A Tambunan girl made good
[Photographs of Candy by Valentine Chong. This interview was written for Bandwidth magazine.]
Young, beautiful, and in the process of making a crossover album; Candy Clement is working on her first CD, which is an album of edgy tracks with that touch of Avril Lavigne, mixed with her KadazanDusun lyrics.
“I have a few strong ballads on the album too, because people still need ballads songs, especially couples in love, right? Also in some clubs and in karaoke, so we will make karaoke versions for a couple of songs.”
Will there be a video shoot? “We’re going to Indonesia! Maybe we’re going to choose a very cute teenager model guy or actor for my video clip. So it’s exciting!”
Candy is from Tambunan. “It’s a really small town. I have a lot of brothers and sisters! Seven siblings. I’m the third one. My mum can play drums a little bit, and my parents can sing. In Tambunan, they really like to sing.”
Just 21 now, Candy has come a long way since she overcame her shyness and headed for the Akademi Fantasia 5 audition in KK, when she was 17.
“Before, my mother asked me, ‘What do you want to be?’ I said, ‘I think I want to be a singer’. But I’m quite shy, I don’t really talk to people. My mum said, ‘How you want to be a singer when you’re a bit shy and just like kampung?’
“So when I went to the AF audition, I went alone and didn’t tell anyone. I really love singing, I love music. But I was not confident whether I can go to the competition and grab that. I just called a taxi and said I need to go to KK.”
Luck was on Candy’s side that day.
“There were a thousand people in the line for the audition, so I just go right to the front and knock the door. They open the door and said, ‘Okay, we want one more’ and I just walk in!
“There were very big judges from KL there – Ajai was one. I was shaking because I didn’t have any experience before. I sang Langit Ketuju. Afterwards, Ajai was so serious. They have green and red light to vote; everyone was green. Ajai said, ‘If you want a green, you sing another song now.’ So I sang My Heart Will Go On. After that he said, ‘Okay, I want MORE’. So I sang traditional Malay song, Cindai. The first song I sing with a minus 1. The rest, they just want to hear my voice.
“When I came home, my mother said, ‘Where have you been?’ So I said I went to my cousin’s house in Keningau, just hanging around.”
Tambunan had a surprise after a few months, when Candy was chosen as the artiste to represent Sabah.
“All the cameras for the KL tv show came to my house! My house is a small, kampung one, village style. So I was like ‘Oh My God!’ (laughing)
“The crew said to my mum, ‘Your daughter has succeeded to join our competition.’ My mum said, ‘What competition?’ and she’s looking at me real serious. I said, ‘Akademi Fantasia!’ My mum was like, ‘You never tell me!’
“I never thought they were going to pick me because I think there were 4 or 5 thousand contestants in Sabah,” Candy said.
Then it was off to KL for three months, for performance training.
“I’m just a kampung girl, I don’t know anything about the industry. The competition is big. Then we learn singing, acting, dancing. It was really exciting.
“There were 14 contestants in the competition. I was one of the five finalists. Even though I’m not the winner I’m very happy. We learnt a lot: how to look at the camera, how to act on the stage. It was a really big experience for me.”
That was three years ago. After the competition, Candy continued under contract with Astro Company, touring Malaysia on road shows.
“We went to Melaka, Brunei, Penang. A lot of places I’ve never been before! I really like to perform on the stage: screaming, jumping, dancing like a crazy woman! I’ve always had that in my heart, but I was shy before. But they teach me how to be confident, how to be a strong woman. Then my mum said, ‘Is it my girl?’ (laughs).
“My parents support me a lot. Especially as a woman, you must be strong. There’s a lot of people picking at you all the time. and a few press — bap-bap-bap! (She makes shooting gesture) It’s a bit of a shock actually; the gossip press, they want to know about my personal life. But I can handle it.”
Candy has just come back from six weeks in Australia, making her new album. “I am pure KadazanDusun, and I have been dreaming of an album for my people. All my singing with AF is in Malay. I have a couple of singles in English, but no album, even in Malay or English.
“I wrote the lyrics for three songs, and I wrote one melody for my album. A few of my songs have been written by Asmin Mudi’s team, and then arranged by my producer Luke Mason, who is Australian.
“The album, it’s really a Western style; I like the energy of Avril Lavigne, you know, very edgy. So we are doing a couple of songs in that style. Some musicians will be from Australia. Maybe I need to pick a musician from Sabah, a local, it’s more interesting for me. We’ve done 8 songs already so we need to make two more.
“I’ve been staying in KL a few years, and I haven’t been interviewed by people in Sabah for a long time. I’m so happy to be back here to see my people, see my parents. We went out to the kampung and had a lot of tapai! I want to bring something new into this industry, in Sabah especially, in my language Dusun. If you hear Dusun songs, it has not developed much.
“You ask me what I dream? I really want to go to the top! But for now, I want my people to be proud of me first. I want to be successful here. In my far, far future, I would like to be like Charice Pempengco. She’s a really good singer from the Phillipines, and now she’s really successful in America, because of David Foster. I like her singing. But I like Avril Lavigne’s energy on stage. And yes, I would love to perform in Sabah.”
Candy is just at the beginning of a marvellous journey. Good luck to this lovely local talent.