On June 4th, the sunshine was dazzling in Sabah, Malaysia’s easternmost state, also called the “Land Below the Wind”.People there were hiding in the shadow of the tropical trees. After lunch, it started to rain, even though the sunshine was still glaring. We thought it would just sprinkle, so we did not expect it when the rain became heavier and heavier until dark clouds came and the sun was totally shut out. The local tour guide told us, without thunder, the rain would keep falling.
This was the most common weather in Sabah, but at that moment there was a group anxiously waiting for the rain to stop, since the “Gary Chaw: We Are Friends” beach concert – the product of six months of preparation – was scheduled to start at 5 o’clock.
The sudden rain caused a blackout of the whole stage, which was just built the day before. The hotels where Gary and his fans lived were also blacked out. No one knew when the electricity would return. More than 100 fans, from Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Taiwan, Singapore and other places, started to worry that the concert would be canceled. They started to leave messages via WeChat groups, expressing their anxieties: “The rain is awful, and I’ve waited so long for this concert, what will I do?”
However, another side, Gary’s team and his company-Rock Records, were far more anxious. No one can imagine how they suffered during the three hours of pouring rain.
Perhaps their hopes touched the sky, because the three-hour flood stopped just half an hour before the concert started. The concert would start as planned, and every fan jumped for joy. Even though they came soaking wet with mud on their clothes, they still screamed Gary’s name when he appeared.
2016 marks the tenth year of Gary’s music career. As a demonstration of his gratitude to his fans for the last ten years, he brought his newest album,We Are Friends, back to his hometown in Sabah, and, personally spent ten million to take 100 people from his team and his fans to start the Four Days Three Nights tour in Sabah.
Most of the fans were invited from mainland China. Since 2014, Gary took active part in quite a lot of entertainment programs in mainland China, such asI Am a Singer, Dad Where Are We Going,and others. Also in that year, he did his first concert here, increasing his fan base, as well as endearing fans to his adorable children, Grace and Joe.
Since then, everybody began noticing this “special” singer. Why is Gary special? This is because, as everyone knows, he’s never been professionally trained, yet he writes all his songs himself, which has helped him win many music awards. Furthermore, he promotes himself, and manages his Weibo by himself. Due to his candid personality,Rock Records has even cautioned him about expressing his ideas too frankly on Weibo, reminding him that not everyone shares his opinions.
By his own account, he developed his direct personality at a very young age. He left home at a very young age to study and work. He had no protection from his family and needed to face all his problems alone. Consequently, boldness, a matter-of-fact attitude, and insecurity all became part of his personality.
After he won first prize on the television show “The Masked King”, he said, “I’m a person who’s lacks a sense of safety. Outside of my home, any other place brings me a feeling of insecurity and fear. I’m afraid that no singers want to sing my song, that no one wants to listen when I’m singing and that my music doesn’t affect anyone emotionally … ”
However, it is precisely because of his experience growing up in foreign countries, that has made his music style so special, and brought him the courage and faith to conquer all kinds of problems.
In Gary’s ten years, he has not only achieved success in his music career, but also found tenderness from his life at home. Once he had his own family, he started to become soft and sensitive, and his two children and his wife were the sole reasons for this transformation, he said.
At the Sabah concert, after singing I Want a Home, he invited his father on stage with him, and said, “I and my father joined an entertainment program, called Xuanfeng Xiaozi. This program changed both our lives. Before we almost have nothing to say, but in this program, he opened his heart.”
Now, when we mention Gary, we also think about his daughter, son, and father. Gary said, “I’m very thankful, since fans not only love me, but also my whole family.”
In Sabah, there were two days for fans to interact closely with Gary. When the fans’ bus arrived at the Malimali aboriginal cultural village, Gary’s car had also just arrived. He spoke out to the crowds from behind the window, saying, “I’m wearing a pair of odd pants today, so when I get off, please don’t laugh at me.”
