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Friday, August 12, 2005

An evening with Corrinne May

Corrinne May
I went to the Corrinne May talk/dialogue at the library@esplanade. It was scheduled to begin at 7:45pm, but when I arrived at 7:15pm, all of the 50 or so seats had been taken up already. So I had to stand with a few other people at the rear, where the walkway was. (And I spotted tinker, tailor among those standing there. We nodded to each other in acknowledgement, haha, sounds like two drug agents agreeing to a deal.)

7:45pm came and went and still no Corrinne May. The crowd waited patiently. I was minding my own business at the back when this Chinese lady in a black spaghetti-strapped top and blue jeans walked in front of me. Wow, quite a beauty. Then I looked closer and it was a forehead-slapping moment. That was Corrinne May! Too late, she had already made her way to the grand piano in front before I could whip out my camera.

She opened the talk with "Little Superhero Girl", which was performed beautifully. Then she went into a brief introduction about herself:
  • first memory of music - her mum singing "Rock-a-bye baby", she thought it was scary
  • hummed TV theme songs
  • Yamaha Music School - started at 4 years old, hanging off piano stool
  • private piano teacher, who rapped her knuckles if they weren't raised properly, she wanted to flush her goldfish
  • Raffles Girls' School (RGS) - won a songwriting competition, wrote melody, friend wrote lyrics
  • Raffles Junior College (RJC) - won another songwriting competition also with a friend
  • National University of Singapore (NUS) - graduated in English Literature and Mass Communication
  • Berklee College of Music in Boston - 23 years old, 2 roommates aged 18-19 years old, she brought one purple suitcase
  • moved to Los Angeles with a few friends for practical training
  • learned to drive because buses are 1 hour in between
  • played gigs
She admitted that she was not used to such monologues. But I think she did pretty well, albeit for the occasional "umm-ing". Later, when she was pouring some water for herself, she mentioned that during her concert on Wednesday, the water jug had been placed next to the microphone, so that when she poured, it sounded like a fountain.

Before the Q&A, she sang "Fly Away".

Here're the few questions and answers that I remember (in chronological order, where possible):

1. Are her vocal skills natural or trained?
She trained. One instructor quoted US$150/hour, so she learned under him for a while. She also trained with friend. (She mentioned later that she was in NCC in RGS, and choir and Punch in RJC.)

2. What if she had stayed in Singaapore?
She would probably still be doing music, but admitted that there are limited places and opportunities to perform here.

3. Someone mentioned that he hoped to see her on the Grammy stage.
"Me too!"

4. Religious influence in her songs
She was raised as a Catholic, so there is definitely an influence.

5. Why Los Angeles?
She went with friends. She also recognised the importance of the music industry there.

6. How she made her first album
She stressed the importance of networking, so she met people and gave out namecards as widely as possible. Producers also wanted demos, so she burned CDs of performances and made inkjet covers. Those CDs were titled "Inspirations" "Introspective" and sold it for US$7 each. She also saved money to publish her album.

7. Her most difficult period
Her first 3 months in the US were difficult because she was away from her family. Also, during her practical training, it was even more difficult when she didn't return home (Singapore) for more than 2 years.

8. What she does when feeling down
She writes in her journal, receives hugs and pats on back as encouragement, writes songs (e.g. "Journey"), prays.

9. Who is "Mr Beasley"?
One part of the song is about an ex-boyfriend, i.e. "You don't notice but I see you / In the church when you were praying". The rest is from experiences with guys who wanted trophy girlfriends.

10. How did she meet Carole Bayer Sager, Carole King and David Foster?
She took part in an online songwriting competition organised by Carole Bayer Sager and Carole King, and her song won. So she had the opportunity to go to Sager's house. Sager was very much like a tai-tai with thick glasses and starched clothes. They played a few chords and Sager suggested some lyrics. Sager also revealed that she had also had sessions with a few celebrities, e.g. Michael Jackson, on that same piano. Sager co-wrote a few of Corrinne's songs.

She hasn't met Carole King... yet.

She met David Foster in a session, "Up Close with David Foster". He invited audience members to perform, and her friend, Zach, played first. After that, she had more confidence and also went up to play. As she performed "Same Side of the Moon", Foster watched her play, and when she was done, he replayed it from his observation!

11. What does she do when not making music? (asked by yours truly!)
She watches TV, eats, shops but only when she needs to buy something. She also visits her little oasis in the desert with Joshua tree and cactus and snow-capped mountains in the distance.

12. When is her next album coming out?
"Soon!" She realised that she had promised her last one, "Safe in a Crazy World", by Chinese New Year in February, but it only came out in May.

13. Where does she see herself in 10 years' time?
Hopefully, she would have finished her 3rd or 4th or 5th album. But she admitted that it's hard to predict.

14. Do lyrics or melody come first?
Usually the melody comes first because she is more of a melody person. Sometimes, the lyrics will come first, e.g. "Everything in its Time".

15. When will she write songs for Singapore e.g. for National Day?
She wants to write, but thinks that she needs to be invited. She has written the anthem for the Sports School. When asked to perform it, she refused (maybe due to restrictions by the school?)

16. What is her musical inspiration?
She listens to all kinds of music from the radio. When she hears something nice, she is inspired by the melody first before focussing on the song itself.

The session ended with a performance of "Save Me", then she plugged her website and said her thank-yous.

I wanted to take a picture with her at the end, but she was swamped with other fans, and she also didn't know that she was due for a media event immediately after. And the library was closing at 9pm, which was only about 10 minutes away. So I left partially disappointed. But at least I had a chance to sort of meet her in person.


Technorati tags: Corrinne May


francia said...

ya a pity there's no opportunity to get to chat a little with her or something. i kind of rem that the self-made album's name is introspective :P ain't sure also. but it was truely an enjoyable session. thanks for the recap.. hopefully we would get to see her soon again :)

chiupee is our friend said...

hey, nice update for those who werent there. btw, a lil mistake. her first home-made cd was titled "introspective", not inspiration. haha just a note.

you can read about my comments on her concert and the library session at my blog. password is needed though. its mitchdowd. had to put in password to keep alot of my "friends" away. "friends". haha

Wynx said...

Yuhui, thanks for the writeup about the session at the library. That's something I missed.

Anyhow, perhaps you can read about my concert experience....

paddychicken said...

Thanks ... from all of us who couldn't be there. I'll make sure the next committee hears of this ;p

pickster5 said...

Thanks from the USA. We miss Corrinne but it's been wonderful reading about her concert and her trip to the library. Thanks again for the write-up.

Anonymous said...

hey! thanks for posting up a great account of the night! It was realyl enjoyable rite? I was the one who asked who Mr Beasley was... haha. =)


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