Singapore singer Joi Chua: I’m broke, but I’m happy

Elizabeth Soh
Elizabeth Soh
Singapore Showbiz

Homegrown singer Joi Chua has struck out on her own (Photo courtesy of Joi Chua)

Local singer Joi Chua has done what few dare to do - eke out a living in Singapore's notoriously small and difficult music industry all on her own.

That's right, the ethereal-voiced songbird now represents herself, and has forked out cash to produce, sing and market her new album, the three-track EP "Perspectives".

Described as Chua's takeaways and interpretations of her life in Singapore, it is a marked departure from her previous folk-pop style, with heavier beats and a more matured tone.

"In my previous songs, I often felt like I was just singing and not expressing what I wanted to say. The message I wanted to send was different from the songs I sang."

The 35-year-old has also reinvented her appearance- shedding her previously girlish, frail image for a more funky one.

Sporting sleek, straight, red tinged hair, emerald green nails and wearing a royal blue tunic paired with boots, Chua exuded a new confidence and cool previously buried under the wispy dresses that were part of her old image under Play Music.

"I have been floating for the past 10 years," said Chua cheekily in reference to her old fashion style.

"I wanted something more grounded. The me you see today is the real me, the natural me."

The Raffles Girl's School alumnus admits straight off the bat that she sometimes wonders if she was crazy to strike out by herself, especially after her success with her music label.

Chua originally planned to release two singles, but was initially told it would be hard to market as it is usually easier to push a minimum of a 3-track EP to stations.

The spunky singer approached producers in the region but couldn't find someone to fit her style. She finally decided to do it herself, and the result was "Perspectives", an album in the form of a spectacle-shaped USB device.

Joi Chua demonstrates her self designed USB album (Yahoo! Photos / Elizabeth Soh)

Spectacles because Chua also happens to be a trained optometrist (with a boutique optical store in Holland Village) and the USB device because, she says, "the CD industry is dying".

"CDs can't really sell anymore. I decided the USB concept with it's new media technology would add more value to the fans who buy my music - it can be used to store other files, information," said Chua.

"Of course I hope they won't delete my songs!"

She admits that the cost of producing the limited edition (3,000 pieces only) album was about twice as much as simply making a CD, but hopes that it will be a success.

While she has less restrictions on her artistic freedom as a "freelance" artiste, she now also has to worry about practical issues like whether her album is making enough money.

"No I have not recouped my investment or broken even. I'm very open to doing any gigs at all," said Chua, who told reporters that producing the album, together with managing her optical store has put a serious strain on the finances of herself and her husband.

"Contrary to popular belief, singers can be poor."

Not that Chua is complaining - with the completion of her album, she says she has fulfilled almost all the dreams she has ever had in life.

"I never thought I would go so far or have such a long journey (as a singer). It all stems from a very simple intention - just my love of singing, and it has brought me so far to today," said Chua quietly.

Now there's just one more dream to tick off the list - becoming a mother.

Chua tied the knot with her boyfriend of ten years, known only as Mr Chan, in a private ceremony in December 2009 and has been every inch the glowing newly-wed since.

"I hope to start a family soon. Although I'm really stressed, I will really think seriously about having a baby. I'm not 25 years old anymore, and having baby is a natural progression," said Chua.

"And of course, I hope to benefit from the new Baby Bonus!"

Her USB album, Perspectives, can be purchased from any of her Eyecare People optical shops or her official website here

Watch the making of Joi Chua's EP Perspectives below:

Related links:
Joi Chua performing at Esplanade