Social media darling Joyce Chu used to shuttle between Johor Baru and Singapore for school. Now, she is jetting around the region – Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China – for work.
Popularly known as Siyecao (four leaf clover in Mandarin), the YouTube teen sensation plays the piano, guitar, ukulele and “guitalele”, and started composing her own songs at the age of 13.
“I think inspiration comes from your life, every day of your life. You have to be observant about what is happening around you,” says the singer, who turns 19 next month.
Fans know her as Malaysia Chabor (Hokkien for Malaysian woman), also the title of a cute song which propelled the sweet and spunky lass to instant fame. The folksy tune, which has already notched some 12.6 million views on YouTube, had spawned various covers and parodies within a week of its release.
Chu has just released her first self-titled EP which features three original songs, all viral hits on the Internet – Malaysia Chabor, I Miss You and It’s A Long Day.
Next, Chu is set to make her big screen debut in a cosplay-themed movie in Singapore titled Young And Fabulous (Zui Jia Huo Ban).
In the movie, she plays a poorly-behaved girl who is famous on YouTube but neglected at home by her rich parents who are too busy with their own lives. She then discovers cosplay and finds friendship which changes her for the better.
“Acting is a lot of fun. I can just put on a blonde wig and become someone else. I think that is amazing. Especially for cosplay, where we have a lot of costumes,” shared the comely lass who spent a month shooting the movie last year.
Last year, Chu also represented Malaysia at the 2015 Spring Gala in Beijing, where her supporters in China turned out to watch her perform the hit Malaysia Chabor.
“I was surprised to see that I had fans in China. I think Malaysia Chabor can represent Malaysia, because the song has five languages. Music is not limited by race or by nationality. It’s very cool, that music can speak to everyone,” she offered.
1. How did you come to be known as Siyecao?
When I first started out, I wanted to create a page on Facebook that was unforgettable and easy to recognise, but I didn’t want to use my name. I had many friends who used flowers as their names, and I didn’t want to be the same.
So, I figured it would be unique to use grass instead. Since a four-leaf clover is considered lucky and green is my lucky colour, I decided on Siyecao.
2. Social media has great significance for you. Tell us how you got started.
I started on Facebook and YouTube when I was about 15. I covered a lot of songs and shot fun videos of myself taking on challenges or doing dance covers with my brother who is two years older than me.
At first, I was only using my phone to shoot the videos. Later, I saved up enough money to buy a camera and downloaded editing tools to upgrade my videos.
I was just having fun thinking of new ideas. I never thought about gaining fans or anything like that.
Also, I learnt a lot from YouTube, like how to play the guitar and ukulele, how to edit videos and how to apply makeup. I’m interested about music and I want to learn everything about it.
I’m lucky to be born at a time when everything can be found and learnt on the internet. There are all sorts of tutorials; you just have to search for them.
3. You have just released your first EP in Taiwan. Tell us about it.
The EP is my first physical album. It is produced by Namewee and continues in the style of Malaysia Chabor, which uses the ukulele as the main instrument.
My latest song I Miss You uses the guitalele, which gives a similar kind of feeland sound. Basically, it is an introductory album, so we included songs that would help people get to know more about me.
4. What are the stories behind your songs?
Malaysia Chabor is about how I was mistaken for a Korean girl. At that time, I had gained a little fame with my videos, and people started making fake accounts of me with my picture but wrote in the introduction that I was from Seoul.
There were rumours that I was Korean and had plastic surgery done. So I told my producer Namewee, and he came up with a song inspired by that story.
I Miss You is another song written by Namewee, and for that music video, you can see me in hundreds of locations in different countries, with different looks. It’s A Long Day is a song I wrote on a plane while on a flight from KL to Singapore. You know how you have to spend a long time sitting in the plane with nothing much to do? Suddenly, this tune kept playing in my head. I used my phone to record as I hummed the melody.
Then, I titled the song It’s A Long Day and gave it a romantic story in the lyrics.
5. You lived in Johor Baru and studied in Singapore. What was it like to juggle between ‘work’, studies and maintaining a lively social media persona?
I travelled to Woodlands, Singapore for school every day for four years. I had to wake up at 3am to get to school and by the time I got back home it would be around 8pm. It would still be dark when I left home, and it would already be dark when I got home.
So, time for me is very precious. I learnt that since young.
I like sharing my life with people, especially my opinions about music. But, I am quite a homebody, so I am glad that social media has made it all easier for me. I don’t have to go anywhere, I can just stay at home and do my work.