"Is it all about money? Is it all about fame? Is it all about cars & houses & everything? Nuh-uh... that's not it y'all... it's more than that..."
These are the words Debbie Klongtruadroke speaks in English to the intro of her 2004 Thai-language R&B jam “Mak Kwa Nan (More Than That)” As her love and talent for music has proven, Debbie Klongtruadroke is indeed more than that. Just take a listen to any one of the three records released so far—each performed in a different language—and... you’ll get the picture. With a youthful and daring approach to her musical sound, Debbie doesn’t want to just push the boundaries of contemporary Christian music today. She also wants you to know God is good and has changed her life for the better. Her ministry is her passion just as much as music is… and that makes Debbie one of contemporary Christian music’s most interesting young emerging talents who critics and audiences should be on the lookout for.
Born in Cosenza, Italy in 1978, Debbie Klongtruadroke had always been immersed in the arts. Coming from a multi-talented family adept, fascinated by and deeply involved in aesthetics, architecture, cinema, literature, music, poetry, song, theatre and dance, it's no surprise Debbie has evolved into the artist she is today—a powerhouse vocalist who brings forth deep meaning and feeling to her music by taking an active and participatory role in the evolution of her art.
Debbie's exotic features stem from her mixed Thai and Italian heritage, and after relocating from Italy to Bangkok, Thailand at age 11, it was not long until those exotic features caught the attention of the top local modeling agencies and casting directors. By the time Debbie had graduated High School, she already was a veteran model, feature-film actress, and a television presenter. However, Debbie's foremost artistic passion was always and is always music, and after enrolling in Bangkok's Domata Bible School where she further nurtured her Christian faith to eventually become a gifted worship leader at the local church, Debbie set her sights on a recording career that would signify her continued dedication to her true loves and be a genuine expression of her dedication to her faith, her love for God, and on a personal level, what being a Christian truly means to Debbie.
In collaboration with songwriters/producers PJ & Yam Hudson of White Lotus Worship Music/Grace Music, Debbie released her eponymous Thai-language debut album in 2004. Album highlights "Mak Kwa Nan (More Than That)", "Your Blood" and "Rain Down" were songs that testified to Debbie's enduring faith and positive outlooks on modern Christian life, as well as Debbie’s prowess as a vocalist and burgeoning songwriter. Blessed with a versatile voice and range that allows her to pull off full-on belts as efficiently as gentle, vulnerable whispers, Debbie has always found much enjoyment in the art of layering vocals, finding harmonies, and being lost in the purity of that moment of true unabashed singing, adlibbing and riffing to the music. Debbie has always held deep admiration for great voices. Be they legendary icons or some of today’s chart-topping vocal stars, voices have continually aided Debbie in molding her own unique style. Her debut album "Debbie" showcases those distinctive vocal stylings and her uncanny ability to not only perform fluently in Thai, but in English as well. However, ever the adventurous spirit, Debbie was eager to expand her sound and test new waters.
In late 2004, a writing session with elder sister Monique Klongtruadroke and Italian producer Bruno Brugnano bore fruit to “Immaginando (Imagining)", a groovy Italian-language pop song that takes its listeners back in time to crucial events in Jerusalem during Christ’s time. The song bagged the grand prize of the 2004 Sabaoth Festival held in Milan, Italy, for Best Original Song, and its success subsequently led to 2006’s "Angolo di Cuore (Corner of the Heart)”, Debbie's second album but first-ever Italian-language full-length LP. "Angolo di Cuore" and its intentional variety of styles was an opportunity for Debbie to explore her love of and interest in various genres of music. Strategically sequenced, "Angolo di Cuore" flows effortlessly from Latin Pop, Adult Contemporary, R&B, Soul, 80s Synth Pop, Reggae, Chillhouse and Bossa Nova with certain songs containing hints of Reggaeton, tinges of Hip-Hop and even ethnic Oriental music. "Angolo di Cuore" is also Debbie's first undertaking as an executive producer, and with the bulk of the album co-penned by Debbie with mother, Iolanda Lorrichio and Thai/Filipino singer/songwriter Mike Agana Sawatsewi, Debbie nurtured her skills as a songwriter and producer all the while keeping the process a “family affair”. The highlights of “Angolo di Cuore” include, of course, "Immaginando" and "Stupirmi Ancora Di Te (In Amazement of You)", and in expression of her multi-ethnicity, the collection also features two standout non-Italian tracks. "Rak Raek (First Love)", another White Lotus Worship Music composition, is a tribute to Debbie's Thai heritage. "If The Spirit Moves You", a duet written by and performed with Mike Agana Sawatsewi, yet again shows off Debbie's ability to also perform effectively in English. Able to make smooth transitions from performing in Thai to Italian to English, it was inevitable that Debbie would record her very own and first international English album.
