Palmy's passion for perfection
Back from a hiatus, the pop singer went through a lot of pain to record her new album
One of Thailand's hottest pop stars in the early 2000s, Palmy has been on a break from the rigours of the recording studio for the last five years. Now she's back and she's showing her passion for the sounds of the '60s and '70s with a new album called "Five".
"I may not have made a solo album for five years but I've only really been away from the music scene for three, as during the first two years I was on stage and I also worked with T-Bone," says the singer, who turned 30 in August. "I needed some down time. I was getting bored with what I was doing. The first year, I didn't even want to listen to music," she says.
"When I started thinking about recording again, I was determined that my fourth album would be acoustic style, rather like an unplugged concert. I didn't want to have to follow the norm and record a quick-tempo song as the first cut. But then I changed my mind. I was worried that fans would feel drowsy if they had to listen to the same acoustic sound," she says over tea at the Muangthai Rachadalai Theatre's restaurant.
"Five" opens with "Khid Mak" ("Think A Lot"), a number she calls pop Motown but also brings to mind the rhythms of "Rehab" by the late English singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse.
"I loved her music; Duffy's too," admits Palmy with a smile. "At the end of last year, I was looking for a producer and found Phi Kor [Groove Riders' Nathaphol Srichomkhwan]. I needed someone to arrange and lead the overall direction of this album in line with the sound of the 1960s. The song isn't really Motown, of course, but it does combine '60's harmonies with my Thai-style melody. I love it."
For "Rock Star Syndrome", a fast-tempo number that wouldn't be amiss on her previous albums, Palmy worked with Y Not 7 bassist Rungroj "Golf" Pholwa, as well as fellow songwriter and singer Apiwat "Stamp" Eurthavornsuk.
"Sure, it's a great marketing tool but there again, I'm not worried about album sales. I still think that all acoustic songs would be too depressing. I was horrified at one concert when fans got all sad while singing 'Rong Hai Ngai Ngai'."
Palmy recalls how at one point during the recording process, she lost heart and was ready to all it a day. "I was worried and stressed out. Then, while I was in the kitchen I noticed a butterfly with a badly torn wing. It was like that little creature was telling me that it could still fly in spite of its damaged wing."
Not only did Palmy return to work but the butterfly also developed into a song, with music written by Apichai "Lek" tragoolpadetgrai, aka Greasy Cafe.
Even though her contract with music giant GMM Grammy had expired, Palmy had no hesitation in presenting the record label with an album that wasn't merely complete but for which she had paid for entirely out of her own pocket.
"I don't like anybody putting pressure upon me. I have my own vision. I'm not alone in writing entire songs but I do my own homework. I love singing and I live for music. Where I have problems is in communicating with other people.
"I own my work and dedicate all my energy to it. In the past, I've had to work with someone who didn't recognise its worth, which caused me pain and also made the whole process so exhausting. This time, I've done everything from the sound and content, to the music video, album cover and costumes.
"These days, I understand better how to communicate. Timing is important. I learn when to talk and when not do. I used to wake studio people up at midnight or 2am to work with me."
Yet for all her confidence, the Thai-Belgian singer born Eve Pancharoen remains an intensely private person, a point she gets across in the songs "Phuen Thi Suan Tua" ("Private Space"), "Khor Pai Khon Diew" ("Leave Me Alone"), and "Klua" ("Fear").
"My friends know that I prefer having my private space for a month or more before I hit the town with them. I can't hang out at parties every day," she says.
She's also trying to get more involved by logging onto Facebook.
"I was communicating with friends through Hotmail before but I certainly wasn't used to uploading pictures or telling people what I'd had for a meal. Even now, I talk on Facebook to friends not to people I don't know. But I was touched when a fan asked me if I was tired," says the singer, who has more than 70,000 fans.
"I'm also not really using the social networks to promote my album single by single. I would prefer that people listened to the entire album and not take it as single numbers."
But it's statements like that, as well as the rigorous way of making the album that has her critics calling her an artiste and a perfectionist.
"I don't want to be defined, whether it's as an artiste, a perfectionist, or even a hippie. I know who I am," she says. "Though I guess I'd take 'perfectionist' as a compliment."
Give her a hand
_ Palmy's concert "Ka...Ka...Ka" takes place at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani on January 28 and 29 at 7pm.
_ Tickets cost Bt500 to Bt3,000. Call (02) 262 3456 or see www.ThaiTicketMajor.com.