Sunday Ramblings: It is Sunny Days

Diana Liu by Keith Tan Photography

When I was in highschool, the concept of music, writing or art as a career was very foreign in the sense that it never entered my mind as something people did. It was not until of late, when I had come to terms with the fact that I wanted to write, that I started to fight for it. Diana was different.

I met Diana in highschool. We were both Malaysians, she was born in Kuching a beautiful east Malaysian city, and I from the west. We both left Malaysia for ‘Sunny Dunedin’, down south. And we both know it isn’t always sunny in Dunedin, and even if it was sunny, it could still be cold. So cold.

Otago Girls’, that was the name of the school. And we are in there somewhere. And yes, those are kilts we were wearing. We met, we knew of each other, had different group of friends. Graduated and went to University. We were cordial, and had the occasional conversation and so never really kept up with each others’ life.

I had an uncanny feeling I knew the girl I was writing a short excerpt about when I joined the newspaper but I never dug any deeper.  It was not until I finally gave in to Facebook that it clicked. This was the Diana Liu I knew. I contacted her again. And then turned up to one of her performances at No Black Tie.

She was, I think, happy to see me. Its always nice to meet someone from the past, its always nice to see where people get to, where they are going. And I have to say I am proud of her. She had just been busy working on her latest album Sunny Days and took a few minutes to have a wee chat with me.

So singer/songwriter huh, what does it mean to you to be able to get here?

Well, I think it definitely means alot to me because music is part of my life. I knew music since I was a young girl. And I chose to study music in uni. I always loved singing and listening to music and although I never really thought of being a serious musician until i finished high school but I’ve always been performing and exploring music.

Why did you choose it?

I think music always makes me feel better. Where I’m happy or sad. It’s a big part of who I am. It started naturally and I grew up with music, because my parents love music and all my relatives loved singing and played musical instruments. I never really thought of why but it just happened that way.

Music must have been a big thing.

I always paid attention to music. When I was young I used to always make up music in my head for the situation and scene i’m in, like a movie soundtrack. Even sometimes when i’m sad and down the music rises in my head, kinda funny. It happens when I’m happy too. The constant soundtrack. But maybe also because I used to be a really shy person and I had problems expressing myself using languages, I found that it was much easier doing it with music (I still feel that way now). Anyway so I went on studying music after high school and then graduated, and then I joined a singing competition, kept singing and started making albums.

What are the challenges of being a full time musician?

Some may think that being creative and getting in touch with one’s own inner feelings is a difficult task but it is what I like to do, and I do not think I can live without being that way. I think creativity is in everyone and it should be if we allow it.

Realistically, income is a challenge. there is no guarantee how much you will make a month, and sometimes you feel insecure walking down this path. But I guess, I am not the only one.

And have you made compromises as a musician, for income?

I was at one point getting too busy with all the stuff that had nothing to do, well not much, with my music and I felt lost. I did a lot of commercial things. So I got out of Malaysia for a while and went to Beijing. I was there for about half a year just exploring again and living life very simply, enjoying it. I got in touch with myself and started writing songs again. Found the direction for my next album, Sunny Days. If i hadn’t done that I would not have come up with my album.

How did you find your balance?

I think about this finding balance thing all the time. The balance between making the music I want to make, and making music that sells. I think it will be an ongoing process as long as I am still making music. I need to make the music I love to I can touch people but at the same time I need to communicate with my audience.  I think I have achieve a bit more balance in Sunny Days comparatively to my last album. I’m starting to show the audiences what I love and the kind of music I have explored and been influenced by. And the bilingual thing is also just simply being who I am. The audiences I had reached out in these few years are both english and chinese speakers.

Tell us about Sunny Days.

Well it is light and easy, although it is jazz. People always have the impressions that jazz is sophisticated and maybe a little dark, sad, but I am trying to show that it’s not. That darkness does not need to be necessary. It can be sunny. I wrote all the songs in the album except for one written by Indonesian pianist Idang Rasjidi, and the English version of the song Sunny Days was written by my friend Lalo. The album, like its cover, has a sort of south east asian feel with the sunny scene of trees and field.

What do you aim to do when you make music?

I try to be as honest with myself as possible. The stories that I’m telling, the chords, the feel and everything. I need to feel good about them. Not only sounds good to my ears but that I feel it too. And I think audiences can hear it if you really mean something in your music.

What are the things that keep you inspired?

There are lots of things that inspire me. Great musicians, my friends.. a stranger, good food, or just great people and things around me. And of course, my fans too, I feel really encouraged when people like listening to my stuff. All of these give me great encouragement to keep writing an singing.

What, do you think is an important element that cannot be compromised in being an artist?

The honestly towards your art.

 What are the things that matter most to you?

Little things in life? love and laughter, family, lovely cat.. great friends, music, holiday by the sea, haha, a lot.

 And what are the things you cannot live without? 

I don’t know, I hope I can be with my family and friends forever. I hope I can keep on doing music until the day I die.