EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Chet Lam

Written by Live Nation Asia / July 24, 2020

Hailing from Hong Kong and has been living around the world, the award-winning singer-songwriter Chet Lam uses music as a bridge connecting the world in his unique way of storytelling.

Since establishing his independent label ‘LYFE Music’ in 2003, Chet has released 19 own studio albums in Cantonese, Mandarin and English. His major accolades include Best Folk Singer at the 2012 and 2016 Top Chinese Music Awards; Album of the Year (Cantonese) for Requiem for Flowers at the 2012 Chinese Music Media Awards; Best Folk Artist at the 2004 and 2005 Chinese Music Media Awards; Song of the Year for Yu Jian at the 2004 Global Chinese Music Awards; and Best Original Film Song at the 2003 Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards.

Chet is unveiling a never-seen-before performance from his recent private mini concert. Learn more about Chet’s new album and music favourites while we countdown to his performance.


Hi, Chet! Thanks for taking the interview. Can you tell us more about yourself especially for those who are new to your music? E.g. where are you from, music background, where are you based?

This is Chet Lam. I’m originally from Hong Kong.

I always call Hong Kong home – well one of my homes at least, because my parents are still there alive and happy, thankfully. There’s always a reason for me to go back.

I’ve been travelling around since I graduated from the university. Talking about university, I’m a business school degree holder. Just that I never really found a job. I started writing music for other people professionally since I was 22 or 23. After graduating from the university, I didn’t find a 9 to 5 job (if that ever existed). I got lucky. I got a few big hits for other people and used the money to fund my own albums. I never intended to create an independent label, but it happened that way. And the rest is history. Now I have 19 full albums under my name. I’m really grateful for that.


How would you describe your music to someone who's never seen you play before?

If you’ve never heard my music before, I would say it is like a Chinese version of – the closest equivalent I can find is Cat Stevens or Jackson Browne – oh I wish, right? Well I’m trying to get there some day. They really have a nice acoustic sound – they’re poets. Many Chinese music audiences described me as a poet. I try to live up to that name but when Leonard Cohen’s there, who am I to talk?


Let’s talk about your new album “Born in Kowloon”. What’s the concept behind it and what was the creative process like?


“Born in Kowloon” is actually my 19th solo album in my mother-tongue Cantonese. It’s a collection of songs reflecting my childhood – how I grew up, where I grew up. All the observations were done in a manner of fragments. You know, things keep changing – you cannot live in a society that doesn’t allow changes or doesn’t appreciate changes. We all need, and we all do change for better or worse. I think change is the only constant. It is how we see it and how we live with it. I personally believe in looking back for a good source of inspiration and energy to keep going forward and that’s the intention of this album. 

People regard me as a city folk artist. I didn’t even know that terminology existed in the first place but well, as a singer-songwriter, I guess you just write what you feel, and the rest of the world would put labels on you – which is not a bad thing. I don’t really believe in self-proclaimed this and that. The audience would have the choice to call you what they want. For a singer-songwriter, I think we should just be honest, tell a story or two and let people think – which is and has been my approach anyway.


Who/ what inspired you to start a career in music?

There were quite a few artists that I really look up to when I was growing up, like Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen – they are both Canadians, and Janis Ian of course. It was because of Janis Ian that I started writing my own music. I think the common trait among these singer-songwriters is honesty. The up-front confrontations. They made very beautiful statements and profound messages a lot of times. I really am practicing it. I’m trying my best.


Among all the songs you have released so far, what’s your favourite song to perform live?

My favourite song to perform would be ‘Never Ending Sonata’. The track was from my second album. It is a bolero – some even call it tango actually. I did a tango version two years ago with just a piano and a cello which was FUN. I also did the song with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra which was just beyond this world because of their performance. I do believe when a song is written right it can provide a lot of potential and space for people or even myself to reinterpret it. Actually, all these years I keep performing different versions of different songs and I really found a lot of joy in it. I didn’t want to bore myself in the first place.

I’m a lucky singer-songwriter because I do have control and I do have a choice to curate my own shows, my own themes and my song list. Every show we put out was actually my idea – that was not my ego speaking. I’m still very thankful that people believed in my vision and still believe in it now.


We are very excited about your virtual performance! What should the audience expect?

The upcoming performance – I would say it’s a short ‘hello’. I’ll just be with my own guitar doing a few songs. Something new, something old, sincerely. When a singer is stripped down to one music instrument and a voice, it’s a true test I would say. It’s naked – I’m very comfortable with that and I hope you all are too. At some point it would be nice to get under the same roof with good acoustic sounds, a worry-free environment and all that jazz you know, but I look forward to seeing you – on the internet, to start with. You guys take care and I’ll see you soon. Cheers.


Watch Chet’s never-seen-before performance on Live From Home:

Friday, July 31, 9pm local time

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