Dick Lee hits the high notes

Almost four decades in and singer-songwriter Dick Lee still hasn't stopped reinventing himself.

After putting his brand of Singa-pop on the world map with his Mad Chinaman alter-ego; penning hits for superstars like Sandy Lam and the late Leslie Cheung; and bringing his music to life on stage in musicals such as Fried Rice Paradise and Forbidden City, he's ready to venture into uncharted territories and explore his art even further.

Besides working on a new musical that will become a resident production at Resorts World Sentosa and planning his first art exhibition, Lee is also set to direct his first film - a Chinese musical, at that.

But he'll only reveal this much for now because he doesn't want to spoil the surprises lined up for his upcoming one-night-only concert, simply titled An Evening With Dick Lee, next Monday.

It is also set to be a special occasion for Lee as he'll be officially conferred as a Steinway Artist by famed piano makers Steinway & Sons, joining the likes of Diana Krall and Billy Joel who are also on the roster.

And despite being the first Asian Steinway Artist in the contemporary pop genre, the 55-year-old remains unfazed by it, saying, "I'm surprised I was considered because it's so prestigious and mainly for classical artists; it's a title I'll be proud to include on my resume."

But he also adds with a chuckle, "And no, I don't get a piano!"

Lee reveals there's already a chestnut Steinway sitting in his family home which was bought in New York in 1997 and he's written a lot of his musicals - his new love - on it.

Due to space constraints, he works on a keyboard hooked up to his computer at his own home but adds nothing compares to composing on a piano.

"I consider myself as more of a tunesmith so I prefer to use an acoustic piano - the sound is pure and it's a real test (of the material); if it's not strong, nothing will happen," explains Lee. "The keyboard is good for making certain kinds of music like contemporary pop... you can colour it with strings."

The upcoming concert may be Lee's first ticketed solo public performance of the year but he says he's been playing more shows in the last decade than he ever did prior to that.

"I've never really had a 'live' career in Singapore... but since 2004 to 2005, I started to get more gigs at gala balls and charity dinners; and it sort of snowballed from there," he reveals. "I still do one to two shows per month and it's been pretty steady for the last few years."

Lee adds he's pleased to be playing regularly because it's similar to how he started - "sitting at the piano singing and writing my songs". It's also helping to gear him up for the 40th anniversary celebrations of his career next year. But for now, his upcoming musical, exhibition and film is set to keep Lee busy till the end of 2013. "I've done a lot of stuff but one needs to keep exploring if you want to have longevity," he says of his new projects.

"You must have your dreams and you mustn't forget about them; and don't be disappointed when it doesn't happen all at once," he adds. "That has always been my mantra."