Having been involved with The LKY Musical and this year’s National Day Parade, Dick Lee decides to take a trip down memory lane by reviving a concert which charts his musical journey from his childhood in the 1960s to the release of his album, The Mad Chinaman, in 1989. This revival promises all of Lee’s well-known songs with an extended storyline and a bigger band.
In the midst of his preparations, Lee generously granted this email interview (his responses have been lightly edited).
For those who are unfamiliar with your earlier work, why present yourself as The Mad Chinaman?
The concert is based on my autobiography which traces my musical journey and explains how I ended up with that nickname. This also happens to be the title of my 1989 album that introduced me to the Asian market.
Will you be writing new songs for this upsized version?
I will be performing songs from my career, including a few cover versions of songs that inspired me.
Your career in Singapore really took off after your success in Japan. Do you think it’s easier for local musicians to gain recognition now without first making a name abroad?
I think being accepted abroad is a kind of validation, but it depends on the genre. For example, a Chinese pop act would not be popular amongst the non-Chinese in Singapore. It is still important to establish yourself in your home country, I think, before other countries can accept you.
What are some aspects of the local music industry that need improvement?
We always complain about lack of exposure and local media support, but to be fair, I think they give all they can give. Finally, it all boils down to the quality of the music. When that improves, the support grows naturally.
If you are given three words to describe the Singapore sound. What would they be?
Tropical. Asian. Bright.
What is one advice you would give to your younger self?
Be Fearless (I guess I was anyway). Then, be MORE fearless!
Are you working on any exciting projects that your fans can look forward to?
For the first time, I’ll be directing the fifth production of my 1988 musical, Beauty World (written with Michael Chiang), the second play in my family trilogy, and my first movie.
Catch Dick Lee: The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman Upsized on 3 September, 7:30pm at the Esplanade Concert Hall. For ticketing information, visit Sistic.