipei. I also feel home in the Netherlands. And I have some family in Shanghai so I kind of have like just wherever my loved ones are and where I can work, it feels like home to me.

Jocelle:
That’s great. I mean, it’s great that you’re able to like mind switch. And I think what you mentioned about having your own like, safe space, like maybe like your own space in those particular cities, that’s something that really helps as well. So I think that’s really cool.

Diana:
I have like this pattern…for example, the interior, because I just recently downloaded this app during lockdown called Five D planner, because you’re sitting home every day, and then you start looking at your ceiling, your curtains and everything. So I feel like the vibe or of your inside of your home needs to match your feelings. If you feel comfortable there, then it doesn’t matter where in the world you live, as long as you come back to this space, and you feel like ‘oh, this everything about it makes me feel it sparks joy’. You know, the curtain colours, my bedsheets… the most simple thing or the scent, you know, like essential oils are important too. Like, good air, so I always have like a good air filter like, and good work equipment, like a laptop, and you know, earbuds and all that.

Jocelle:
Yeah. I think that’s definitely something I need to learn from you on. Because I feel like I’m not very sensitive to my environment. And then I’m like, oh, why do I like not feel great in this space. But I think slowly, I’m realising that okay, since I travel a lot, and I go to a lot of different places, I need to have some kind of like grounding space to like, look forward to. But anyway, we went on such a tangent. This episode is not only about home, but it’s also about Lunar New Year. I think Lunar New Year, other than being about family, I think that’s tradition, which was placed on top of that, but obviously, it’s about the moon cycles, like it’s this cycle of a new moon. And why I wanted to invite you onto this show is because you have a track, which is called Moon, actually a whole album, which is called moon. Did you want to share with us a little bit about the premise behind that album, which was released in 2019?

Diana:
I think first of all, I really like the album Moon. It’s like a mini album, it’s not a full album, and it has many tracks on it, including “Moon”. I think every track kind of describes the human connections and the inside feelings, and the outside environment, and everything, and even society and how everything works. So all those tracks, they kind of cover a lot of things, and some tracks are about the masks that we put on.

But talking about Moon, if you look at the Moon album cover, it has on the left bottom corner, it has a little symbol that I drew, because I’ve been designing all my visual art, like covers and stuff. So I was like, ‘oh, like my name is Diana, and it actually is coming from the goddess of the moon and the hunt, etc.’ And so I was like, ‘okay, Moon, that’s a very interesting idea.’ I mean, Moon has been kind of a trend anyways, and I thought like, it is kind of interesting, because if I looked at the Chinese character moon and if you look back into the ancient character, how it was, how you draw that, it looks kind of like a moon but it also looks like a D of Diana.

And so I was like, oh that’s kind of interesting. Yeah, so the whole design of the album was like a moon and my side profile with that moon character and in ancient Chinese, and it kind of made it look a bit even more like a D of Diana. So I thought that was interesting. And also because moon lunar year it means tuan yuan (团圆) which is like reuniting all the family members [and] loved ones together. But to me, I think it is a full cycle. It’s a full cycle is rounded, and it’s coming to an end and a new beginning.

So sometimes I feel like for the past three years, I’ve been spending Lunar [New] Year with my family, which is super awesome. […] So this year, I’m kind of like, choosing myself because to me, it’s just like the moon, it’s like the whole cycle coming to [an end]. It’s like the transition of going into a new cycle, I kind of want to reset, and give myself the peace and quiet to, to be alone, and you know, because I’m in Taipei right now, and the city is going to be super quiet, which is kind of nice. And because I’m starting on my company, there’s actually a lot of paperwork, and it’s funny, because I actually enjoy office work. I enjoy a cup of coffee with my laptop and a bunch of paperwork,

Jocelle:
And then just sitting there for six hours.

Diana:
Yeah with my glasses on, and then I’ll just type things. It’s kind of like, also stream of consciousness, and also my brainstorm stuff all on paper, and all the contracts and the legal stuff and all the planning and things that I want to write down that I finally have the time to plan because I’m a planner kind of person. So like ahead of the new year, I want to like make sure I have everything organized. So when lunar year vacation holidays coming to an end, I can start very fresh and very organized. And I know where I’m heading to, and I will be more, what do you call it, productive, and you know, approaching the things because I’ve had my three months vacation to Europe, like I’m done with all the vacations. Yeah, so that’s kind of how I see it. It could be in everyone’s own perspective, what the moon cycle means to you.

