I had been waiting over an hour for my interview with Eason Chan. The Hong Kong singer, who was in Kuala Lumpur recently to promote his new album L.O.V.E., was feeling under the weather, I was told.
When I finally got to meet him, Chan apologised for the delay. “I have been having a sore throat, and I have a tribute concert for (the late) Danny Chan in Hong Kong this weekend,” he said. “I have to make sure my voice is OK to sing!”
Although Chan is arguably one of the top artistes in Asia right now, the 44-year-old exudes an air of sincerity and warmth that is rare in many celebrities.
Speaking in fluent English, his answers are honest and sincere, and given with the air of someone who is already comfortable with his own skin, and knows how to handle fame.
Of course, that kind of confidence can only come with experience, and having made his showbiz debut in 1995 when he won Hong Kong’s New Talent Singing Awards Competition, Chan has an abundance of that.
After winning the competition, Chan released his debut eponymous album in 1996, and has never looked back since.
A recent news report summed up his achievements since then: 89 records released (in Mandarin and Cantonese), more than 20 million albums sold, over 300 solo concerts in 80-plus cities, and a staggering 170 awards for Best Male Singer.
“I think the actual number (of albums) is more than 40,” he says modestly. “They probably added in the digital releases as well.”
His latest album, however, is one that is particularly meaningful to him.
Titled L.O.V.E., it is an album he worked on together with the band he toured with on his Duo World Tour from March 2010 to December 2012.
“We spent so much time together that, in the middle of the tour, we got the idea of having each of the band members – there were 14 of us – write a song for this album,” Chan recalled, adding that he had done something similar before in 2009.
“This time, we wanted to do it differently; we wanted to record it live. Then in 2012, we were in London for another show, and we decided to record it there. We wanted to book Abbey Road, but we couldn’t get it, so we went to another studio called Metropolis Studios instead.”
There, they recorded three songs, followed by another five after the tour was done.
According to Chan, the plan was to release it in 2013, but there was a “huge change” in his life at the time.
“I had just gotten off a tour and couldn’t get used to it. I had been spending so much time flying around and staying in hotels that after the tour, I was feeling slightly depressed, and a little edgy.
“So, when I met with the record label guys to let them hear the songs, and didn’t get a positive reaction, I told them they didn’t understand what we’re doing, and decided to leave it aside for a while.”
Since then, he has been on other concert tours and released a few other albums. It was only at the end of 2017 that he started thinking about the project again, and this time, he was determined to see it through.
“I really wanted to finish it. For me this is a special project. There is so much love amongst all of us, that I didn’t want to release it (just like that).
“But last year, I finished a tour and my contract (at the time) was up.
“So this was like a new start for me, and releasing the album was a chance to tie up a loose end,” he recalled.
“We recorded the final song together in Hong Kong, on April 22 this year, exactly six years from when we started in London. That was quite amazing.”
A different energy
Musically, the album is also a bit of a departure for Chan. For one, it’s not an “Eason Chan album”, but rather, an album by “Eason Chan And The Duo Band”.
“The energy is different (on the album). It’s all performed and produced by the Duo band, and there are all sorts of genres and languages in it, because the band has members from different countries,” he said.
According to the singer, the album consists of two Mandarin songs, one in English, as well as eight Cantonese songs, and there’s lots of variety in terms of genre, from the pre-requisite love ballads to genres like blues, reggae, Latin, and jazz.
L.O.V.E represents a new beginning for Chan, which is remarkable, considering he has already been in the business for 23 years. Is that how he keeps himself relevant then?
“I’m not even sure I’m relevant, actually! I’m just doing my own stuff.
“Now, I’m also the boss of a record company and I have to run things as well. It’s a great responsibility. It’s exciting!” he said, laughing.
Two decades on, Chan still cites that the competition win in 1995 as the most memorable moment of his career.
“It has to be the moment I won the singing competition, before it all started. For an ordinary person like me, it was a gateway.
“Then, to be recognised by all the judges who were all established musicians and producers, and get high marks … it was amazing,” he said, adding that the support he got from people around him, as well as strangers, made it even more special.
“I had people coming up to me to say they saw me on TV and always knew I was going to win. It was so pure.
“They didn’t know anything about me, or have any history with me – they only knew me from that night.
“They saw me as me, and not the Eason I am now.
“I’ve never intended to be popular. I work hard, I am passionate about my job and I’m lucky enough to have people who are still interested in me today!”