"It will be difficult to continue if you are not passionate about making music": An interview with Kelly Pan

"It will be difficult to continue if you are not passionate about making music": An interview with Kelly Pan

Kelly Pan became a common household name after she emerged as the female champion of Project SuperStar Season One in 2005. Since then, she has embarked on her music career as a regional artist, promoting in both Singapore and Taiwan. Her fifth album, Miss Kelly, was released in 2014 and consisted of her own compositions. Recognised as a prolific singer-songwriter in the region, she has since received the title of Regional Artiste – Singapore at the Global Chinese Music Awards, and Best Singapore Artiste at the Singapore Hit Awards.

This year, she is included in the lineup for The Great Singapore Replay (TGSR) Season 2 as one of the mentors, in which she will be working closely with aspiring young talents. In lieu of this exciting news, Pan shares with us about her philosophy in music and her thoughts on working with aspiring musicians on TGSR.

What are your thoughts on being a mentor for The Great Singapore Replay (TGSR) Season 2?

I’m excited to be able to share my journey and experiences as a regional singer-songwriter in the Mandopop scene, to share from a songwriter’s perspective, and to share about how to write with purpose for other established singers.

What do you think is the best thing (professional expertise eg. songwriting, arranging, singing technique...) you can impart to aspiring local talents during the mentoring process? Also, what is one piece of advice you would give them?

I would love to share everything I know. But I also really hope to learn from the aspiring musicians by exchanging ideas and concepts. I believe it is important to have an open mind when it comes to making music and to understand the differences of each market’s needs instead of restricting oneself to a particular genre. 

In your career as an artist, you have collaborated with other musicians on both originals and covers (eg. ‘Heartbeat’ with Christopher, 'Be Apart' with Derrick, 'Always' with Jeric). One of TGSR’s defining principles is collaboration. What is one of your biggest takeaways from working together with other artists?

My biggest takeaway is learning to embrace collaborations of all kinds, from songwriting to performing. I believe that music-making is all about teamwork; we can make something greater together when we share ideas and resources.

Is there a particular artist / guiding principle / turning point in life that inspired and motivated you to pursue a career in music and continue on this route for so many years?

A lot of artists inspire me because they are all unique in their own ways. But what fundamentally inspires me will always be the genuine love and respect I have for singing, performing, and making music. I’m hungry to learn and to release music that excites me and hopefully touches anyone who listens to it. It will be difficult to continue if you are not passionate about making music and if you do not genuinely respect and enjoy what you do.  

I believe that music-making is a constant and conscious commitment regardless of the circumstances. It won’t always make you happy but music relieves you and is something you can rely on. It’s also important to understand that music is constantly evolving. It’s not going to be the way it used to be and it shouldn’t be. Why worry when there’s no right or wrong in music and tastes are subjective anyway? 

As a songwriter, what do you think is the biggest difference between making a song from scratch and re-making an existing song? Which do you think is more challenging?

Making a song from scratch is definitely more challenging because there are so many things to consider, like the wider purpose of the song, the lyrical direction, the audience, how to assist the project and singer, the arrangement direction, and more. 

Sampling is similarly challenging because it's almost like making a new song, just with a ready-made hook. The challenge is in making the track sound great and pleasantly surprising to the audience.

Re-making a song also has its own set of challenges. When an existing song is already well-known, it's important to consider how to creatively revamp it to suit one’s purpose or to introduce it in a way that is refreshing to different audiences. 

As a regional artist who has worked in Singapore and other countries in Asia, spending the longest period of time in Taiwan, what are some of the differences in the industry in the respective countries?

Audience tastes differ from region to region, which is why there are different things to consider when it comes to releasing music in a particular market, such as language and demographic factors like age. In my opinion, all genres of music can make it anywhere, but your listener pool will differ depending on how niche or mainstream your music is.  

Lastly, what are your upcoming music plans?

As a recording artist, I’ll be releasing a couple of new singles soon. As a songwriter, I’m writing songs for other established singers regionally. Collaborating is the way to go and to grow. 

To sign up for The Great Singapore Replay Season Two, and to obtain more information, visit its official website