Music reflects his life

Updated: 2013-05-10 00:20

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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Xu Wei's sentimental and sensitive nature is reflected in his songs. Chen Nan tracks how the changes in Xu's life over the last two decades have influenced his music.

Music reflects his life

When Xu Wei first came to Beijing to pursue his rock dream 20 years ago, he felt the pressure of becoming as famous as rock star Cui Jian. For the 25-year-old, it was a tall order. So he immersed himself in his lonely, dark corner, pouring out his heart through songwriting.

Life was tough.

Just when he was about to give up, suddenly he was sweeping up nearly all the music awards in the mainland and becoming one of the country's most popular rock singer-songwriters.

Fans say Xu's songs have blurred the lines of genres and age groups - something everyone can relate to and appreciate, both lyrically and musically.

But, at the height of his fame, Xu suddenly slowed down and withdrew from the public.

He emerged again in late 2012 when he released his new album, The Moment, and announced a national tour, which is scheduled to kick off from Beijing on May 17.

He has invited US drummer John Blackwell as guest performer, who is known for his work with Prince.

"I don't want to repeat myself. I want to move on and keep on finding possibilities in music," says 45-year-old Xu.

Most of his new songs were written during his trip to Yunnan province from 2008 to 2012. He also shot a documentary when he recorded his new album in Xishuangbanna.

Xu says he was influenced by one of his idols, Sting, who made documentaries to record his life with music.

"For some, music is entertainment, such as karaoke. But for some, they listen to music to seek sparkles in life. I belong to the latter.

"I've been documenting my life through music, good or bad. My songs present myself to the outside world. They reflect how I feel inside," he says.

Xu first visited Yunnan in 1998 and fell in love with the place. He says he finds inner peace and feels comfortable in the province. The place inspires him to write light and easy songs like The Moment and Orchid in Empty Valley.

"One of my friends told me that when he compared Two Days with my new songs, he couldn't believe I wrote it," he giggles.

Two Days was one of Xu's earliest songs, which was released in 1994. In the music video of the song, Xu covered his face with his waist-length hair and murmured: "I have only two days, one day for hope and the other day for hopelessness."

Xu was singing out the struggles he was experiencing then. He was torn between his ambition and his disappointment in life.

The song was written following his band's separation, which made Xu distressed and hopeless.

Armed with the song, he came to Beijing, and won a contract with indie label, Red Star. After releasing his debut album Elsewhere, Xu's lonely and painful lyrics, and moody voice helped him stand out from the crowd then.

He was hopeful of a break. But, the music market, which was dominated by Canto-pop and pretty faces then, categorized Xu as a minority taste.

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