Jocelle:
Yeah, for sure. I think it’s like I’m in a similar place. Because like, obviously, I grew up in Australia, and they don’t really celebrate Chinese New Year, they just celebrate, they have like a huge break over like Christmas and New Year, which is like two weeks long. So usually I timed myself with that. And then now I come back to Singapore, and then everyone’s celebrating Chinese New Year. So I have to do that all over again, and I’m gonna get so fat.

Diana:
[laughs] I know, I’m getting fat, like every new year, and every Christmas. It’s so much.

Photo provided by Diana Wang

Jocelle:
Yeah, it’s never ending. Yeah, so I totally get where you’re coming from. And I personally, I also feel like you have, everyone has like their own timelines. Everyone has like their own path and their own direction. The Lunar New Year’s tradition is like, it’s just a reason for people to get together, but I feel like you shouldn’t feel pressured to do that. And I really applaud you for like being like, I’m just gonna sit at home. And like, read contracts for like, 5 days.,

Diana:
[aughs] It sounds so stupid in a way. Now you say it, it kind of sounds stupid.

Jocelle:
It’s very, it sounds very calming, like the way that you said it. I’m like, all right, makes sense.

Diana:
It’s kind of like because I think it’s because I’m working for myself, and it feels therapeutic, if that makes sense. It sounds weird, I know. But I think tradition is made by people to come together and enjoy, because most of the people they spend a lot of time during the year working and having so many tasks to do. For me. It’s because I’m always creative, making music and all that. So finally, when I can kind of organize things with words and numbers, it feels like a different thing to me. So it’s kind of fresh to me, but it’s…

Jocelle:
Yeah, but everyone’s like all we’ve been desk zombies for like a year.

Diana:
Yeah so like, okay, maybe this is breaking a bit the tradition, but in a way, this is how I actually get in line with my own feelings of what I really want to do.

Jocelle:
Yeah, for sure. I think it’s really important. Like why I think you’re like so zen about it. And like, I think that’s really cool is that you’re very aligned with your goals and like how you said that your home is where your passion is, like, where you see opportunities to create and like for work. And I mean, I think that’s really really awesome. I know you mentioned that like during usually like over the last three years during Chinese New Year, you would just like eat for like 14 days, but other than eating, is there anything else that you guys like to do as like a family like any kind of like, rituals or like ceremonies or anything like that?

Diana:
I think a lot of families they will play mahjong. But out family doesn’t really play because most of them were kind of like, some are from the West, like, you know, from Europe or the States, and then some don’t really know how to play. Like some locals they can but like, it’s like a mix of everybody. So the thing for us is a lot of food and whoever comes to our place, they give us like the niangao(年糕), which is like sticky rice pastries. Like they steam it, so it’s hot.

Jocelle:
Yeah, I know it.

Photo provided by Diana Wang

Diana:
It’s like gooey and it’s sweet and you have different flavours. And there’s also like for Shanghai people, they make babaofan(八宝饭), which is like, it’s made in a bowl with sticky rice and with dates and red bean paste with a lot of sugar, and then they flip it, so everything is in a bowl, they flip it on a plate, and then they steam it so it looks like a ball kind of thing. And it’s like when you steam it, and after that you eat it, you eat sticky rice with the sweet red bean paste with all the sweet stuff in it. It’s like something that everybody eats during New Year. And the other thing that I do is, because during the year I’m usually working doing my music stuff, and if I like watch something, it’s probably something from Netflix something that’s in English, right? So during Chinese New Year, because I’ll be in Shanghai, so I have all those like Chinese vibes so like start I always watch like a drama show like some guzhuangju(古装剧). I’m actually very up to date with like yanxigonglue (延禧攻略, Story of Yanxi Palace), and before there was ruiyizhuan(如懿传, Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace), and what’s the name, you have all those like bubujingxin(步步惊心, Scarlet Heart), ruiyizhuan, and the very old one, I forgot the name but like, basically, I watched those and even a lot of wuxia.

Jocelle:
Like all those mythology, action [ones].

Diana:
They’re just kung fu and flying around, and like, some of the stories are actually really interesting. They’re very complicated, and they have many layers., and it’s just a long drama. I can just do that in two weeks, you know, and it’s like, perfect, and I’m just super distracted by those series and all the sweets, and the food, and I’ll just end up like, all I want to do is hit the gym.

