Ivana Wong may be best known as the ‘Queen of Singer-Songwriters’ in the Cantopop world, but she has a hand in seemingly every pot: film, art, coffee and classical music alike. With an orchestral piece to write for the Hong Kong Philharmonic orchestra, a packed film shooting schedule and an upcoming concert series Fairy Nice to Meet You with Serrini in December, she still found time to sit down with us for a quick chat.
Here are a few secrets about Ivana Wong that may surprise you, from the singer herself.
Ivana has countless songs and albums under her belt, with the singer’s trademark style encompassing vibrant Cantopop beats and unexpected classical elements – a flair she picked up from her classically trained parents. While many artists may retreat to their recording studios or bedrooms to pen their hits, Ivana has a surprising spot: the shower.
“I don’t know how that little cornered space became my private hub of creativity. I feel so relaxed there,” she says. “Maybe it’s the sound of the water running and the steam, it just creates pictures in my head which are easily turned into melodies.”
“Some people describe my music as pictures, audible pictures or paintings. I think it’s really because of how I got inspired to write – it’s always related to visual elements,” she says.
As for her favourite song she’s written in the shower? Her tender ballad(‘Lost in Art’) from her album On Wings of Time.
Given that Ivana co-runs the coffee brand, it’s no surprise she loves a good brew. After meeting her friend and co-founder Vincent Cheng – an award-winning Hong Kong barista – she discovered a kind of kinship, and likens his passionate approach to coffee to her own creative work. “The way he sees his coffee as art and then how he dedicates himself to it, to always try to create a better version of his own coffee, is something that caught my attention,” she says.
When she’s making coffee at home, she grinds her own beans and brews up a simple filter coffee. But if she’s sampling a coffee from a new spot however, she has a process – beginning with a black coffee. “I tend to first taste the original taste of the coffee – I go for their house blend. Then for my second cup, I’ll probably have it with milk – a flat white or a cappuccino.”
Ivana’s been playing Animal Crossing for the last two years, and she’s fallen in love with the “very cosy and cute” Nintendo Switch game, in which you create your own town with the help of furry and feathered neighbours. It was the perfect remedy after her intense performances of her play Proof, an emotional family drama centred around the pitfalls of genius.
“I didn’t want to drill into that character every single day, every minute. Once I step onstage, I’m totally into the performance and I change myself into the character,” she explains. “But then the moment I bow to the audience, I am myself and I try to do something very different. It’s fun, and there’s no stress. I take my own pace, I try to relax my own mind at the same time and have a bit of fun.”
Although Ivana is an early riser and normally wakes up at 7.00am, “that doesn’t mean I sleep early. There are just things in my mind and they don’t stop. Sometimes [my head] is filled with melodies I’m working on. Sometimes it’s the script I have to prepare for the next day’s shoot.”
Given that she’s currently filming for an upcoming project, the stress of her early morning shoots doesn’t help with her sleep pattern. To destress in the evenings and prepare herself for a restful night, Ivana watches movies, books, listens to music or even cooks. (“I’m not very passionate about cooking. I just feel like I should cook sometimes.”)
Otherwise she finds solace in writing music, even if it’s still technically work. Right now, she’s working on her first ever full orchestral piece, which is set to be performed by the Hong Kong Philharmonic next year. “It’s kind of relaxing to write melodies sometimes. But it can also be stressful to meet that deadline,” she says.
Credit: Getty Images
It’s getting colder in Hong Kong, which is good news for Ivana. She loves the cold – and she absolutely adores winter holidays and travelling abroad.
“The two places that I really love are Iceland and Japan,” she says. In fact, she’s been to Iceland four times. “They have really chilly winters, which I enjoy, and I like the air – especially when there’s light snow. I find it romantic and very calming. It inspires me a lot.”
That said, you’re unlikely to find her hitting the slopes. “When I was back in Vancouver, I did snowboard a little bit – until I broke three ribs, and then I think I got this phobia,” she says. “I don’t want to go back to that mountain!”
Tickets for Ivana Wong’s upcoming Fairy Nice to Meet You concert series alongside Serrini at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on 2-4 December have now sold out. Look out for more member exclusive concerts on Cathay.