Making a new album after breaking up

Making a new album after breaking up
Malaysian singers Wu Jiahui and Cheryl Lee at a media event for their new album, The Impressoul 01.

MALAYSIA - Four years ago, Malaysian singer-songwriters Wu Jiahui and Cheryl Lee broke up. Then, they decided to make an album together.

The more cynical might think their failed relationship is a mere convenient talking point.

To this, Lee, 29, says: "If we broke up, got back together again ambiguously, then split up, that would be milking it.

"But we can't deny that we were a couple once. And it doesn't make sense to give up on a great music partner just because we dated once."

The album, The Impressoul 01, is a soothingly soulful collaboration.

Two tracks - Breaking Up Is Reasonable and Don't Say You Don't Know, on which they also duet - may seem to offer clues about their past romance.

But Lee says with a laugh: "While creating a work, the face that we each see might not be the face you are thinking of."

Grey, which is listed as a bonus track on the album, was also the first track they collaborated on after their break-up.

Two years ago, Wu approached Lee to write the lyrics for the song.

He says: "If I could handle something on my own, I would, but in this case, I couldn't, so I was just thick-skinned and called her for help."

Lee dashed them off in 15 minutes as she was then in a different relationship that was going south. "It was the colour of my emotions", says Lee, who also dabbles in radio, theatre, film and television.

She is currently single. Wu is dating someone outside of show business.

Of the reasons she and Wu split up, Lee says: "It was in part because of the distance between us, as he was based in Taiwan then, and we really didn't spend much time together.

"We also found that, personality-wise, it was more harmonious for us to be friends."

All that is water under the bridge now. They banter without any awkwardness during the interview at UFM 100.3 radio station's conference room on Monday and reveal that they kept bickering over creative decisions in the recording studio.

Sometimes, they even disagreed over a specific word in a song. Lee says: "The people around us might think we're being childish but we just want to hold on to the original impulse of what we created."

Once, in order to calm what he thought was a heated situation between Lee and Wu, a recording engineer offered: "Would you like some biscuits?"

The two of them laugh at the memory - it is clear that there is no lingering bad blood over those clashes. In fact, they are ready to move on to another instalment of The Impressoul, "if time and money allow", says Wu.

On weighing the pros and cons before making an album with his ex, he says: "On one hand, we are likely to be scrutinised by the media but on the other hand, it could mean ending up with works that last and that could inspire others."

Wu set up his own "small label", Dreammy Studios, in Malaysia last year after his contract with Singapore's Funkie Monkies music production house ended.

His last release was the 2011 EP, Do You Love Me?, and The Impressoul 01 marks his return to the music scene. Many know him for the hit 881 song, One Half.

The pair have ploughed "at least $40,000" of their own money into the project. Album sales have been "better than expected", with 2,000 to 3,000 copies sold in Malaysia so far.

"We treasure our works and just hope more people will know about them and listen to them," says Lee. "Our chances of getting back together are zero because we're happy being friends."

bchan@sph.com.sg

The Impressoul 01 is out in shops.


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