updated 14 Dec 2013, 14:36
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Fri, Jun 21, 2013
The Straits Times
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Bell with no Plan B
by Kezia Toh

Rookie Malaysian Mandopop singer Bell Yu Tian knows that she has entered the music industry at a challenging time, plagued by dismal record sales and widespread piracy.

But she has no Plan B, says the 20something singer-songwriter. "I would still want to be in the music industry, perhaps doing behind-the-scenes work such as producing and arranging tunes," she tells Life! in Mandarin.

Her debut album, 21st December, Sunny, released last December, took two years to produce. It was an arduous journey which made her appreciate the work that goes into producing a record.

The petite singer recounts the experience at a photo shoot that never made it to print: She had to lie on the ground in pouring rain, caked in mud. She shrugs off the wasted effort, saying: "It is all right, everything is an experience."

With all the work behind her, she hopes that fans will pay "at least a little" for songs on legal sites such as iTunes to support the artist, rather than download tracks illegally.

Yu was born in Malacca and got her start as an undergraduate at the International College of Music in Kuala Lumpur.

Then 19, she worked on a school project that required her to act as a talent scout, to learn the art of packaging fresh talent.

When she recorded a few songs for the project, her supervisor, who runs a record label, encouraged her to keep on singing.

And she did. Record company Passion Music later got in touch after hearing her tunes and signed her on.

Hers is a stage moniker - she declines to reveal her real name - and she chose to call herself "Bell" as she likes the way it is pronounced. "It sounds more personable, and melodic," she says.

Her parents - a businessman father and a housewife mother - has no objections to her choice of career, however volatile it may seem. Being the baby of the family - she is the youngest of five children - has its perks.

"They give me the freedom to do what I love. My family is quite simple: As long as we are happy, it is all that matters."

Her debut album, 21st December, Sunny, contains 10 tracks, most of which she composed. She plays the piano in some ballads.

The album's title is a nod to the momentous date in the Mayan calendar - December 21, 2012 - which foretold that the world would end. To Yu, it is a special date because she wanted to fulfil her dream of cutting a record, "just in case it really was the end of the world", she says wryly.

Fans have compared her music style to her established compatriots in the industry, such as ballad queen Fish Leong and singer-songwriter Penny Tai.

But Yu - who counts Singaporean singers Tanya Chua and Stefanie Sun, Taiwanbased star Wang Lee Hom, and fellow Malaysian musician-singer Wu Jia Hui as her musical inspirations - insists that she does not look so far ahead to a time when she can step into their shoes.

"I think that, even if I wanted to, I might not be able to achieve success like theirs.

"So I have never thought about who I should emulate, but focus on being myself, and see how far I can go."

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