Jocelle:
By the end of it, you’re like, enough is enough.

Diana:
Yeah, I’ll be like, I cannot eat anymore.

Jocelle:
Yeah, it sounds really, really, really sweet. But also like, I don’t know if how much of that I could take. I think in Singapore, we do like, we don’t do babaofan. Sometimes people do mahjong, sometimes people just gamble with like cards and stuff, and then they just eat. They have like the lohei(撈起) when you toss all the ingredients together, so that’s like the main thing that we do. It has like, different ingredients to mean different things, like honey is supposed to be like for sweetness in your life. And then like salmon is supposed to be for like, more wealth or something like that. And then I can’t remember any of the other ingredients, but they have a lot of, oh wait, crackers. Gold crackers are supposed to be like money.

Diana:
Right right right, I remember that.

Photo provided by Diana Wang

Jocelle:
It’s like niannianyouyu(年年有余), they all have different like chengyu attached to it.

Diana:
That’s so cool, because I actually did lohei in a Singaporean restaurant in Shanghai last year. With some friends who are, a few of them were Singaporean, some were from Hong Kong, and so they were like, “oh, we should like, you know.” Because there’s like 14 days, you know, for me, so I’m like one of those days, I was just joining them. Yeah, it has like a sweet sauce in the lohei. It’s like a big salad situation.

Jocelle:
Yeah, it’s like a sticky plum kind of sauce to mix everything together.

Diana:
I really liked it.

Jocelle:
I think at first I didn’t like it when I was young, but like afterwards, I was like, okay, this is not bad.

Diana:
Yeah it’s not bad. I mean, it’s just like the vibe. I think it’s in a way a bit healthier than babaofan because that’s just carbs and sugar.

Jocelle:
That’s true it, does sound like a lot of carbs, like a lot of sticky stuff altogether. Like people say lohei is like quite fattening as well because of the sauce that they put on it. But in comparison, I think it’s fine,

Diana:
But it’s fun, and I really liked it. It’s like how you like, do that together with the chopsticks that you like, mix everything together, it’s super fun.

Jocelle:
Yeah, and I mean, we keep talking about food, but like I don’t think that’s the point of this conversation.

Diana:
Once again, I want to thank you about that because I feel like you keep me in your mind and I’m really grateful. I know that, I often like… cause I don’t always see my Instagram notifications, but I always see some “Huh? like Asian Pop Weekly just mentioned me”, but I can’t see the post anymore. I’m like, it’s probably one of my songs, so thank you for that.

Jocelle:
Yes, my pleasure, my pleasure. Honestly, it’s like, timeless, like, I just love listening to your music. And every time I put together a show, I’m just like, oh, I think one of Diana’s songs would go well in here, but I think it’s just, we’re super inspired by you and your music, and you’re doing some really amazing things. And we can’t wait to continue to see what you’re gonna do next, because you’re gonna, like you mentioned, that you’re going to start company, and I’m sure you have lots to share about that as well.

Diana:
Well, I mean, I’m definitely gonna go a different route, genre wise, but I’ll keep the way my vocals sound. So it’s like, the genre, like the more R&B, soulful, a bit pop alternative vibe, the airy stuff, I will keep that, but the genre of the songs [will be different]. So if you listen to the music itself, it will be a total different thing. Yeah, in a way, it’s a surprise for myself as well. I also mainly want to go for things that are more approachable for the majority of the audience and something that is very naiting(耐听). It wouldn’t give people the pressure of oh, the song sounds kind of deep, like, what is she actually singing about? So this song would be more straightforward and direct, so everybody can immediately know oh, it’s about this. And it’s, yeah, I can have my own angle about it. But it’s, you know, she’s not talking about something that we probably cannot guess. So it’s gonna be more more mainstream in some way. Yet I would keep the quality and it would be an interesting mixture of things.

Jocelle:
Cool. Is this, like, is this going to be yourself moving forward? Or like, is this just like a experimentation kind of stage?

