SINGAPORE - Last year, singer-songwriter Tanya Chua went on a spontaneous trip with friends to Finland.
She didn't expect to see anything until the moment she got there. On their way to the hotel, a bright light appeared in the dark sky and before she knew it, northern lights were dancing right before her eyes.
She describes that moment as "serendipity", which became the title of her upcoming tour around Asia. She says that the trip mirrors her musical journey.
The Singapore-born, three-time Golden Melody Award winner has made a name through writing and producing Mandarin songs for popular singers such as Faye Wong and Stefanie Sun. But for about 10 years after she entered the entertainment industry, she remained an unknown.
When she won the Best Female Artist award at Taiwan's Golden Melody Award in 2006, she was considered a dark horse. In 2008, Chua won the award again and garnered the Best Producer prize for her best-selling album Goodbye and Hello.
A year later, she held her first concert and said it felt like she has finally graduated after all those years of being unknown.
With eight Mandarin albums and four English albums under her belt, she says the best way to know her is to listen to her songs.
"If you sieve through my albums chronologically, you can actually feel and hear a part of me at a certain phase of my life. It's very much like an autobiography in music form," Chua says.
Her music path, like the trip to Finland, was a spontaneous one.
She was a lead singer in a band when she was still a student, and one day she had a different opinion about a song's arrangement. Her then keyboardist said that she should keep her mouth shut since she was just a girl who didn't know anything about music.
It was an embarrassing moment but one that was also the turning point in her life, which led her to buy a guitar and train herself.
The first song she wrote was called Bored, which was included in her first English album, Bored, in 1997.
But it was tough in the beginning.
"I was asked by the record company to sing more commercial songs written by other writers instead of my own materials. That was the lowest point for me as it deviated so much from why I went into the music business in the first place," recalls Chua.
Because she couldn't speak Chinese, she had to go through the language barrier while "slowly losing my passion and identity for the records I made during that phase", she says.
She thought of giving up music entirely and took a trip to India, where she rediscovered herself and her goal.
When she returned, she ended the contract with her then record company and management, and moved to Taiwan to start from scratch.
She found a small record company, who believed in her music and told her to be herself and write her own material.
"That was the moment when I started to know what my music was all about and what it should sound like. It felt like I came a full circle, though it took many years," she says.
She believes that curiosity in life is a key helper in songwriting. She likes observing what people are saying or doing and considers herself a sponge absorbing her natural surroundings. When the sponge is all soaked up, she just let all the accumulated thoughts spill out in songs. She can write 30 songs in two weeks when she is inspired.
"Music is like my own reflective mirror. What you hear is what you get. I hope that it will continue to flourish and evolve," she says.