Singer-songwriter: a poet in our midst
“Lyrics are very important to me. In my songs, I draw inspiration from everywhere: from TV, listening to the radio or news, or just reading the newspaper. I draw inspiration from my friends and everyday observations.” Singer-songwriter Eloise Lau, aged 15.
Eloise, who was recently featured in Jonathan Tse’s showcase of Sabah’s local talent, “My Story,” says Jewel and Sarah McCloughlan are among her favourite artists because “they write really, really nice lyrics, and there are so many ways you can look at their lyrics.”
This guitarist and pianist, who attends Lok Yuk Secondary School in Likas, adds that the music is important too, “because you can send a message without using lyrics or words.
“I write for myself, for my friends, I express my thoughts in the songs, and I read a lot of poetry. I used to write poetry, and that helps as well.”
On the track, ‘I Can’t,’ which comes from her new album, ‘Eloise Unplugged 2,’ the lyrics are based on two love-struck friends of hers.
Her father, Frank Lau, said Eloise likes to discuss the analogy behind stories. It’s natural that she got interested in poems, “because she could see beyond what those words were.”
When Eloise entered SJKC Lok Yuk Chinese primary school, she barely spoke a word of Mandarin. Frank said he didn’t do what Chinese families typically do, which is to put their children into pre-school at 2 or 3 years old to learn Chinese. “She learnt Mandarin really fast through singing!”
Eloise said, “I picked up Chinese because I joined a lot of singing competitions.” She was allowed to keep her hair long so she could have a traditional Chinese hairdo. “It was really uncomfortable! I had to spend hours in a salon while they made little braids and then tied them into buns and you have lots of pins stuck in your head!”
Frank said, “It was good training. You had to have perseverance, because for your three minutes of performance, you could spend weeks preparing. All the little kids went through that. There are different costumes and they get more elaborate as the years go by. Different hairdos, makeup, and every Chinese song that you do has to have a new routine. We encouraged Eloise to learn different types of dance, with different accessories: handkerchief, fan, umbrella. She benefitted a lot from that experience, culturally. You get to know which part of China the dance is from, and absorb the culture and history of the costumes and the dance.”
At school these days, Eloise recently co-directed a play. “Some of the school actors are really talented! Like Liyana (Johan), she’s one of the actresses, and Izzat – he’s funny, he writes his own songs. They’re really funny songs!”
The Head of Extra-Curricular, and Eloise’s form teacher from Lok Yuk, recently saw her perform outside school for the first time. Frank said, “I think they saw a different side of her. They said she is going to present to the school her two CDs in front of everybody. That’s a great honour because the school now actually recognises that what she does is an achievement.”
Frank credits Sabahan guitarist Roger Wang as being central to Eloise’s development. “We were taking guitar lessons with Oswald (Perera) and after that Daniel (Mojina). But it was Roger who listened to her.
“Roger doesn’t really say much, but when he does, you do take note. He said, you know, she’s got a nice voice.” He suggested she sing a Jewel song called Fragile Heart, in his studio. “Roger and I just looked at each other and I thought, ‘Wow’. Eloise was 12 years old, and it all started from there.
“Everybody has their own opinion,” Frank summarised. “I tell Eloise you can’t suit everybody’s musical taste. Eloise has found a musical direction. She’s found the sort of range she’s good at, and the sort of songs she’s good at.”
We look forward to hearing more. Keep writing those lyrics which are full of meaning, Eloise!