Celestine Liu is one of those artists who can do pretty much anything and everything — and do it all well. On her new debut EP Liunique, the rising mezzo-soprano singer-songwriter casually, capably and confidently moves between pop, jazz, classical and more, effectively showcasing her expressive and impressive musical and vocal skill sets. And to show she’s a good sport to boot, she even sat down and answered my dumb questions. Is there nothing she can’t do? Read on and find out:
Introduce yourself: Name, age (feel free to lie), home base and any other details you’d care to share — height / weight / identifying marks / astrology sign / your choice.
Hi Tinnitist fans! I’m Celestine Liu. I’m 29 years old now and I’m originally from Liaoning, China. My astrology sign is Taurus♉ !
What is your musical origin story?
My grandmother used to be a vocal teacher and my mom is very good at singing, so I began singing from a very young age. I remember performing on stage for the first time when I was three and participating in many singing competitions and winning many awards during my childhood. I was considered talented in music and promising to become a star in the future by my peers. As my passion for music grew, I started receiving professional music training since junior high school. In college, I studied Chinese folk singing, composing, and playing the piano for four years, after which I came to the U.S. for my master’s degree in vocal performance.
What’s your latest project?
I recently released my new album Liunique. The name of the album is a combination of my last name “Liu” and the word “unique”. I’ve always wanted to make an album that incorporates many musical styles, therefore I wrote five songs in various genres for this album: Indie-pop, jazz, EDM (Moombahton), classical, and so on. The five tracks in this album are:
(1) Dance to the Rhythm is a cheerful song that is aimed to lift people’s spirits with a bright melody and upbeat vibe. I want the listeners to feel they are in a tropical forest and breathing the fresh air. Everyone should forget their worries and simply dance to the rhythm;
(2) Boba Tea is a sweet and charming jazz song, which has an appealing piano line and a catchy hook. In this song, I portrayed a drowsy and sexy lady who is deeply in love and trying to express her love fervently;
(3) Gut Feeling is a laid-back love song. It tells a story that a girl who realizes that her Mr. Right has finally arrived for her. With the melodic keys, steady percussion and emotive vocal color, I want to express a refreshing and free feeling of love;
(4) The Gentle Wind is a classical song. I sang it in a mezzo soprano voice with the original Italian bel canto techniques. In this song, I try to express love, peacefulness and joyfulness from deep within as the feeling of a spring breeze;
(5) Glitter is a pop song with EDM elements incorporated. It has a rhythmic beat and several stylistic layering of harmonized backing vocals. I composed this song in order to encourage people who suffer from depression and sorrow during the pandemic and hoped to help them regain the hope for life.
What truly sets you apart from other artists?
I have a strong background in classical music so I really understand the fundamental principles of composing. I have learned the most advanced vocal techniques so that I can sing very well in a variety of styles. I also have a broad interest in many different music genres so it is really easy for me to take elements from different music and combine them into my own works.
How will my life improve by listening to your music?
I’ve always been trying to deliver happiness, courage and hope in my music to my listeners. If you listen to my songs Dance to the Rhythm and Glitter, I’m sure that you will be motivated and cheered up even if you are feeling sad right now.
Tell us about the first song you wrote and / or the first gig you played.
I wrote my first song A Bird with Memory in junior high school. The song tells a story that a girl of a couple becomes a bird. She tries to remind her lover of their love but her efforts are all in vain. I sang this song to my classmates and they were all deeply touched by the lyrics and melody and became my fans. From then I gained a sense of accomplishment and started to compose songs by myself and perform them to others.
What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you have given?
The most memorable performance I have given was when I starred as Brigida in my first opera Li Sposi Per Accidente in graduate school. It was my first time performing western opera on stage and it took me several months to prepare. I had difficulties in understanding and memorizing the lyrics but I eventually overcame all of them, so I was really proud of myself.
What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you’ve seen?
The strangest performance I’ve ever seen was performed by an American avant-garde composer and guitarist named Glenn Branca. He used like 100 guitars at the same time and created huge dissonant sounds for a long time. I had to admit that I could not appreciate his work.
What living or dead artists would you like to collaborate with?
I would like to collaborate with Jay Chou, who is my all-time favorite musical artist.
What artist or style of music do you love that would surprise people?
Electronic dance music — as I’m a professionally trained mezzo soprano, people around expect that I would love classical music.
What words do you hope people use when they describe you?
Bright, strong, reasonable.
What useful (or useless) skills do you have outside of music?
Dancing, emceeing, performing comedy, and cooking.
What’s your idea of perfect happiness / total misery?
I think perfect happiness is when you experience a lot of challenges and setbacks in life, you bravely face and overcome them, and eventually you become a better version of yourself. Then you can truly experience the happiness that life brings you.
If money was no object, where would you live?
I would live a mobile life in an advanced cruise ship and travel around the world.
What would the title of your autobiography be?
Celestine Liu and Her Unique Music Journey.
What’s your motto?
Live each day to the fullest, don’t leave regrets, and be grateful for each day you have.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would like to become taller so that I will look stronger.
What’s the best and / or worst advice you were ever given?
Don’t procrastinate on hard things; break them into small pieces and finish them one by one.
If you had one day to spend as you please without any consequences, what would you do?
I would explore tasty food around the world without worrying about gaining weight!
What was your favorite class in school and why?
My favorite class in school was the PE class as I really enjoyed doing sports with others. I was pretty good at table tennis, and I still am now:)
What world record would you like to break?
I want to let my audience break “the fastest smile while listening to a song” world record for my songs!