Charlie Lim has had a very busy 2018. In between performing an updated version of ‘We Are Singapore’ for this year’s National Day Parade (NDP), he’s also releasing a new album, music videos and planning a launch show for the aforementioned album. The first music video, which just dropped yesterday (watch it above), is hilariously self-deprecating, poking fun of the music industry and its notions of what music videos should be. We caught up with the singer-songwriter after his Today at Apple session to talk about his new album, his insecurities and more.
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2018 has been a really big year for you, because you’ve been asked to perform the NDP theme song and on top of that you’ve got an upcoming album. Although these two projects are completely different, do you feel being patriotic influenced you to take new musical risks?
Charlie Lim (CL): If you think about it chronologically, I only started work on the NDP song in November, December, but I think in terms of outlook, after doing NDP, I’ve definitely feel more patriotic now and I’ve made a small difference to this whole thing. But in terms of how that has influenced my music making not so much I think. It’s a very different process.
On that note, in ‘Welcome Home’ you traded in your traditional folksy sound for an upbeat garage inspired tempo—what motivated you to switch your sound?
CL: I was just really bored of what I was making I suppose—I felt like I had to try something different to express I was feeling in a different way; to subvert. I just wanted to be myself. I wanted to try something different, and I really like groove and dance music [which led to this new sound].
I heard the theme of your new album is about trying to find a happy balance between chaos and control. Can you tell us more about how it became the main concept of the album?
CL: I’m an overthinker so the overall theme of this album is an ode to overthinking and overworking and just being burned out, which I think a lot of people can relate to in this day and age. A lot of it is like we’re just trying to find our purpose or meaning—for example, there’s this term called ikigai which you see all these memes on social media, where people stress about that that they’re not living to their fullest potential, and they’re always freaking out about it. I was going through that stage as well because for a while I was questioning whether or not I should do music.
Basically the album—whose title will be revealed very soon—is kind of about that experience and I suppose from quite an anxious space, so in some way the production and beats mirror that frenzied head space I was in. But it does have a happy ending: There’s some light at the end of the tunnel and basically my takeaway from all of it is that life is not fair, but it is still pretty good.
You talked about freaking out just now, what is your biggest insecurity?
CL: I think its tied to [the album concept], which is a fear of failure, but also a fear of just being mediocre. As a musician, or an artist, or a creator, you feel that the most, because like you know there’s this imposter syndrome or you think you’re a fraud all the time.
You’ve been influenced by all these things and reference all these things but then you want to find something original, and you’re not really happy with the stuff you make, and then it can take a long time till you can live with something, so that’s just what I battle with constantly.
What are your upcoming tour plans? I heard you’re going to quite a few places in the next few weeks.
CL: We leave for Penang next weekend for Georgetown Festival and then straight after that we go to Brisbane. I think we’re making a few stops in Sydney, but we’re not sure about Melbourne yet. Then after that, it’s Adelaide and then back to Japan for another festival. Then we’re going to announce a launch show, but we’re still figuring out some details, so you can stay tuned for that.
So, who do you follow on Apple Music?
CL: I really like Sampha, he released like an exclusive short film kind of thing on Apple Music. James Blake and Frank Ocean too, obviously.
And how do you think Apple Music has helped musicians in releasing their music, especially in a time like this?
CL: I think it’s a great platform. I’ve been in the ecosystem for a long time already and Apple Music, which I’m subscribed to, is so well built in with the music player. So just ease of use, convenience, it’s just great to be able to tap in and download what you want to a full library of whatever you want to listen to, this is in terms for me as a consumer.
As an artist, just being an artist and then having Apple Music in Singapore serves as a platform to get noticed, and they’ve been really kind to let us be on it, and they’re quite strict as curators, so it’s nice to be under their roster. But I think as a Singaporean artist it’s great that we have this opportunity to use this platform so that we can export our music to the rest of the world.
Charlie Lim is one of the 2018 Red Dot Heroes who will be hosting Today at Apple sessions at Apple Orchard Road. Visit the Today at Apple website for more information or to register to attend.