Singer, songwriter, producer, mother and wife Joyce Lee is this weeks Glamamama. I first met Joyce when she was still living in Toronto. I, of course am a touch older than the songstress but I shan’t divulge anymore than that . I was visiting my aunt in Toronto and it must have been someone’s birthday, so friends from near and far gathered at her home for an afternoon of Mahjong, food and karaoke and for those who actually had some talent were forced to perform… I, of the least talent, tried to belt out some tunes on the Karaoke machine (probably some Whitney Houston.. since my repertoire is somewhat limited to uhmmm well the one song, “The Greatest Love of All“) and a shy young Joyce was commandeered to the piano to perform a concerto or two.
She was quiet, and she didn’t sing that day but I do remember her mother singing her praises. Since then I have had the pleasure of watching Joyce perform, and her mother was right. She has the “gift” . Her voice is that of a sirens song – pitch perfect, melodic and quite frankly, mesmerising.
Joyce is now a mother of two, with her oldest son Maxton a mere 3 years and youngest Alek at barely three months, but these two little men, oops I mean three including her husband Ted, have not stopped Joyce from continuing to pursue and conquer her passion for performance and music. In fact, before she gave birth to little Alek she already had a “post-birth” performance schedule…
So without further ado dear readers, GLAMAMAMA MONDAYS is proud to get up, close and personal with Joyce Lee
GR: At what age did you start singing? Did you or do you ever have moments that you thought “I cant do this?” If so, what made to persevere?
JL: I discovered my interest in singing around 14 years old and was discovered by a music promoter at 16. Then I came to Hong Kong and started recording my first album at 18 years old. There have definitely been times when I wanted to quit. The music industry can been very exciting and fun but on the other hand very stressful. There were a couple of times I went back to Toronto and decided to change my career. But good friends from the music industry have always been very supportive and convinced me to come back to Hong Kong. Definitely, my love for music has kept me going.
GR: How many hours do you devote to each album (from song writing, to rehearsals, to pitches to producers, to recording..)?
JL: Usually I spend at least 6 months to work on an album. Actually, I’m going to start working on a new album now. It’s going to be difficult to juggle a 3-year-old in afternoon classes and a newborn. I hope I can spend an 3-4 hours every day to work on it.
GR: How long have you been married?
JL: Four Years
GR: How did you meet your husband, Ted?
JL: Ted was invited by a friend to attend my concert in 2005. It was his first canto-pop concert
and he really enjoyed watching it. He tried to meet me then, but our paths did not cross until 2 years later. We were at a mutual friend’s company opening event. He came up to me and introduced himself. We talked about my music and he wanted to buy my CDs
. I offered to give it to him, so he invited me to have lunch at the Ritz. I mentioned that I teach singing and conveniently, he wanted to learn singing. So, he was my student for a few weeks and got to know it each other well. We got married 9 months later.
GR: Do you think working moms can have everything?
JL: I think some women can do it all.
For me, it’s all about planning my schedule well….and a great nanny. It’s up to you about how you want to balance your career and personal life, and what’s worth it to you both short- and long-term
GR: How do you strike a balance in your life, with motherhood, marriage and your career?
JL: For me, there are times when I question myself if I am spending enough time in all areas in my life. You just want to do your best.
Allocating time is challenging. Maybe it’s less about balance and more about compromise. I’m lucky that my career has a flexible time schedule. I have the freedom to choose which shows or events to attend. I think you have to be a little creative too. For example, there are times when I did concerts in Vegas, I would film videos of myself and my son, reading stories together before I left, and then I downloaded it onto his iPad
. So, when I was gone, he could easily see me when he wanted, despite the time difference.
As for my marriage, we always make time for each other. Dinners, movies or a quick foot massage is always great to share together. You have to keep in mind that he needs love and attention just like your son too…
GR: How has motherhood changed you?
JL: It has changed my life completely. My first priority is my family. Motherhood has defined the meaning of love to a new level. You automatically make compromises and sacrifices. No doubt about it.
It has made me stronger and more responsible. The challenge of every day life has made me a better problem solver. It’s very cliché, but the love for my children is stronger than any love I’ve ever known.
GR: Describe you average daily routine?
JL: My average daily routine:
7:00am Check e-mails and plan my day
8:00am Breastfeed my 3 month old baby Aleksander
10:00am Grocery shopping or playtime with Maxton
11:00am Pump milk
1:00pm Take Maxton to the school bus stop
1:15pm Exercise my voice and practice piano for my upcoming shows.
2:00pm Pump milk
3:00pm Running errands/write songs
5:00pm Pump milk
6:00pm Playtime with the kids
8:00pm Pump milk
9:00pm Time for hubby/relaxing time
GR: What motivates you in life? Are you different now than say 5 years ago?
JL: Happiness and inner peace motivates me. Creating happiness for my family or entertaining an audience brings me gratification. When I know that people around me are happy and healthy, it presents me with much inner peace. I think it was the same for me 5 years ago, but the feeling has become stronger now.
GR: You’ve just had your second child (Alek), how are your energy levels and how has life changed (about household, marriage, with Maxton…)
JL: Definitely, my energy level drains out faster now. You have to be the controller of many more different dynamics in the family. Maxton still needs time to get use to his younger brother in the house. So, I have to give him comfort and spend time with Alek. My husband Ted is very understanding when I’m tired at night or maybe not in the best of moods. But, after a good sleep, everything is good again.
GR: What other projects have you been working on?
JL: I’ve been working on a children’s music series with my girlfriend Crystal Kwok. We’ve been friends for over 15 years. We would catch up with tea and talk about highlights in our lives. During our conversations, we would talk about life, our kids and family. One day, we were talking about the growing number of English speaking families are putting great focus on having their children learn Mandarin, since China is such an important and fast growing market in the world today. We found that Mandarin is considered an important “world language” by the United States State Dept. and Dept. of Defense, both of which fund Chinese language programs at primary, secondary and graduate schools around the United States.
We talked about our frustrations of not being able to find fun educational videos that our kids can learn Mandarin from. Then we started to exchange ideas from each other and started writing lyrics for songs that we thought were fun and interesting. We realized that kids really love listening to songs that have funky music arrangements with lyrics that they can relate to and thought that would be an enjoyable and easy way to learn another language, wouldn’t it?
So,we wrote a song called “I Hate Veggies”. People would ask us why we decided to write a song about hating veggies. Well, how many kids do you know who like veggies? We as parents will do anything to get them to eat it. In our bold new rap music video, we interviewed a bunch of kids about what vegetables they liked and didn’t like. We allowed them to break carrots, snap beans, rip salad leaves and even smash tomatoes against a wall. Not only did they have fun rapping and dancing, they were able to release their aggression by means of a very fun food fight! Not only do they now recognize different types of vegetables in Mandarin, they even were pleasantly surprised at how sweet the organic carrots were, and how juicy the cherry tomatoes can be.
In the meantime Joyce is prepping for another concert November 30th-December 5th at the Hong Kong Coliseum, as a guest singer for Joseph Koo’s concert. For more information please visit www.joyceleemusic.com
All photos courtesy of JOYCE LEE