Every first and third Wednesday of the month, Yahoo! MusicScene shines the spotlight on talented, up-and-coming Singaporean bands or musicians. This week, we catch up with singer-songwriter Inch Chua, who is small in size, but big in vocal and musical talent.
Putting her money where her mouth is, the diminutive siren has all three of her albums — 2 EPs and 1 full-length one titled Wallflower — listed on her website, www.inchchua.com as free downloads.
"I believe music is meant to be shared. The only thing that should cost is the production and, since it's such a normal thing for me, I don't see why I should be paid for it," she explained.
"In the current context of society, it doesn't make any more sense to make CDs. For every 10 CDs bought online, there's probably another 10,000 free versions downloaded — legally or illegally.
Chua explained to Yahoo! Singapore that musicians these days don't rely on albums sales as their main source of income.
In her words, "over 80 per cent of the profits from big-name musicians come from live shows and merchandising" — a revenue model she fully subscribes to.
She herself gets by every month by doing live gigs, both locally and abroad, as well as corporate gigs. Occasionally, she indulges herself by playing a small, intimate indie gig, which is where her roots lie.
"I wouldn't say I'm living in luxury, but I'm getting by and enjoying every moment. And I'm more than happy to do what I'm doing," said Chua, who turns 22 next Wednesday.
Not bad for a musician who picked up her first guitar two-and-a-half years back and who only started seriously performing less than five years ago.
Describing her music as "self-indulgent" and a "synergy of emotions, which is more personal", her musical influences — which range from early pop classics, oldies and jazz to alternative rock — manifest themselves in everything from introspective acoustic indie tunes to upbeat electronica.
"I think talent's overrated. Like all things in life, it's a lot more hard work," said the talented composer and multi-instrumentalist, who taught herself to play the keyboard and produces all her songs herself, including her creative videos on YouTube.
While some musicians sing cover version of hit songs on the local club circuit to make a name for themselves, Chua has decided to take the much more harder route of performing only original songs.
"I always do originals. If I were to play a cover, it's a cover I feel like playing and I don't take requests. No disrespect to cover bands, but I don't feel any accomplishment doing covers. It's just not the route for me," said Chua.
Currently pursuing a solo career due to her band Allura's hiatus due to the time commitments of her bandmates (some are serving National Service), she candidly lamented that performing alone can get rather boring.
But the organisers of the famed South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Texas — a massive gig that features over 2,000 performers over a four-day period in March — found her music anything but boring as she became the first solo Singapore artiste to ever be invited to perform.
"I felt like a fish out of the water. Being a musician in Singapore, sometimes you feel like you're the only fish in the sea, but when you get there, it's so overwhelming. I could have thrown a rock and it would have most definitely hit a musician," said the former LASALLE College of the Arts student, who let her studies take a backseat in order to make it down for the music festival.
Surprisingly, she said that the experience at SXSW in March this year was not the highlight of her career.
"A week after getting back from SXSW, I flew out to Beijing and was doing the Midi Music Festival and I thought that concert experience was way better than SXSW. The Chinese were just so on fire for music," she said in awe.
Performing overseas is something that Chua would recommend for serious musicians, as it would "really open their eyes to different musical cultures".
She said there is just so much to learn.
"You get to interact with other musicians to see the culture and see what's lacking in Singapore and also what we have that might be lacking in theirs," said Chua, who took a self-funded music tour around the Philippines in October.Inch Chua plays down her talent in learning to play the guitar in such a short period of time.
She also shared that the current state of the local music scene in Singapore worries her due to the low number of releases for 2010, which she says, is a good indication on how healthy the scene is.
"I would like to see more bands come up, and more female musicians, as the scene is very male-dominated," she said.
Her love for local music is so strong that if she were not a full-time musician, she said she'd be keen to work in the media industry to help push local music and to pave the way for other aspiring musicians to succeed.
As it stands, she recognises that making it big as a local musician is a huge struggle, with many obstacles from a lack of family support to a lack of fan support.
"It's hard to achieve recognition in Singapore. Maybe it's an Asian or Singapore thing. We're all really stingy with compliments, even my mum. All these little things make it hard to keep afloat as a musician," she said.
Fortunately for Chua, her mother thoroughly supports her music, even if it was difficult to convince her initially.
"I was persistent for my mum to change her mind, and she eventually did when she saw the results. Now, she turns up for almost all my gigs even though I told her not to come as she's seen me thousands of times," she laughed.
Currently on a sabbatical for November and December, Chua is set to appear in a local television drama come January.
She will then be heading to the United States in January for three weeks, a trip which will include a performing gig at The Hotel Café in Los Angeles, which has played host to rocker John Mayer and Katy Perry before.
A multi-hyphenate musician who truly sticks to her guns and beliefs, this singer is prepared to inch her way to success.
This blog post originally appeared on Fit To Post, the blogs section of Yahoo! Singapore News . In early 2011, Yahoo! upgraded our News platform across Southeast Asia. As part of this upgrade, we preserved all historical posts on Fit to Post. Unfortunately, due to technical reasons, we were not able to preserve the comments attached to these posts. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. If you'd like to find out more about this issue, please click here.