New Old Soul

Photography by Aimeé Han

From the new wave of emerging musicians in Singapore, one voice clearly stands out from the mastered layers of hip hop loops, pop rock riffs and Dr. Dre Beats. As all purist chefs would stake that a meal is only as fine as its produce, Charlie Lim’s vocals may just be the finest local produce yet, and coupled with no lack of geekish charm and effortless boyhood, he is nature’s best when served raw and seasoning free, from any high or low fidelity speaker near you.

Why music? Especially in Singapore when it’s not easy being a musician.

Well, it depends. When you say “easy”, do you mean financially or artistically? It’s not as unstable as some might think—I know many session musicians that not only get by doing what they do, but are able to live very comfortably so long as they’re happy playing covers or weddings 5 to 6 nights a week. On an artistic level, doing originals in English is probably the toughest battle you could pick in this particular sphere, for obvious reasons. I think I’m doing what I do partly because I have no choice. I don’t think, write or dream in any other language than English, so to try and change who I am for the sake of tapping into a bigger market wouldn’t feel right.

Tell us about the moment you chose to become a musician.

I’ve been playing music as early as I can remember, starting with the piano, then playing in bands at school and church, and then progressing to playing the guitar. I left for Melbourne after Secondary 2 and pursued my interests in writing and performing music, and I was 15 when I started toying with the idea of being a professional musician. I somehow managed to top the state for music performance, so I went for broke, dropped all my sciences, did a bunch of music and art subjects, and haven’t looked back since.

Describe your process in making music. How do you know when it is ready?

I’m a terribly slow writer, partly because I’m very meticulous and also the fact that I’m involved in every step of the process. The production and arrangement are essential in crafting a song, and that’s often overlooked by many singer-songwriters these days. I don’t have a producer, so it’s often quite a trying process. Being a perfectionist, I don’t think anything I make will ever be “ready” in a sense where I’m a 100% happy with it, so it’s more about being realistic and being able to live with it. Deadlines are probably a good thing.

Read more in The U Press N˚10 (Singapore edition).