Diana:
It is, I would call it a stage. Yeah, because I think there are different stages in my life where I have different sounds. This is going to be a new one, and I aim to approach a broader, like, more broad and more people with this genre, and this kind of mixture. Yeah, and it would have a very different overall direction compared to all the things that I did at Fu Music. So I think the Fu Music music was more experimental, and there was, you know, when when Western R&B meets like Chinese opera, ancient traditional opera, like that kind of stuff was quite alternative. Which actually, brought my music to a different level quality wise. So actually, after that, I had a lot of invitations to do collabs with a lot of cool people, so I think that was a really like, step up, musically. So now I think it’s a different thing, which is, I’ll be more focused on the market. And I want to connect more with the current people who listen to this, so including the Gen Z in a way. But I probably won’t be more like, oh, because I need to make songs for TikTok, and that’s why I’m going to customize my songs into that. So it’s not going to be that kind of way. But it’d be still coming from me what I want to do, yet it would be understandable for, you know, the people that I actually want to connect with.

Jocelle:
Yeah, I think there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, everyone, like as performers, as artists, you want to connect, always, like, more deeply, and sometimes more broadly, with your audiences. So like, I think there’s no issue with that. It’s just like, obviously, how you go about doing that and how you make that transition. But I feel like with you and across your career, like, I feel that you’ve changed so much, but at the same time, it makes people like, know you more and more. I think previously, like when we discussed you told me that it’s like, you were like putting on light bulbs in a darkened room. That’s you, so like, every time you put out new work, it’s like a little light bulb, a little light bulb, and then like more and more people [will notice]. It’ll reveal like more of you and I think that you’re definitely doing that. So I’m really excited to see musically where you go next, because it’s super different, like from your first album, like with Warner, to like the R&B stuff, to like the experimental stuff with Fu [Music], and then now like doing your own solo stuff.

Photo provided by Diana Wang

Diana:
I’m so happy that you remember this whole light bulb in the room thing. Because I think yeah, thank you for having such a great memory, because I don’t really have a good memory like as before.

Jocelle:
Me neither, but when you were talking about it, I was like, wait, a minute, I think she said something [about this].

Diana:
Yeah, and actually I have that quote still on my Instagram page, I think, I’m not sure anymore. But like, I remember that part. So I think the light bulb situation slightly [changed], I have another layer to that which is… So you mentioned how I said, “Whenever a light bulb goes on, then you would see a bit more about me because the light shines on me.” And you can see, it’s like, in this room, there’s going to be walls and things, and when the light bulb goes on, you can see more. But I think a light bulb is like an idea. So I think in this stage right now, because I’m also kind of surprising myself, so I think the light bulb itself is an idea, and by going on, it will shine the idea on me and on the room. So the light bulb is the idea. So it in a way, [it] also gives me a surprise. And so [the way] I see it, every light bulb is a new inspiration, and that’s why every time I do an EP, it’ll be a different, slightly different kinds of inspirations, a different light bulb. So every thing that I every project that I create will be a new light bulb, which is also in a way my light bulb, yet it is also surprising to myself. So that’s kind of interesting.

Jocelle:
That’s, that’s definitely true. I mean, like, we are all human, we don’t have all the answers to ourselves. And I think that a lot of the times, like artists are expected to have the answers to have to put something out there and be like, “This is me, this is who I am.” But I think it’s really cool how you are also like, “I’m surprising myself on this journey. I’m learning more about myself and taking on more as well in that process.” Which is a very, like, it’s a very, like, good approach to have, because I feel like it helps you to like adapt quicker to new situations and to take on new things easier, rather than have resistance, because “oh, this is the way that I used to do things previously. And now you’re asking me to change my whole like, worldview on it”, you know, but it should be possible.

Diana:
Because I think in life, it’s a process, it’s a whole journey of movement, and movement is a lot of change and going through different routes and paths. And I think I’m constantly, I see the environment changing and I’m adjusting yet I’m growing, so I’m also changing yet I’m still myself, but I’m changing and I’m changing maybe the people who listen to my songs somehow and they also change me, yet we’re still the same. So it’s it’s a constant change/adjustment, which would be interesting, because I think if I constantly loop myself into the same genre, same kinda song, same kind of ad lib, you guys would be like, oh, this like a robot, like she can only do this one kind of thing. So I think it’s nice for whatever you do to constantly have a little bit of a fresh new thing added to something that is still you, that will be kind of new. And also like nice for you know, it’s a new year, and you have some new stuff, and ideas coming up.

Photo provided by Diana Wang

Jocelle:
Yeah, for sure. But you mentioned that you’re going to start a new company, and are you able to share a little bit more about what your new company is going to do? Or what kind of projects you might be working on moving forward?

