How Jay Chou helped with Nathan Hartono’s upcoming album

Busy Nathan Hartono, who will soon be seen in ‘The Great Wall’ musical alongside Na-Young Jeon and George Chan, says romance is forced to take a backseat for now

How Jay Chou helped with Nathan Hartono’s upcoming album
How Jay Chou helped with Nathan Hartono’s upcoming album
16 Jun 2017

How Jay Chou helped with Nathan Hartono’s upcoming album

Photos: Tammi Tan
Video: Tan Shiqi, Goh Wen Kai

It may have been over eight months since local singer Nathan Hartono was under the mentorship of Jay Chou on Chinese reality singing competition Sing! China, but Nathan still keeps the valuable advice he received from the Mandopop king close to his heart and will be applying it to his own music.

“The first time we met, he took out his phone and showed me one of my music videos and told me, ‘I enjoyed this, I didn’t enjoy that, this is good, that can be fixed’ and I was like, ‘My goodness, he did his homework and listened to my stuff!’ He was being very constructively critical and I’ve taken that advice and put it to good use for a song that’s going to be released in China soon.”

In addition to the new single, which will be out in August or September, Nathan let on that he plans to drop a full album by early next year or even later this year. The record will contain both English and Chinese tracks and the musical “philosophies” he picked up from Jay will be peppered throughout.

The 25-year-old, whom Toggle was speaking to in between rehearsals for his upcoming musical The Great Wall: One Woman’s Journey, went on to share that he learned a lot just from being around Jay and watching him work.

“He’s not the celebrity I expected him to be; he’s arguably one of the most famous people in China but he doesn’t behave like it,” said Nathan. “And you can tell that when he’s working, it’s not about his ego or image – he really cares about the music and what it does to people.”

Although they haven’t really been in touch since the show ended, Nathan revealed that he sent his former mentor a text congratulating him on his wife Hannah Quinlivan’s second pregnancy, and yes, Jay replied to say thanks.

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Nathan, Na-Young and George pose with the musical flyer
Nathan, Na-Young and George pose with the musical flyer
16 Jun 2017

Nathan, Na-Young and George pose with the musical flyer

Unfortunately, there won’t be any collaborations with Jay, or any other big names in Asian pop, on Nathan’s new album. “What’s important now is that I find my own voice and place in the Chinese music scene,” he explained. “If it does go well and if it becomes viable for me to full-on work over there, then my second album may have some help from others.”

In the meantime, Nathan will be busy with Glowtape Productions’ The Great Wall, which is based on the classic Chinese folktale of Meng Jiang Nü, a woman whose tears literally brought down part of the Great Wall of China while mourning her husband that died building it. Nathan plays the husband, scholar Fan Qi Liang, while Dutch-Korean singer-actress Na-Young Jeon takes on the role of Meng Jiang Nü. Local veteran stage actor George Chan also stars as Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who orders the construction of the Great Wall.

As a newcomer compared to his co-stars, Nathan, whose previous theatre credits are Pangdemonium’s Spring Awakening and Next to Normal, said he’s just been observing and absorbing what he can from them. “Everyone around me is very experienced so it’s a privilege to be around that level of skill; all I have to do is look left and right and there’s so much to be learned,” he said.

After The Great Wall ends it run on July 30, Nathan will jet off to Beijing to start work on his new album. Then, in October, it’s back to Singapore and Malaysia for the filming of car-racing themed rom-com Warrior of Love, his first leading film role. “I’m not in full prep mode for the movie yet, I’ve just been watching a lot of racing documentaries and researching on famous racers,” he said, adding that while he will actually be driving, he won’t be doing any crazy stunts.

With all that on his plate, does that mean love has been forced to take a backseat at the moment?

“Yeah, but I’m okay with it,” said Nathan with a smile. “Life is a bit too insane for [romance] and I think it would be cruel if I got into a relationship at this point. Right now it’s like: don’t screw up the musical, don’t screw up the music, don’t screw up the movie, find time to take a vacation. Settling down is very far down the line for me.”

Click through for more photos and for various fun facts we learned about the stars of The Great Wall musical!

