Van Ness Wu of F4 fame is relaxed and 'Chill' about his new English album
Mention Van Ness Wu and images of him as Mei Zuo, his character in the Taiwanese drama series Meteor Garden (2001), may come to mind, cracking jokes and dating university students, or singing sweet ballads as a member of Taiwanese boy band F4.
But the 43-year-old Taiwanese-American actor-singer, who is based in Los Angeles, is now living a vastly different life - travelling around the world, collaborating with music legends and writing music at his own pace.
Among his hobbies are playing the guitar and golf, which he said help him "relieve stress".
Over the years, Wu has amassed a strong body of solo music - six Mandarin and two Japanese albums, and his first English album is expected to be released in the coming months.
On April 7, Wu let the media listen to three tracks from the upcoming work - Chill, It's On and Take A Ride - and shared his thoughts on the new work.
Chill, released on April 8, is a carefree summer single about dreams of a better day amid the stumbles in life.
Wu said: "It holds weight today in this social climate. Regardless of the colour of our skin, everybody should just chill out and have more grace and love for one another."
The number is a collaboration between Wu and English-German producer David Lucius King, who has written songs for Irish rock band The Script.
Wu first met King in 2018 in Britain, where Wu was filming the movie Ip Man 4: The Finale (2019). Although they were supposed to write two songs together within five days, they eventually wrote five.
Calling King a "brother", Wu said of the experience: "We did it in a way in which there wasn't any pressure. I hate giving myself pressure. It was very chill and relaxed... and he is so generous with his talent."
A similar approach has been taken for the upcoming album, it seems, which Wu has been working on for more than three years.
In preparation for the work, Wu and King held songwriting and recording sessions in different settings, from a beach house in Malibu to a home studio in London to the mountains in Kyoto, Japan.
Watching different scenery, Wu said, really helped shape the album's sound, energy and atmosphere. He said: "Creating this album is like finding my own direction as I am coming of age."
The work is expected to incorporate elements from a wide range of genres from neo soul and jazz to alternative hip-hop and funk. It is not an unexpected move, as the Los Angeles-born Wu grew up listening to a wide variety of music. His inspirations include the late musicians Michael Jackson, James Brown and Prince.
Wu has worked with a host of global megastars, such as American singers Bruno Mars and Ryan Tedder.
In 2008, he opened for American rapper Kanye West's concert in Shanghai, and in 2013, he was featured in the Mandarin version of the song Levels by the late Swedish DJ Avicii.
Asked what he hopes to achieve with his new album, Wu said: "Honestly, I do not try to look at stuff in terms of what I want to achieve. I guess I am just trying to be the best self I can be, the best form of an artiste I can be.
"Having said that, to be able to do everything that I have done, it has been such a blessing."
- Chill is available on platforms such as KKBox, Spotify and Apple Music.