Diana:
Well, first of all, like, I always wanted to do something that, you know, where I could have even more opportunities and a lot of creative tunnels and ways and gateways to do things, and I want to do that through my company. And my, whole mindset would be, I want this to be a long term thing. So everything and every project that I do, and the people that I work with, I want to make sure that I can have some kind of a deal or way, or partnership where this can be, I wouldn’t say forever, but like very, very long. Because I don’t just want to like, short term, you know, I’m going to sign a person or something, or I’m going to work with this project because I want money, that’s not my goal. Of course the company will need investment and all that, and all the paperwork that that’s like the basic standard stuff. But I think my company will mainly have two big things, which is one is artist management where I sign [them] myself, or maybe [something like that], because there have been artists coming to me, they want to sign to my company. And I mean I was super flattered, and but I’m like no, no, I’m not gonna sign another artist. Because I was like, oh, dang, that’s a lot of responsibility and you kind of, people are signing away their life, a few years of their life to you and you have to make sure that… because I’ve been through my own experience-

Jocelle:
You’ve been through it all.

Diana:
From the artist’s angle. So now from a company angle, I know like, what I should and should not do to make sure that both are benefitting from this. So I told them like, “Okay, let me have a thought about and let’s talk more”. I like to work with a lot of people, and it’s just because my whole career in my whole life in the future would be just one big journey. So working with others in the company, whatever, it’s not a goal. It’s the goal is the journey itself.

Photo provided by Diana Wang

Jocelle:
That’s really special. Good luck!

Diana:
Thank you so much!

Jocelle:
So I think we have come to our last question, and I know that this is usually like a New Years thing, not a Chinese New Year thing, but I wanted to know, like, what are your resolutions for this year, because it seems like it’s gonna be a really big year for you.

Diana:
I think in order to do a lot of things and have a very sharp mind, I need to try to sleep earlier. Because I’ve been sleeping… I think a lot of people, especially if you’re living in a city, it’s just so much screens and blue light going on. And even after I remove my makeup, I lay in bed after I shower, it’s like, my brain is still thinking of my schedule, or what I need to do tomorrow morning. And it’s just, I get like, -ping!- a notification, and then I go back to work again, while it’s already bedtime, and then I’ll be on my phone for another hour. I hope that I can set away with the help of the interior, my bedroom, to make it more that I can enjoy the time before sleeping, and so I have a good rest. So I think the charging of every day is very important to have a very everyday productive work so that I hope that there’s going to be a good balance between the recharge, you know, the work and play part basically. And I hoped that the whole COVID situation, you know, gets to a point where we can fully recover and kind of move on in some kind of way. Because it has been doing so much harm, and it’s, it feels like a mess in a way. A lot of people are struggling, so I just hope that the world can heal from a lot of things because the world has so many problems. Yet I hope that through that, we can just get better because it’s been really, really bad. So all that I can do right now is to go up again. Like if you look at like waves, like the lines, like I hope that it goes up. Yeah, and I just hope that, you know, I can be happy and everyone can be [happy too]. And I also hope that I can maybe find a boyfriend. [laughs]

Photo provided by Diana Wang

Jocelle:
[laughs] I hope so too, if that’s what you want.

Diana:
I think besides you know, my career, I really want to have a family you know, like my my other kind of journey goal is to build a family, but that needs to start from, you know, a partner, which I don’t have at the moment. So yeah, I just I don’t really even know how to think about it, because there’s just, it’s just all like, the unknown for me right now. Because I think I’ve been busy, so I don’t really know what to think of it. So I’ll see, I’ll see what that becomes. Maybe after a while. I’ll find someone, and then after another while I’ll have maybe three children or something. [laughs]

Jocelle:
That’s a very long while.

Diana:
I mean, it fits into the car, right? Parents and three children. That’s like perfect and like I’d love to have a future with a dining table full of food and kids and you know, big family, that’s gonna be perfect.

Jocelle:
Well, that sounds amazing, and I wish you all the best on your journey for this New Year. You started like really small and then your goals went really big. But I’m sure you can make progress on all fronts, but just stay sane in the process. I hope.

Diana:
Yes, I’m still very rational.

Jocelle:
Okay, thank you so much. Diana. Happy new year!

-end of transcript-

Disclaimer: This transcript has been edited for clarity purposes.

Listen to Everywhere and Nowhere live on Indiego 9pm to 12am SGT every third Thursday of the month, and on demand anytime on Spotify and iTunes! Follow Diana Wang on Instagram, or check out her music on Spotify.