Gin Lee must be grinning from ear to ear as she has been hailed the next Asian Pop Diva.

Although the Malacca-born singer, who was raised in Johor, has been in Hong Kong since 2011, Lee has been making strides in mainland China’s burgeoning pop music scene. Her popularity surged after participating in The Voice Of China S4 last year where she was mentored by King Of Asian Pop Jay Chou.

After collaborating with Eason Chan on a radio play, Lee, 28, has professed her wish to perform with her illustrious labelmate Jacky Cheung at Hong Kong’s prestigious Coliseum arena, where there are plans for her to hold a solo concert next year.

Currently, Lee is busy promoting her latest album beGin which is her sixth release and her fourth Cantonese album. The album took a year to produce and Lee was elated about collaborating with prominent Hong Kong music producers like Eric Kwok, Alex Fung and Fergus Chow.

The alluring singer will also head to Korea where a special edition of the album with Korean lyrics to her songs will be released.

1. Tell us about your new album beGin.

This album is in Cantonese but it has two Mandarin tracks. The title beGin has a double meaning: one is “begin” and another is “be Gin”.

Begin, because I have recently joined a new company, so it’s a new phase in my career. I’d been through some really difficult times before this. As this is my first album with the new company, it is like a re-start for me.

Be Gin means to be myself. I started out as singer in Malaysia back in 2009. After all these years and having been to so many places – Hong Kong, Taiwan and China – I feel that I’ve learnt so much. So, it’s time to express myself, for me to speak out more.

Hong Kong-based Malaysia-born singer Gin Lee. Photo: Universal Music Malaysia

Hong Kong-based Malaysia-born singer Gin Lee. Photo: Universal Music Malaysia

2. You wrote two songs in the album. What are the inspirations behind these songs?

Ham Chuk (Implicit) is the first song that I wrote when I moved to Hong Kong. I was always lonely and felt helpless at times in a new environment. And, whenever I met nice people or encountered good things, I felt very grateful.

So, I wrote a song about that gratitude I felt. Originally, I wrote it in Mandarin, then got a lyricist to put Cantonese words to the song.

Ji Ma Hoi Mun (Open Sesame) is an unplugged, upbeat, happy song. When I moved to Hong Kong, I was usually by myself. So, I was always hoping for someone to help me or have dinner with me. I found it hard to communicate with the people there and didn’t know how to express myself. I felt left out, so I was mostly quiet in the beginning.

3. Do you still find recording in Cantonese to be a challenge since you are more versed in Mandarin?

Cantonese is something new for me. I grew up in Johor Baru where most people spoke Mandarin. That’s why I couldn’t speak Cantonese until I started living in Hong Kong. It took me about three months to learn the dialect.

I found Cantonese unique. It’s very strict in terms of pronunciation, very restricting compared to Mandarin. The approach is different when singing the same song in different dialects. I make markings on the songsheet to remind myself on the proper pronunciation.

But, this is my fourth Cantonese album, and I like recording it. I will focus on this area, and try to establish myself. I am more confident now that I have been in Hong Kong for five years. Later on, I hope to record an English album. It’s one of the things I want to do.

4. How do you compose your songs and where do you find inspiration?

Usually when I’m travelling, I will have all these melodies in my head.

I will then record them with my phone. When I have the time, I will sit down in front of the piano and put them together.

For my first album, which was in Mandarin and produced in Malaysia, I wrote most of the songs.

After I moved to Hong Kong, I felt that I should observe and learn instead of writing and expressing so much. Since, I was in a new environment where I was not too familiar with everything, it was better for me to learn first.

But, after several years, I felt that it’s time to return to composing. Writing lyrics in Cantonese is difficult. So, I only focused on composing music and producing it. For me, writing music is a way or an outlet to express my emotions and my thoughts.

5. Apart from making music, you’ve also dabbled in acting. Tell us about your upcoming movie project.

I have a role in a Hong Kong movie which will be released in September. During the shoot, I was busy with the competition in China (The Voice Of China). I was supposed to take the lead role, but I couldn’t commit due to the schedule. So, I figured that I would just try out acting by taking a small role instead.

The movie is titled The Moment and features four different love stories. In it, I play a computer-generated online gaming character, not a real person.

Because of that, my hair and make-up for the movie is colourful. Eric Kwok is one of my co-stars. It was a fun experience and I really enjoyed it. I can see myself doing more acting in the future.