Gary and his fans visited the village, played games, danced, and took photos together, which brought this old village a new color. However, because of the full day rehearsal, Gary’s voice was in poor condition, and his fans became quite worried about him and his concert the next day.
Nonetheless, things went swimmingly the next day. The concert was very successful; he attributed this to the fact that “quite a lot of people have helped me on my journey, and it’s not luck, but rather a blessing; perhaps my family did a lot of good things in a previous life, so that in this life so many people have helped me, taken care of me and given me chances.”
After the concert,Rock Records held a celebration party for him. At the party, he was quite relaxed in his blue jeans, speaking with the guests there. When he heard that China Music Business News wanted a special interview with him, he said, “ This place is quite noisy; shall we find a quiet place for this interview?” Since several Taiwanese media outlets wanted to interview him, he asked me, “Shall we start after the Taiwan media public interview? Is it ok for you to wait on me for a moment?”
CMBN: Before the concert, there was a storm that came out of nowhere. Were you really worried that they might cancel the concert?
Gary: No. I think that it didn’t matter whether or not it rained, I would still sing. There was no way it would be canceled. If the rain was heavy, I might have only sung a few songs, but I insisted that the concert itself could not be canceled, since we spent so much time on it.
CMBN: How did you come up with this idea as a celebration of your tenth anniversary in music?
Gary: The main theme of this concert is We Are Friends. I think friends should take trips together to see what each other’s hometowns are like. At the beginning, we only planned to take 30 fans, then it became 50, and then finally 100… It didn’t matter. Everyone really enjoyed the concert; this is the most important thing. It’s already been ten years since I started my music career. I think all the good things have really come at the grace of others, so the best way to repay my friends and fans, is to return to my hometown and let them experience the fun there. Also, the most meaningful thing is that I can sing in my hometown and introduce my hometown to them. Since this is such a rare opportunity and I’ve been a singer for ten years, this is an extremely valuable thing for me!
CMBN: Now that your music career has reached its tenth year, what do you think of the next ten years?
Gary: I think that, as long as I don’t forget the last ten years, the next ten years will be just like the past ten: step by step. I have no regrets. I take every experience as a lesson or a challenge, learn from it, and then face the next one. Actually, I’m looking forward to more lessons and more challenges in the next 10 years. I won’t be afraid any more.
CMBN: As everyone can see, it has not been easy for you over these last ten years, and you’ve worked incredibly hard. Did you ever feel like it was too hard to go on?
Gary: Does anybody on the earth have it easy though? A lot of people can sing well, but they won’t have the chance to stand on a stage this big. But Gary, why do you have the chance to stand on the stage and sing to so many people? Because I’m quite lucky; someone is always taking care of me! No matter what, I won’t feel tired if I’m doing the things I love. Maybe others would say it’s not easy, but I don’t feel this way.
I think it’s not hard at all, if you have love. In the last 10 years, I have grown and learned a lot, and have still been able to continue writing and singing, so there is nothing that I’d complain about or regret.
CMBN: It seems like everyone now has started a fan economy. You’ve invited so many fans to your Sabah concert; is this the best gift to repay your fans?
Gary: As everyone knows, if you are a singer, you don’t succeed because of how good-looking you are or how well you can sing, you succeed because someone always has your back, always supports you! Your singing and aesthetic don’t matter if you don’t have support from your fans. Everyone needs to know, fans are the most important! Of course, talent is also very important, but people need to know you, you need fans to support you! So fans are the most important, and I would like to truly thank my fans and have more interaction with them.
CMBN: Is your music talent related to your father?
Gary: When I was young, my father had a band. They were practicing in one room, while I was watching Bruce Lee in another room, so I grew up through both music and Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee once said, “be like water”. If you are like water, you don’t need to have one style; the style that wins is the one that is good. Thus, my music, which has no particular style, mixes Bruce Lee’s spirit into it.
