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Versatile voice

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-05 09:05

[Photo provided to China Daily]

Unlike many young singers, who rose to fame by performing reality TV shows, Yuan started out as a lead vocalist with a number of bands.

In 2007, she founded her first band, Soul Side, and in 2010, she founded her second, The Knutz.

Speaking about her band experiences, she says: "Some of the band members still perform with me. We are like family and they know my voice well. I feel comfortable with them when I perform.

"I can still recall vividly those days when we carried our musical instruments, and couldn't get a taxi in a cold Beijing. And when we only sold 12 tickets for our show."

Yuan, who was born and raised in a small town in Hunan province, didn't recognize she had a talent for singing until her roommates used to ask her to sing every night in the dormitory after the lights were out.

And while she listened to lots of music from Hong Kong and Taiwan as a teenager, she fell in love with soul and jazz when she watched a live show at a Beijing bar.

"It was the first time that I watched a live performance, which totally changed my idea about music. The American singer, named Big Mama, performed with a wireless microphone and walked through the audience downstairs and upstairs. It was so cool," says Yuan.

At 18, she started to sing at five-star hotels in Beijing and she used the name Tia Ray to introduce herself, in honor of soul legend Ray Charles.

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