Stefanie Sun opens up about new album and having more kids

December 18, 2017
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    Using SkillsFuture Credit, one can, say, learn to speak Korean or pick up bookkeeping.

    In the case of local singer Stefanie Sun, it helped shape her new album, A Dancing Van Gogh, which was released on Nov 9.

    And, no, it was not a masterclass on putting out a record. Rather, it was a course on basic watercolour techniques at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts that she took in March last year. She eventually stopped at the Advance 3 level.

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    The singer muses: “When I took up watercolour painting, I didn’t think that it would (lead to) something. It was just, okay lor, $500 (of SkillsFuture Credit), let’s go.”

    The classes coincided with a growing interest in art, particular that of master painter Vincent Van Gogh.

    In recent years, she has been visiting the Netherlands “quite a bit” – her entrepreneur husband Nadim van der Ros is Dutch and there is a Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

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    The painter’s dedication to his art, even though he was not recognised for it during his lifetime, moved her.

    She fought for A Dancing Van Gogh (music by Taiwanese band Tree Of Life’s The Little Prince, lyrics by well-known lyricist Wu I-wei) to be the lead single, despite it being neither a conventional ballad nor an outright dance number.

    “I remember we had a meeting with my record label and they said: ‘Oh, we had a test, six out of 10 hated it, the other four didn’t feel for it.'”

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    While she can come across as laidback and easygoing in conversation, there is also a determined side to the singer. What felt like a risky departure to some was an obvious choice to her.

    She says of the track: “The song is also about a mental state. It sounds a little dark, maybe it’s the moment just before (Van Gogh) cut his ear. I feel that, increasingly, a lot of us are dealing with mental stress, there’s this overload of information and this idea of where you think your life has to be.”

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    And if some people do not take to it, that is fine. She says: “It’s a very subjective thing. I’ve seen artwork that I don’t like. But I don’t think that ‘don’t like’ is a bad thing. It doesn’t subtract from what I’m trying to do.

    “I always say an artist’s job is not to be liked. It’s to push, sometimes, to look at things differently.”

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    Her most recent release was the EP Rainbow Bot last year, which captures the sense of innocence and wonder of childhood, and her last album was Kepler in 2014. When she is away from the limelight, her son, five, keeps her busy.

    She has never revealed his name to the public, though her face lights up when talking about him.

    Related: This is how Stefanie Sun teaches her 5-year-old son to be kind

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    The mandopop queen says with a laugh: “I don’t know what is more difficult, doing mundane things like chauffeuring or tidying up, or asking him to sit down and stop moving about.”

    He is protective, and perhaps a tad possessive, of her too. “He’ll be like, ‘Why are you taking pictures with strangers? Stop taking pictures with strangers.’

    “And I’m like, ‘Mama cannot, these people listen to mama’s music, you know, they’re very supportive.’ I have to explain these things to him.”

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    His music diet includes classic rock and pop by Queen and The Beatles, courtesy of his father, and Mandopop from his mother.

    She adds with a touch of pride: “He would sing the last line of Huang Yida’s Ni Ming De Bao Bei (My Anonymous Babe): Ai ni zen me hui lei? (How could I get tired loving you?)”

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    Now that he is older and “fully functional” – “can tell him to eat by himself” – she says she is more open to the idea of having more kids.

    Ask how she feels about turning 40 next year and she says: “Forty lor, you can be whatever kind of 40 you want to be. You can be active, you can be very inactive. Just do what you want to do.”

    A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times

    (Photos: Twitter/Stefsunyanzi and Facebook/Sunyanzi)

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