This musical is about a woman who literally cries part of the Great Wall down.
This musical is about a woman who literally cries part of the Great Wall down.
16 Jun 2017

This musical is about a woman who literally cries part of the Great Wall down.

What’s the last thing that made you cry?

Nathan: It was during our first full script read with everybody (for this musical). I’d already read everything and I know exactly what happens, but for some reason that day it really hit me. And it wasn’t even my scene [that made me cry]!

Na-young: My family lives in the Netherlands, and every time I have to leave, I’m conflicted because I want to stay, but at the same time I feel a calling to go somewhere else. The last time I left, my sister was really crying and asking me to stay, and that broke my heart.

George: I don’t cry a lot in real life but I cry easily at movies. I can’t remember the name of the last movie that made me cry, but it was a foreign film.

What are your biggest challenges doing this musical?
What are your biggest challenges doing this musical?
16 Jun 2017

What are your biggest challenges doing this musical?

Na-Young: The music is so complex and the range is quite high. I’m not a soprano, but for the first time I’m singing soprano parts, and that is quite challenging.

George: For me it’s the same as Na-Young, the music is pretty challenging because it dabbles a bit in opera.

Nathan: The biggest challenge but also the most exciting part is that this is completely original work. Instead of us trying to reinterpret something, we’re creating [new things] on a daily basis. We’re given a blank canvas, and there’s nothing scarier to an artist than a blank canvas, but also nothing more exciting.

You’re all no stranger to the stage, but do you still get stage fright?
You’re all no stranger to the stage, but do you still get stage fright?
16 Jun 2017

You’re all no stranger to the stage, but do you still get stage fright?

Na-Young: Oh, terrible [stage fright].

George: I still do, but it comes down to doing your homework and being prepared before you go on stage, but yeah, I still get nervous.

Nathan: My stage fright gets activated the less people there are [in the audience]. When you’re on a big stage with thousands of people, there’s just bright lights and darkness in front of you, and it’s almost like you’re dancing by yourself. I couldn’t see a thing [on Sing! China]! But when you’re in a room with 20 to 30 people, you’re completely connected to every single one of those faces, and that scares the heck out of me.

BONUS: Nathan’s hilarious misuse of Mandarin
BONUS: Nathan’s hilarious misuse of Mandarin
16 Jun 2017

BONUS: Nathan’s hilarious misuse of Mandarin

Despite coming in second on Sing! China, Nathan doesn’t exactly have an expert grasp on the Chinese language. He recounted a hilarious incident where he tried to describe a completely innocent activity, but it ended up being slang for something totally different (and less kid-friendly).

“I was hanging out with friends from [Sing! China] late last year and I had just come in on a flight from Singapore so I was super zonked out, so one of the contestants asked me why I was so tired, and I said, ‘Wo da fei ji’. I thought it meant I boarded (da) a plane (fei ji), but in colloquial Chinese terms, I had said ‘I pleasured myself’!”

As we were chuckling at his story (sorry, couldn’t help ourselves), Nathan went on to explain that since one normally says “da ba shi” (boarding a bus), he assumed it would be the same for an airplane. Well, lesson learned.

Na-Young and Nathan look through their script before rehearing their scene together
Na-Young and Nathan look through their script before rehearing their scene together
16 Jun 2017

Na-Young and Nathan look through their script before rehearing their scene together

George, Na-Young and other cast members practise a scene together
George, Na-Young and other cast members practise a scene together
16 Jun 2017

George, Na-Young and other cast members practise a scene together

George Chan rehearses his scenes as Emperor Qin
George Chan rehearses his scenes as Emperor Qin
16 Jun 2017

George Chan rehearses his scenes as Emperor Qin

The Great Wall: One Woman’s Journey runs from July 14-30 at the Drama Centre Theatre. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit SISTIC.

Watch:
What's the last thing that made Nathan Hartono cry?
Nathan Hartono tells us about an embarrassing incident in China

Related:
The perks and perils of being Nathan Hartono… now
The truths and lies of Nathan Hartono
Nathan Hartono lands first leading movie role

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