While she may count Mayday, Sodagreen, and Khalil Fong among her biggest inspirations, there's no denying that Shelby Wang's music is distinct from that of the aforementioned Mandopop names.
Since entering Singapore's Mandopop scene with her debut single, ‘在你的世界存在 (Interconnecting Worlds)’, five years ago, the homegrown singer-songwriter has been gradually and delicately sculpting a brand of music for herself.
Through releases such as '影片 (Movie)', '落跑 (Escape)', '尋覓連接 (Lost & Found)', the last of which scored her a *SCAPE Youth Music Award in 2021, Wang has shown a penchant for exploring new sonic possibilities and a fondness for sharing her observations about herself and the world around her with her listeners. Together, they have served as an unmistakable signature that is engraved on each work of Wang's.
Launched on 15 September, BLUE-HOO! is the latest Mandopop release from Singapore to bear Wang's mark. Featuring harmonica segments from Hong Kong harmonicist CY Yeo, bluesy guitar riffs, a goldfish-inspired song, and, of course, smooth vocal deliveries from Wang, the singer's debut album gives us our most comprehensive look yet at the imaginative artist she is and the potential she holds.
In an interview with Hear65, Wang explained how she came up with BLUE-HOO!, recalled what led her to make a song about a goldfish, and talked about how she matured personally and artistically during her debut record's development.
Hi Shelby! Tell us how you got your start as a music artist.
Hi! I have loved writing songs since my secondary school days, and in 2017, I decided that I wanted to release my own songs. I started working towards that and released my first single in September 2018! I also met very kind and inspiring people along the way who helped and inspired me in many ways, leading me to where I am today!
Your brand of Mandopop music includes electronic and blues influences. How did you come up with the idea of bringing these different styles together?
I don’t have any specific genre that I stick to and love experimenting with different styles. When my producer, Evan (Chan), and I worked together on the songs in this album, we tried to think of what was best for the song and always tried incorporating interesting sounds. So I guess our free-spirited music-making mentality was what helped us bring these styles together!
"BLUE-HOO! is an expression of the feelings that are between 'woohoo' and 'boohoo'"
The “joy of being blue” is something that you explore in BLUE-HOO!. How did you decide on this theme for your very first full-length album?
Blue is often associated with melancholy, but when I was a kid, the first blue I would think of was a happy, sky blue. To me, it’s a nuanced and beautiful colour. BLUE-HOO! is an expression of the feelings that are between "woohoo" and "boohoo" feelings, a gentle reminder for us to celebrate the search — getting to know [ourselves] better, finding out how [we] would like to live [our] lives, and experiencing different moments and feelings — and embrace who we are at every point in time.
One of the album's tracks, ‘Bubble Eye,’ is inspired by a real-life goldfish that you encountered. Could you tell us what your songwriting process was like? How did you translate your observations into a catchy and relatable song?
I like to start from the concept of the song — to write about, perhaps, something interesting that I observed or something that I feel or believe in at that point in time. Then, I will come up with the melody and lyrics that I think will suit the concept. However, for 'Bubble Eye', it was more of an inspired moment as I was super amazed (note: easily fascinated person) by the appearance of the goldfish, which only had one [eye] bubble as it was injured. Then I said, “I’m going to write a song for this goldfish." After that, I picked up the guitar and wrote the chorus in 15 minutes. My mind is super random!
"I never thought of stopping as I really love the process of creating an album, putting different pieces together to form something so precious."
You’ve mentioned that there were “many stumbling blocks” while putting this album together. What were they and what kept you going when you encountered them?
It took some time to write the tracks that gave me the “yes, this should be in the album” feeling. I also required a lot of resources and effort to make an album, so it was definitely important to be in the right place emotionally to keep going despite these challenges. I never thought of stopping as I really love the process of creating an album, putting different pieces together to form something so precious. I am also working towards the day that my songs can make a difference in people’s lives like how my favourite songs did for me!
In the four years that you spent working on BLUE-HOO!, How did you mature as an artist?
The more I work on new things and step out of my comfort zone, the less I think I know. I don’t think I have ‘matured’ as an artist yet, but I think I’ve gotten better at loving the journey where I get to work with different collaborators to achieve a clearer goal, whether it’s the track, visuals, or anything else. I’ve also gotten better at expressing myself!
"I’ve gotten better at loving the journey where I get to work with different collaborators to achieve a clearer goal, whether it’s the track, visuals, or anything else."
On a more personal front, what were some lessons that you learned during this period?
I started to believe that there’s a time and place for everything, and I learnt to be a lot more patient, to not worry too much. As the expression "blue-hoo" suggests, I also grew to embrace the spectrum of emotions that we face on a day-to-day basis.
"As the expression 'blue-hoo' suggests, I also grew to embrace the spectrum of emotions that we face on a day-to-day basis."
What can we expect from post-BLUE-HOO! Shelby Wang?
MORE MUSIC! I will continue experimenting with different styles and work with more collaborators to create more exciting art for sure!
Stream BLUE-HOO! here: