Every change begins with self-reflection that blooms into something more colourful and vibrant. Yet with Kay Tse, her definition of colourful is going back to basics. Join the celebrated singer-songwriter and entrepreneur as she embarks on her journey of metamorphosis and find out how she is using her music and brand to reflect her state of mind.
How would you describe Kay in this moment in life?
This moment is a playful time for me. I had this same feeling at the early stage of my career, except back then I was more naïve, uncertain and unfamiliar with the industry. Since I started my own company, I’ve come across a lot of new opportunities and learnt a great deal. I feel like this is a very playful time because although I still feel unsure sometimes, I’m experienced enough to take on new challenges. Just like at the start of my career 17 years ago, there are a lot of “firsts”, sparking my curiosity all over again. However, I’m more confident now as I’m more certain about my positioning and my direction, and I also have a great team working closely together. I feel very excited for all the new projects to come.
Currently with my own music label, I’m the only artist with a team of producers and songwriters. It’s the exact same situation as when I joined my first music label. It’s a very interesting cycle! The difference is that besides being an artist, I now also have my own brand with different business partners and projects, so I have to think beyond just being a performer. It’s a never-ending intertwined cycle. When I get to encounter new happenings, these experiences will give me new inspiration for my music. Also, because I’ve been in the industry for such a long time, I’ve also gone through ups and downs and many different circumstances working with different people. So now I have to search for new inspirations and new developments to venture into; I really enjoy this feeling of the unknown. I think that I’ve become more flexible with possibilities now. When I take up new projects, I have a chance to fail, but it’s all about the process. I have more room to explore and I’m very proud of my bravery and adventurous spirit.
When bringing up the word metamorphosis, one is usually reminded of a plain worm transforming into a colourful butterfly. For you, it seems to be quite the contrary; you’ve turned into a much simpler, raw and more content Kay. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
With every metamorphosis, there must be a moment of stillness. That’s the process when you take your time to think and visualise how and what you want to become. I entered the entertainment industry during the boom of the internet era. It had a huge impact on the music industry. I grew up with Hong Kong being a leader in Asia with everything creative, art and entertainment. Amid the digital development, the world started to connect, and suddenly we all became very competitive. Music from Taiwan, Japan and Korea were gaining popularity and seemed to overshadow local music talents. I went through and witnessed this process of rapid change. For musicians, we need to push and improve ourselves to stay in the competition. No longer only producing good music, we also need to broaden our knowledge including visual, concept, production et cetra.
For myself, I was quite naïve when I first entered the industry, I wanted to try everything in order to find my direction and satisfy my curiosity. After so many years of ups and downs, I founded my own music label, Light White Studio, a name that reflects my current state of mind. My metamorphosis is indeed not going from plain to colourful; instead, after all my experiences, I’m now circling back to a more basic and simple state. Metamorphosis happens because of self-reflection, when you appear physically motionless and still but are actually going through a lot of processes. That’s a different kind of colourful, it’s simpler with room for possibilities.
Can you tell us about some of the major changes in your life so far? How did these circumstances change you as a person?
There is someone who’s full of knowledge and life who always inspires me – his name is Louis Cheung (actor and singer, who is also Kay’s husband). From the moment I met him, my life changed. Because we are both in the entertainment industry, we’ve had very good communication since the beginning of our relationship. We were both newcomers at that time and I already looked up to him as a role model. I admire his calmness under every circumstance, but he is also very friendly and approachable. We really went through lots of ups and downs together. He has many hobbies, he loves to exercise, he also loves to meditate; he can play with the kids for the whole day and lock himself up for several hours when he is studying the screenplay of a new movie. He lives life to its fullest and to this day I still get very inspired by him. Our personalities are completely different yet perfectly complementary. We have been together for so many years but I still find him to be funny! When he proposed to me years ago, I said yes immediately because I am sure even when we are 80 or 90 years old, he will still be able to make me laugh.
How do you use your music to reflect the different stages of your life?