CMBN: So if you have no style, what kind of style do you have?
Gary: Bruce Lee’s concept is to learn from a variety of groups before forming his own style- Jeet Kun Do.
It comes from lots of martial arts, including the style of Mohammed Ali, who’s just passed away. No matter what, Bruce Lee would absorb anything that he thought was good. It’s the same for my songwriting. I don’t follow the most popular thing; I learn and listen from the things that I feel are right, that I feel are good, that move me, not the things that are popular.
If someone’s music is popular, that doesn’t make me want to listen or praise them. Thus, I’ll write something if I like it or it moves me; I don’t care whether or not it’ll be popular. If we talk about Gary Chaw’s music style, there is actually no style. If it can move others, then it is good music and that will be Gary’s music.
There are so many different ways to affect people. If we’re talking about martial arts, it would be beating up people. But there are so many ways to beat someone up, not just one way. So you can learn and understand all of them. Music is the same as water; it can flow one way or another.
CMBN: You’ve participated in many entertainment programs these years; what do you think that an entertainment program can bring to a singer?
Gary: Attending entertainment programs lets more people know me and listen to my voice. Actually, I can do commercial performances and promotions, but not even two years of promotion compares to what participating in an entertaining program brings me. Standing on that stage lets even more people listen to me, it’s that simple. In fact, now, when you mention my name, everyone wants to see my family, so I’m really thankful, because they don’t just love me and my music, they love my whole family, including my father. I think the times have changed now that a TV show can bring out all parts of a musician’s life for the audience: a singer, a father, a son, a songwriter, a producer. All these parts are shown to everyone, it’s quite marvelous.
CMBN: What was the influence of being onDad, Where Are We Goingon your children? Did they change at all?
Gary: They grew up a lot. They see a lot and learn more than any other children. When I was saying I would take them onto this show, their teacher was quite supporting, since there are a lot of things they can’t from school. They need to experience more, but this is also quite hard. For example, during the whole process, I had to take these two children everywhere by myself without any help from my company or my agent.
Before, I took them places, but it was really easy since I just took them to cinemas or restaurants. However, I’d never taken them to Inner Mongolia, where there are no toilets or hot water for showers. I’d never experienced this. The whole process was very hard, but we learned even more from it. It was quite unforgettable. Now, when my daughter and son watch Dad, Where Are We Going, they are really happy. A lot my friends really like this show, and replay it again and again. I want to wait until they grow up and get married to watch it. That’ll be really meaningful.
CMBN: How did you feel when you were eliminated in the first round of I Am a Singer?
Gary: Since before the show a lot of people told me, “Gary, you sing so well”, I was invited ontoI Am a Singer;but I was eliminated in the first round. I went home and felt so awful for three days. I didn’t understand, I thought I was really great on that stage. After this “grief”, I wrote my single, “Champion”,and the lyrics are about this experience.
I wanted to express from this song that, the champion is not the one with the biggest fist, but whose the fist can endure the most and keep going even after experiencing a heavy failure. This is actually a champion. Right when I got on, I lost, but this was nothing serious, I can still sing well, and that’s why I came back for the Encore show. If you don’t give up, you don’t need to say anything; more opportunities will come.
CMBN: Would you consider coming back to mainland China to develop your music career in the future?
Gary: I think I would see how things are going. Of course, I’ll keep making music, and then I’ll also keep doing other things. I’m willing to try anything. I’d like to try becoming a host.
I’ll try anything, but it’s necessary to go with the flow; you shouldn’t force yourself to do something that’s really hard. When you reach this stage, anything you do should involve love and passion if you want it to succeed.
Of course, if producers in mainland China want me to attend their TV show, I’d be really glad to come back. If the show wanted me to climb a mountain or swim in the ocean, I’d be willing to do anything, since I won’t limit myself. I still want to be like water; wherever the flow takes me, I’ll go, there will always be something good at the end, no matter how long it takes.
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