HONG KONG — Fans know her as the sweet schoolgirl in the 2011 blockbuster "You Are the Apple of My Eye." Now, they can take a closer look at Michelle Chen through her first love: music.
After she graduated from the University of Southern California and returned home to Taiwan, her initial attempts to break into the island's music scene hit a brick wall. But trying acting at the advice of a talent manager, she landed a few film and television roles, then shot to stardom with "You Are the Apple of My Eye."
The 29-year-old actress said she poured her heart and soul into her first studio album, "Me Myself and I."
"It is really an album about me because I wrote most of the songs. I wrote the lyrics. And I wrote this album about my family and friends, my . maybe lovers," Chen told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
One song is written to her fans, and she says "I think the audience can really, really get to know who Michelle Chen is through the album."
Crediting the late Mandarin pop legend Teresa Teng as one of her major musical influences, Chen said she wrote one of the songs on the album as a tribute to Teng and also to a close family member who introduced her to Teng's music.
"Uncle Grandpa's Small City Story" is a tribute to the first pop song Chen listened to, Teng's "Small Town Story,'" because it was a favorite of Chen's great-uncle.
Chen sang part of "Small City Story" on her own song and says she was amazed while studying Teng's live performances.
"When I was trying how to sing that song, you will realize how much detail that she put into the song, like maybe in one sentence with three words, she has to make three different turns (vibrato three of four times)," Chen said. "No wonder she is like the diva of the century."
Some fans who were holding their breath to see how Chen would follow up her success on "You Are the Apple of My Eye" were surprised that she chose to switch gears and start fresh in music. Chen finds that both a burden and a blessing.
"It's very lucky because now people kind of know me already, so I get to have the chance to release my album and a lot of people will pay more attention to my album," she said.
But with every performance, "people seem to magnify everything I do." She said she hopes to look for the bright side. "I just hope that every time I try to sing, more people will hear that I can do it."
She's performing in China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia to promote the album.