Wanting Qu moved to Canada from China as a teenager in order to improve her English and attend school. Although she stuck to the plan for the first few years, by 2005 she was focusing most of her attention on writing and performing songs on piano, while sidestepping parental pressure to pursue a career in business.
During the summer of 2009, Qu took some music courses at UBC and was in the process of applying for a full-time program when something big happened: Terry McBride contacted her. McBride is CEO of the Nettwerk Music Group, which has managed artists such as Sarah McLachlan, Dido, and Coldplay, and Qu had sent him a demo of her music. Soon after meeting her, McBride signed Qu to the label. Since that pivotal summer, Qu, who sings in English and Mandarin, has become a platinum-plated superstar in Asia with millions of fans. (This has not gone unnoticed by Tourism Vancouver, which appointed her Vancouver’s first tourism ambassador to China in 2013.)
With her home base in Vancouver, Qu has been leading a dual life: superstardom in Asia and relative obscurity in North America. Determined to crack the market here, she has released an English‑language album and last year went on tour at venues across North America. You can watch how her career unfolds by following her on social media:
What is your most prized possession?
My life experiences. They are something nobody else has and they teach me how to become a better person.
Who was your childhood hero?
My mother. She is a hard worker and has given me the best life I can have, no matter what struggles she went through to do it.
Describe the place you most like to spend time.
Singer-songwriters need alone time. I like spending time in my home to think, reflect and write songs. If you’d asked me three years ago, I’d have said Hawaii, because I love warmth, nature and swimming with turtles.
What was the last thing you read?
The Consequences – a book I bought when stuck at the airport because of the cover image. I spend a lot of time on planes and so have usually seen all the movies.
What or who makes you laugh out loud?
What’s the most important lesson you ever learned?
That everything happens for a reason. If you expect something to happen and it doesn’t, just be patient and know there is a reason. You won’t know what it is immediately, but you’ll know eventually.
What’s your idea of the perfect day?
It would start after a really good sleep. It has to be sunny and warm and I’d have to be near the oceans or mountains – close to nature. I would spend it surrounded by love.
What was your nickname at school?
Chili pepper. I was feisty and would always think I was right. Now I’m nicer and more diplomatic.
What would be the title of your biography?
The Things You Don’t Know about Wanting Or: Life is Like a Movie
What item have you owned for the longest time?
I came to Canada from China when I was 16. I still have a traditional Chinese dress from my childhood and a lot of photos.
What is your latest purchase?
Recording software for a friend.
Whom do you most admire (living or dead) and why?
I admire Amy Winehouse – not because of her personal lifestyle, but because she was so real and so vulnerable. She didn’t sugarcoat anything. I find her honesty brave and rare. It touched a lot of people.
What would you like your epitaph to say?
“She lives on through her music.”
If you could invent something, what would it be?
A potion that makes someone understand how others feel and think. If everybody understood each other there would be more harmony in the world.
In which era would you most like to have lived, and why?
What are you afraid of?
Name the skill or talent you would most like to have.
I wish I could do my own accounting and I wish I could speak more languages.
Which three pieces of music would you take to that desert island?
Coldplay: “Fix You” ; Amy Winehouse: “Our Day Will Come” ; and anything from the movie soundtrack by Hans Zimmer for The Holiday
Which famous person (living or dead) do you think (or have you been told) you most resemble?
My friends in Asia say I look like the writer Sanmao. My younger fans say my music style reminds them of Taylor Swift.
What is your pet peeve?
Stupid and slow computers that don’t do what they’re told.
What are some of your UBC highlights?
I took a Balinese music course in the summer of 2009. I had to learn to play a Balinese instrument and all the different rhythms, and the teacher was awesome. The campus is beautiful, but the music school is too far away from the SUB. Sometimes there wouldn’t be time to get there and back for lunch!