At the beginning of my career, that was also the peak of the karaoke era. People liked to sing love songs and party songs. They thought that my songs were strange and not commercial enough because they usually reflected the environment we were in and my state of mind. It took me one full year to find a company to release my first song! People usually thought that the melody of the song was nice, but the theme needed to be changed. Therefore, I was never the most popular artist at my time. Now that I have my own music label, I’m able to create and produce my own style of music. At first, I had doubts as well, thinking why would I spend so much time and effort doing something I’d never done before? I could easily hire a team of people to do it for me. However, when the songs are published, I have the feeling of connecting to my core again, which is sharing my music with people. I’m a romantic. If someone happens to listen to one of my songs and he or she loves it, I feel fulfilled. And I like to use my songs to pass different messages and stories to listeners.
How do you celebrate success?
We do not just celebrate success, we also celebrate the process. When you love what you do, you will feel the excitement of every second. Also, you won’t care too much about the result when you put your heart into the process and can enjoy any outcome. And that’s worth celebrating.
If you had to choose a colour to describe you in your 20s, 40s and 60s, what would they be and why?
I lived in a small village in Tai Po when I was young, in my 20s, when I was ready to come out to explore the world and the entertainment industry. Life was full of colour and the unknown. I would describe that period as “mosaic”, a colourful and variegated pattern, everything was fragmented. The full image might not be clear, but within all those small images are many experiences and stories. I’m grateful that I went through this stage of my life. Now that I’m in my 40s, that’s a new beginning after my metamorphosis. I see this stage as white, almost transparent. I feel like my mind has been uncluttered and is starting to see light and direction. For my 60s, instead of using a colour to describe it, I want it to be bright and warm. I imagine that by that time I would have made my own contribution to the industry and society and have become a kind of mentor for newcomers.
Can you share with us the motivation and objective behind starting your new music label, and how have you embraced this new venture so far?
Yes, I have a five-year and ten-year plan and this is the second year of my company. A lot happened in the first year; I felt like a kid going to a new playground. However, I was so committed and so exhausted that I finally fell ill. So, for this second year I want to take it easy and take smaller steps forward. I want to use my upcoming songs to convey this message.
You’ve also started your lifestyle brand Kaytiquette. Can you tell us the concept and the direction of this brand? How are you going to use Kaytiquette to reflect your state of mind?
Kaytiquette is my little notebook. I kind of like my own handwriting and I’ve loved keeping a journal since I was young. Kaytiquette does not just represent my own state of mind, I also invite different people to be part of this journal. I deliberately partnered with different parties to create different episodes to reflect our lives and lifestyles. My key message is to co-exist with our environment and nature. For example, through all our projects, we want to provide better choices for people who care about the environment. I really enjoy building this brand, I even write all the press releases myself! I feel very satisfied when I look back and realise how much I’ve gone through and how much I’ve learnt. I want my brand to be focused and unique, so whenever people are looking for something natural, they will immediately think of us. I hope my customers will feel the energy that I put into the products and be more considerate and make conscious choices.
If you were given a superpower and were able to change one thing about your past, what would it be? Or would you want to change anything at all?
If you asked me this when I was young, I would have wanted to change some of my mistakes. Yet now, I choose not to change anything at all. I think the reason behind this is quite obviously, if I didn’t go through all those experiences, lessons and mistakes in the past, I wouldn’t be the Kay I am today. Therefore, I would like to reserve this superpower for someone who needs it.
How would you describe the Kay of 15 years from now?
I can imagine myself spending lots of time with my family and enjoying the smallest moments of happiness in life.
PHOTOGRAPHY: RICKY LO
VIDEOGRAPHY: JARVIS WAN & JASON TO @BLACK CAT IMAGES
ART DIRECTION: VIVIEN WONG
STYLING & COORDINATOR: BIRD TSE
HAIR: SINGTAM @ARTIFYLAB
MAKE-UP: KRIS WONG
Originally published in ECHELON Issue 7