Songs of a little big singer

Songs of a little big singer

Canto-pop star Terence Chui tells Chris Lau how his latest release is his most personal and reflective album to date


Photo: Nora Tam/SCMP
On his latest album, Macau-born Canto-pop singer Terence Chui Chi-iong set out on a bit of soul-searching. Little Singer, released on June 21, features eight soulful Canto-pop tracks that reveal the singer's personality and life story.

This album is the first he's released with Sun Entertainment Culture Limited, and so Chui - better known as Siufay, or "little fat" - was happy to leave everything in the record label's hands.

"But as it happened, most of the songs [given to me by writers and lyricists] are very deep, and personal to me," he says.

The singer's strong vocals propelled him to fame after he released his heart-breaking debut smash-hit Pet in 2007. The ballad deals with a relationship problem that many people experience - being in love with someone who just treats you as you might a pet, or sees you as their back-up plan.

But Siufay's latest album is far less general, and focuses far more on him personally, thanks to two lyricists who know Siufay well enough to put his feelings into words.

One of them is Rico Long, who has been working with the singer for 15 years; the other is Fo Fo, whom Siufay met a few years ago, and has written "tailor-made" songs for the star.

One of Fo Fo's contributions is One Song, which tells of a young singer with a big dream - rather like Siufay.

"The song is about every singer's desire to create smash hits and become well-known," he says.

Figuratively, the title suggests "that song", that catchy tune that everyone hums, and that becomes such a massive hit and makes the singer famous.

His hit became something of an earworm, attracting so much attention that a YouTube parody of it, performed by celebrated Commercial Radio host Leon Chim, better known as Pat Pat Leo, gained tens of thousands of views.

"This song goes to all the passionate singers out there - people who may not have the chance to perform or be recognised right away," Siufay says. While he has enjoyed success since he released Pet, he still considers himself an regular guy, and not a superstar.

Another heartfelt number on his new album is Negative Closeness; in Cantonese, the title sounds like "daddy". The goosebump-inducing track is about the unexpressed bonds between a seemingly distant father and son.

Siufay, whose father died last year, burst into tears when recording the song.

"When it got to the verse which says we haven't met for a while, and it's sad that [a funeral parlour] is where we finally meet, [I started crying]," he says. He admits he was again unable to hold back his tears while shooting the song's moving music video.

The album reflects the singer's personal and creative growth. Siufay is known as a fairly happy, easy-going guy, but the album also reveals an emotional side.

But he says that he wasn't always very sociable, and that it was getting into music at secondary school that brought him out of himself, turning him into the optimistic go-getter he is today.

Recording the album challenged him to relive his days as a "little singer": a timid, aspiring teen artist with a big, big dream, and to feel comfortable expressing his vulnerability.

"When a song is written for you, you have to sing it," Chui says, "even if it asks you to say or express something that you wouldn't usually dare say."

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