TO THE SKY
Up-and-coming Hong Kong-based singer TIEN CHONG is simply brimming with soul. She tells SEAN DINSMORE about the first single from her debut album, which is sure to leave you breathless
IF YOU HAVEN’T HEARD of Tien Chong yet, you soon will. This 22-year-old Hongkonger is about to release her first full-length album through local label MoFo Music, with a very important assist from Apple Music. The latter named her one of its New Artist Spotlights for China, meaning a special promotional campaign, including regional in-store performances.
On first listen to Chong's new Putonghua single Breathless, you might be tempted to compare her to neo-soul singers such as Amy Winehouse, Adele or Dionne Bromfield. But then, if you listen to Over Me – her theme song for the 2016 film Heaven in the Dark, starring Jacky Cheung and Karena Lam – you might be tempted to call her the Chinese Astrud Gilberto. Whether it's her retro-soul belting or her smoky lounge style, the comparisons are solid and she's been earning a place in some very good company.
At first glance, you may be surprised that such a diminutive woman packs such a powerful punch, but her voice seems to come from depths that extend far beyond her slender frame. It's a deep, rumbly cry that can transcend lyrics and surprise you by ending in a wonderfully hoarse falsetto. Chong commands the stage as much as she does the speakers, gesticulating and moving as if possessed, in her '70s-inspired mod attire – backed by an equally natty group of hip-looking, tight-playing, funky Chinese kids. It all adds up to something completely fresh and new for the Chinese market.
Chong's debut single and video drops on November 13; look for it on Apple Music and iTunes. Before she was heading up to Beijing to start promotions with her manager Kelvin Avon (who runs MoFo Music) and the Apple team, we had a chance to chat about her roots in music and life, and an amazing little experience in Cuba.
Give us a little background about you. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in the UK, in the hospital where my mother was a nurse. My father was a law student there, from Singapore; they met and fell in love, and then I came along. Then my dad got offered a job in Hong Kong, so we moved here when I was a baby. We lived here for a few years until my father got a new job in Singapore, so we moved and I kind of grew up there, but we also lived in Thailand for a few years and then finally settled back in Hong Kong. I went to high school here.