Singaporean J-pop singer Valerie Tang is perfectly happy going solo, although she admits that it can get lonely without her former bandmates.
The sweet-faced 21-year-old was part of the South-east Asian J-pop girl group Sea*A before they disbanded in July.
During an interview with Life! at a Starbucks cafe in Clarke Quay last week, Tang says: "When I perform in Japan now, I realise how quiet the hotel room is without them. I would switch on the television and drift off to sleep so that I don't get uncomfortable with the silence."
Her three ex-bandmates - Singaporeans Estelle Lim, 20, and Beryl Teo, 22, as well as Malaysian Wynnie Teoh, 22 - left the group to pursue their studies. All the girls still keep in touch regularly through phone calls and WhatsApp, says Tang.
Despite the occasional bout of loneliness, she is relishing her time as a soloist, adding that she is "more certain than ever" about staying on in showbusiness.
"Going solo means that I can be more focused on developing my musical abilities and work on my strengths and weaknesses.
"When you're in a group, each member has her own role and strength, but as a solo artist, you have to do everything on your own."
She will perform as a soloist here for the first time at the Anime Festival Asia tonight, where she will sing three songs in Japanese, including her new single Origami.
Singing at the festival holds special meaning as the event was where she was talent- scouted in 2010 by Japanese artist management company HoriPro, along with her three former bandmates.
All of them were waitresses at the festival's Moe Moe Kyun maid cafe then.
They then underwent training here and in Japan and released anime songs, such as Dream Shooter, which was picked as the ending theme song for the popular anime title Card Fight! Vanguard in 2011.
"It's good to be back at the festival. It's like I've come full circle," she says.
Her Singapore performance will be her second solo show after her debut at the Anisama Live World In Tokyo in September, which is one of the most prominent concerts in Japan featuring anime songs.
She recalls: "For days leading up to the event, I was so nervous. But as soon as I got on stage, all the nerves disappeared and I just focused on performing. I think I'll be fine when I perform in Singapore."
Tang, who deferred her studies in graphics design at Temasek Polytechnic to pursue her dream of being a singer, is not sure if she will go back to school one day.
"For now, I'll keep singing. Since I've started, it seems like such a waste if I give it all up. School is still a possibility in the future," she says.
Outside of music, Tang also voices in English the new anime character Inori Aizawa, the mascot for software giant Microsoft's Web browser Internet Explorer. The character will be launched at the festival tomorrow at 1.45pm, where Tang will make an appearance as the character.
She is proficient in conversational Japanese and says her command of the language "is improving every day".
"It's been a good year for me. I'm enjoying trying out new experiences," she adds.
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