After signing to North Records, late 2006 saw the release of Debbie’s first full-length English LP (her third, overall) which was--appropriately--entitled “Crossover” and executive produced by label head Stuart Bennett. Re-teaming with “Immaginando” co-writer and producer Bruno Brugnano (one of Thailand’s most successful and prolific producers and arguably the nation’s top foreign producer), as well as "Angolo di Cuore" collaborator Mike Agana Sawatsewi, Debbie has crafted an album that admirably expresses her continued commitment to praise, worship, and evangelism and also continues to push the boundaries of modern Christian pop music by incorporating even more traditional Asian sounds and elements to her Western pop influences. As with “Angolo di Cuore”, “Crossover” sees Debbie once again delving into a variety of musical styles—some, uncharted territory—but again succeeding in delivering winning, melodic, intimate and poignant songs—the perfect backdrop to the beauty, power, and range of her rich mezzo-soprano. From the rock guitars and Indian sitars of first single and opening track “Surrender” to the epic orchestral outro of album closer “Open Door”, “Crossover” is an album full of highlights. Power-ballad “All This (For Me)” is an emotional recount of the Passion. “Like Jesus To Us” brings an innovative fusion of Oriental music and Electronica to a straight-up Gospel track, while the Blues/Funk jam “Ablaze”, the jazzy “By The Way”, the rock-country tinged “One Thing” and the ethnic rock anthem title track continue to truthfully, as always, express Debbie’s unabashed and joyful "love for lovin’" God. However, “Crossover” also takes listeners to various other perspectives of Christian life. For instance, the quiet, acoustic ballad “So Beautiful” sees Debbie singing from the perspective of a saint’s last moments of life, choosing to ignore the sorrows of death, and instead celebrating and emphasizing the joy of reuniting with Christ. True to form in re-invention and meshing her soulful vocal sensibilities with song arrangements in uncharted musical territory, Debbie’s 2004 Sabaoth Festival entry winner “Immaginando”, adapted into English for the album “Crossover” as “Imagination”, sees producer Bruno Brugnano giving the funky dance track a Caribbean-lite makeover. Fueled and inspired by the song’s new, rhythmic and lilting Latin groove, Debbie eventually went on to record “Immaginando” in yet another adaptation: Spanish, hence "Imaginacion".
A last minute addition to “Crossover” as a bonus track, “Imaginacion” has already triggered interest in adapting other “Crossover” highlights into Spanish, and there are even hints of a possible full-length Spanish record. Despite her full-on commitments to her own "Life in Christ" ministry and responsibilities as co-host of Thai nationwide Christian television program “Jak Chai Tueng Chai (From Heart To Heart)” (the Thai equivalent of popular US Christian show “The 700 Club”), Debbie has already successfully managed to amass a portfolio of songs performed in four different languages. This uncanny ability to express herself eloquently in each language and reach out to fellow Christians of varying cultures is proof of her unwavering dedication to her ministry through her music. Steadfast dedication and devotion to the Word of God and the message of Christ is evident in her lyrics and is a true representation of who Debbie is as a person and as a Christian, just as much as her continuing desire and interest to explore and fuse the many forms and guises of modern pop music with multi-ethnic flavors is a true representation of who Debbie is as an artist and musician.
Whatever the upcoming years hold in store for Debbie… whether she records an original Spanish record next or a follow-up English, Italian or Thai album, one thing is certain; the future is bright for this young Christian singer/songwriter. The journey God has set her on is only beginning. Her artistry truly is not about the money, not about the fame, cars and houses, and everything… as the heart and soul and inventiveness of her songs and versatile vocals have proven, Debbie is truly much more than that.