Interview with Uta

Interview with Uta

In the Grand Finale, Uta performed a modern interpretation of the classic Chinese song, 'Olive Trees' which won her the competition with an impressive 53 points! The Chinese and American judges, usually divided in opinion, unanimously agreed on Uta's performance, with Ding Wei and Janis Siegel awarding her a perfect 10.

Let's take a look at the performance!

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In this exclusive interview Uta speaks of her interpretation of 'Olive Tree,' changes of her music style throughout the competition and her personal music taste.

RTW: What gave you the idea to rearrange this classic song?

Uta: I picture many different images when I sing 'Olive Trees.' This Sanmao song, it's so beautiful, and it's very special to me. I felt it was important to portray the emotional theme - the conflict you feel when you're striving to realize your dreams but, at the same time, you really miss your home and your family. I think, in the process of following your dreams, when you're wandering, when you're alone, you're actually in fear. I wanted to evoke these emotions with the accompaniment by using a unique, almost eerie sound. When I was singing I visualized being alone in a dark forest.

Although this is different from the image the original version evokes, the message is still there. Where Sanmao celebrated the bittersweet melancholy of feeling homesick, I drew attention to the strong sense of solitude and sadness we're affected by in that situation. I approached the the first verse with quite a wispy and fragile music quality, while the later sections become stronger and more present - closer the original style.

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It was a really touching performance.  Most singers at her age are at a loss, but she has found her own way of expressing herself

- Ding Wei

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RTW: You like to wear long dresses. And you always sing with a sense of wandering. You have the air of a Gypsy girl.

Uta: Yes. I like that. To me, that's a sense of wandering. That is freedom. If i wear a long dress, I would not sit like this [sits with feet on floor]. Instead, I would let my dress down and sit with my feet on the chair. Or, I wouldn't wear shoes. It's comfortable. I feel I'm totally free.

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She is the only true artist in this competition.

Janis Siegel

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RTW: Do you think the competition has changed you? How do you feel after winning it?

Uta: Even if I hadn't won the competition, it means a lot because it's a huge turning point for me.  In the competition I found another aspect of myself. The time I sang 'The Wilderness in F#Major' I actually hadn't prepared. I didn't get a chance to rehearse after I recorded it. But, because of the competition, I tried to sing it. In the Beijing Academy, when I sang it, the professor thought it was pretty good and encouraged me to use it for the competition. So, when I sang it, I felt really good to let the energy flow. It was totally different from the folk music, which is a refreshing change.

I have this impression that folk music is too narrow and restrictive. I used to sing folk songs in the traditional style, but I feel that's too restrictive now. I want to break that mold and give the songs a new dimension. I found a way to make them more expressive and dramatic, which gives more power to my voice and to the song itself. The world is watching me and I feel I'm representing China through these songs, so it's very important. I felt the change in my style around the semi-final. After that, winning didn't matter.

Folk music is just one stage of my music career. In the future, I want my music style to be more passionate and powerful. I've always been a fan of Bjork. Maybe I'll move in that direction so I can focus on expressing my emotions. Now that I have the vocal ability, why wouldn't I use it?

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She commands dynamics better than most people I have worked with.

Scott Spock

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RTW: Do you like the music style of Sa Dingding?  Many people draw similarities between your styles.

Uta: In the after-party I sang 'Wanwu Sheng'. Scott Spock asked me if I liked Sa Dingding. I told him I like the feel of her music, but I'm not really into religion. I don't want to do World Music, but I still want my music to be grand. Maybe I could add electronic elements, or some percussion, like hand drums, or bells. I like that kind of music. But it doesn't have to have anything to do with religion. I want to express urban life and peoples anxiety in cities. 

For me, to sing about religion - something I don't understand nor am interested in - I'd feel it was superficial. The style and composition of the songs are just the structure of the music. The core of music is what I sing, what I convey, and what I want to express through the lyrics. A lot of world music is about religion, which I really don't understand. Isn't it weird to sing something that I don't truly understand?

world image

Hollywood, CA, US

Beijing, China