Chinese teenage singer Leah Dou begins her first UK arena tour

Updated: 2016-11-04 10:58


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When Leah Dou took to the small stage at The Wheatsheaf pub in Bedfordshire, England, last Saturday, none of the pub-goers were aware they were in the presence of Chinese pop royalty.

The unpublicized gig was set up by Dou's management as a warm-up ahead of her biggest performance yet outside of China. She sung free of pressure in front of a crowd that learnt of her for the first time through her music. Dou likes it that way.

"It means a lot to me," she tells China Daily. "I'm not annoyed or offended that I'm always introduced in the context of my family, but it's nice, it's refreshing to be introduced through my music, rather than something that's irrelevant to my music."

Beijing-based musician Dou is the daughter of diva Faye Wong and combustible rock star Dou Wei - a now-divorced musical couple equivalent to Beyoncé and Jay Z in terms of star power in China.

The 19 year old is performing major venues in the UK for the first time this week, supporting Indie-pop band Bastille on the British leg of their Wild Wild World Tour. On Wednesday, she plays the UK's second biggest indoor venue - London's O2 Arena - and on the weekend it's the country's largest in Manchester.

"I'm doing small pub gigs and then tomorrow is the O2 - it's crazy," she says, her tiny frame perched on a leather sofa at The Queen's Head pub in Central London. "The opportunity came up and I was really lucky to be able to join [Bastille] on tour. Just being able to tour somewhere out of China is really amazing for me, especially in the classic way, with everybody on a tour bus, I'm really excited for it."

Chinese teenage singer Leah Dou begins her first UK arena tour

With her celebrity status in China confirmed at birth, Dou quickly built a strong following after she released her debut album Stone Café via Universal Music Japan in April.

She's followed by 1.3 million fans on Weibo and has amassed millions of plays across online video channels, though she remains largely unknown in the UK. Catching shine from chart topping, Brit-award-winning Bastille may go some way to change that, though Dou says conquering the West is not what motivates her.

"I don't want to place big expectations on it, I'm not saying I'm going to break into the Western market - I feel like that then drifts away from why I make music," she says. "I want my music to take me places, I want to share my music with more people. If I'm really focused on the idea of breaking into a market then there is a big chance I'm going to be disappointed, because you never know with these things - which song is going to do the job, what's going to click. A big part of it is luck."

That said, Dou does have a head-start in terms of building a British following - the infectious, indie-pop tracks on Stone Café are all sung in English. Dou began song writing while studying music at the renowned Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, US. Needing no further convincing she wanted to pursue a career in music, Dou dropped out after a year to begin recording.

"As a kid at school I saw all my peers worrying about what they wanted to do with their lives," she says. "It never occurred to me to question that - I was always going to be a musician."

Dou is currently working on her second album which she hopes to complete by next February, under the guidance of her mother's management and with her uncle on keyboards. At just 19 and having barely started out, Dou is keen to play down any expectations. But with innate talent and relatable lyrics, she may yet be the first from her Chinese musical dynasty to make it big on Western shores.