Have you met Charlie Lim?
Some of you may know him as the soulful crooner who performed at the 28th SEA Games earlier this year, but he’s, in fact, accomplished so much more.
One of Singapore’s most prominent singer-songwriters, Charlie has headlined some of the region’s biggest festivals such as Clockenflap, Urbanscapes, Jarasum Jazz Festival, and The Gathering, performing alongside international artists like Kimbra, Sigur Rós, and Snarky Puppy. He’s also performed at SingJazz since the its inaugural launch in 2014, and we’re ecstatic to hear that he’ll be back again next year.
If you’ve been to any of his live shows, you’ll know that the Charlie Lim experience is best enjoyed in the person – be it as a solo act, with his super-band The Mothership, or with other musician friends.
We chat with Charlie about SingJazz, his current musical projects, what he does when he’s not performing, and what he’s listening to right now.
Hi Charlie, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! What do you think of the lineup for SingJazz next year?
It’s great. The three different days cater to a wide audience, but at the same time they are definitely very jazz-influenced, so there’s something for everybody.
Will there be more local bands, besides yours?
There’s definitely going to be more local bands, especially on the satellite stages, but it just hasn’t been announced. Singapore has a couple of jazz-fusion bands, like TAJ and The Steve Mcqueens.
Which act are you looking forward to seeing the most?
Hiatus Kaiyote, for sure. I love their sound.
They’re from Melbourne right? Have you ever met them?
I haven’t, actually. It’s very strange because when I was in Melbourne, I was always one degree away from them. My mix mastering engineer did their album, so I’ve basically been to their house, the studio home where they rehearse, but I haven’t met them because they were on tour. I know their backup singer who’s also their producer, but not the actual band. And, I think my best friend’s wife used to go out with their keyboardist, so yeah, it’s weird.
What’s the biggest challenge about being a musician in Singapore?
I think the problem with Singapore is the size of our market. It’s very default. We hit a ceiling very quickly, so stages like SingJazz and other international festivals that feature local acts, those are great platforms to have that exchange, to put local acts on the same level as international artists. That’s probably very helpful, but even then we still need to find more ways to export our music.
How do you do it then? Export your music.
The internet is great and all, but at the same time you have to be really good at networking. I’m a terrible hustler and I hate networking, so having a good team is very important laughs. Many people don’t realise this, but talent is actually a very small part of the equation in getting your music out there.
What are some of the underrated local bands that deserve more attention?
Wow, there are so many. There are a couple of new singer-songwriters coming up like Jaime Wong, Jon Chan who goes by the name of JAWN, Theodora who’s amazing, and there’s Linying. She’s great and she’s been featured on a few EDM tracks. They’re all young singer-songwriters in their early 20s, and very artistic with a good sense of visual aesthetics as well – the way they market themselves. They already have a strong sense of what their music represents. I just recently heard of the young hip-hop crew Mediocre Haircut Crew, who are kind of like the Odd Future of Singapore. And then there’s The Steve Mcqueens, who has played for SingJazz. Singapore really needs to pay attention to a band like them.
What about your own sound? What are you going for after Time/Space?
I don’t know yet. I think I’d like to go back into more groove-based music, a huge love of mine. I’m very inspired by not just jazz, but R&B, neo-soul, and a bit of hip hop as well. I love making beats. I’m always writing, but Time/Space was this entirely drawn-out process that took three years of writing, and everyone was talking about it. So I just want to keep my next one under wraps.
That three years was worth the time though. It was really well received.
Yeah, I mean… luckily. It could have gone really badly, but the most important thing was that I was happy with it.
I was at your Powder Room gig with Dru and ET, and congrats on your first drum gig! I’m sure many people didn’t know you could play the drums. What’s the plan with that, and the trio?
I actually still don’t know how to hold the drumsticks properly. I learnt by just watching Wen, my drummer, who gave me some tips here and there… I’m too embarrassed to ask. Although, the performance wasn’t as nerve-wrecking as I thought it would be, and I hope we continue with that – if I’m not fired by them first!
What else are you passionate about besides writing and performing music?
I love other stuff about the music business that’s got nothing to do with me. I’ve been working with BandWagon, helping their operations, overseeing the editorial side, and sort of giving them a general direction to see how we can expand. We’re trying to attract more local and regional musicians and artists, and attempting to create a better eco-system in Singapore.
That’s quite a lot of things going on. How do you keep yourself from burning out?
Sleep? I used to play computer games a lot but I realised how much effort and energy it takes to be good these days. Last night, I was playing around in Counter Strike with some musician friends, and I’m just so bad at it now. It takes a lot of work.
Last one for our readers. What’s on your playlist right now?
So I’ve been listening a lot to The Ink Spots, who’re the soundtrack for Fallout, the game. They’re this really old 1930s, 1940s jazz vocal group that are very bluesy with a bit of rock and roll. A lot of their songs sound the same, especially with the chord progressions. I just love that sound, that kind of nostalgia.
Catch Charlie Lim in action as SingJazz returns for its third year at the Marina Bay Sands. Expect three days of jazz-fusion and jazz-inspired music from world-renowed acts such Melbourne’s Hiatus Kaiyote, the amazing Buena Vista Social Club, and electronic label Darker Than Wax against the vibrant backdrop of the bay. Do grab your early bird tickets while they’re still available!
Singapore International Jazz Festival 2016 is happening from 4 March to 6 March 2016 at the Marina Bay Sands Event Plaza. Tickets are available at Event Clique and through Marina Bay Sands. For enquiries, please call 6688 8826.