When the pandemic first made its appearance in the year, and the world stopped and went silent [as silent as it can be..], we at Mulazine decided to check in with the up-and-coming singer Charlie Lim. In under 15 questions, we have gotten to know more about him, how he’s keeping busy during this very isolating period, his work process in creating his songs, and also to talk about his upcoming single, Hummingbird featuring LinYing (featured in photos!)
HOW ARE YOU KEEPING YOURSELF BUSY WHILE BEING IN YOUR HOME DURING THIS PERIOD?
I’m a singer-songwriter/producer and I work from home most of the time anyway, so it’s nothing too unusual at the moment. If anything being forced to stay home has gotten me into a tighter routine. Not playing gigs for now just means working on more new material to put out online. Other than that I guess my wife and I have been doing a lot more cooking and just spending more time together. We’re also fostering a cat!
USING 3 WORDS, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF?
LETS TALK ABOUT MUSIC, SPECIFICALLY ABOUT YOURS. STARTING WITH: HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO MUSIC AND WHO INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE THIS?
I’ve always been performing as a kid but I guess I only found what I wanted to do as a singer-songwriter in my late teens. I just played as many shows as I could and things kinda snowballed, one opportunity led to another over time and it felt more like a calling than anything.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS IN MUSIC, AND HAVE YOU EVER PAID HOMAGE TO THEM IN YOUR MUSIC?
I grew up listening to a lot of contemporary singer-songwriters like Jeff Buckley, Damien Rice, John Mayer, Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple, etcetera… and I used to do covers and arrangements of their songs a lot when I was starting out.
IN REGARDS TO YOUR NEW SINGLE HUMMINGBIRD, YOU HAVE SAID THAT YOU WERE WORKING ON CHECK-HOOK. YOU SAID THE SONG AT THE TIME, DID NOT FIT THE BODY OF THE ALBUM. TAKE US THROUGH THE PROCESS OF HOW YOU CAME TO BIRTHING HUMMINGBIRD.
Hummingbird could’ve been a good B-side to the last album because it still kinda lives in that world sonically, but it wouldn’t play as well as part of CHECK-HOOK’s tracklisting. My initial parts were written in tandem with the production instead of doing it the more traditional way; as in writing the melody and lyrics first before producing and arranging it. It’s challenging because there are a lot of moving pieces, but it can also yield more interesting ideas that I wouldn’t normally gravitate to if I was just writing on the guitar or my producer and I sat on this track for a few months and it was a pretty tedious process, but once Linying came into the picture everything just fell into place. She sent a few ideas over and I rearranged a few things, and we got into the studio shortly after. There were quite a few decisions that we had to make on the spot, before jumping in the vocal booth to record it. I think we both mull over things a lot, so to me, those couple of sessions felt surprisingly effortless.
HOW WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH OTHER SINGERS IN YOUR SONGS LIKE LINYING, FARIZ JABBA, AND YUNG RAJA?
Collaboration has been quite liberating actually, just because I’m not stuck in my own head when working on something. Having someone else to bounce ideas off as well as having different perspectives has been pretty useful, but at the same time, it has to be the right fit. I’ve found that someone has to take the lead and prepare most of the legwork before the session, to set up the right parameters so that the featured artist can find his or her own space to do their thing.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR STYLE IN TERMS OF YOUR DRESSING UP?
I enjoy being comfortable and minimalist but not boring, I guess. I gravitate towards a lot of techwear these days; I’m a massive Errolson Hugh/Acronym fan. It’s a very IYKYK culture which I appreciate because it’s about how well something is made and designed without needing to prove anything else beyond its functionality. I really enjoy researching the crap out of clothing materials as well, it’s become a new obsession recently.
I ABSOLUTELY LOVE BLAH BLAH BLUES… HOW DID YOU COME TO WRITING SUCH A HEARTFELT SONG THAT IS BOTH CATCHY IN TERMS OF LYRICS AND IN TUNE?
Thank you. I wouldn’t consider it catchy by any means but I’m glad you think so! I kind of wrote it as a satire because I’m quite aware that I often land myself in self-pity spirals. It was fun to blend ragtime, the blues, and that sort of brass-heavy, New Orleans style together as a form of pastiche that’s kind of taking the piss of itself because it’s just so over the top, especially with the lyrical juxtaposition.
WAS THERE A MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE THAT WAS HEARTBREAKING THAT YOU PENNED IT INTO A SONG? DO TELL US MORE ABOUT THAT!
I don’t think I’ve ever written something in an emotionally reactive state. It’s impossible for me to write when I’m depressed. I think being reflective and introspective requires a certain state of calm, even if it seems melancholic.
IF YOU WEREN’T A MUSICIAN, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING NOW?
Probably journalism, or doing some sort of creative writing perhaps.
SONGWRITING IS WITHOUT A DOUBT A TOUGH PROCESS. HOW DO YOU GET INTO THAT SPACE WHERE YOU WRITE YOUR SONG? [INVOKING FEELINGS — THOUGHTS — EXPERIENCES INTO WORDS] UPON WRITING YOUR SONGS, HOW DO YOU FIND THE PERFECT BEAT FOR YOUR MUSIC?
I think there’s no fixed way around it, sometimes it comes naturally and you have to just chase threads of inspiration. Other times you have to just show up and be disciplined and set some parameters to work with. Sometimes I write the beat first and then put words after. I think most songwriters find that over-conceptualizing something, like deciding what they’re going to write about before doing it feels very contrived. More often than not we start with gibberish and let our subconscious do the work by filling in the blanks and stringing meaning together based on past experiences.
LET’S DO A BONUS ROUND! DO YOU HAVE A SECRET TALENT THAT NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT?
I can hold my breath for 3 and a half minutes?
WHAT ELSE DO YOU ENJOY BESIDES MAKING MUSIC? DO OTHER INTERESTS LIKE COOKING, READING, PHOTOGRAPHY OR SOMETHING ELSE ALTOGETHER THAT HELPS YOU ENJOY THE SMALL THINGS IN LIFE?
I really enjoy boxing (my last record was named after a boxing move), not just the fitness aspect of it but learning the art and science of the sport. I do like reading and learning more about philosophy and theology, it’s something that I’ve always liked since I was a kid. I’ve always been an overthinker.