Stepping into new territory is always a daunting task. With all its uncertainties and instability, most would prefer the safety of one’s comfort zone. However, inch is welcoming change and reinvention with open arms. As a longtime music princess of Singapore’s scene, Inch Chua has gone through different versions of herself with the passing stages of her life, and she is now ready to reintroduce her music to the world after some time away.
Over the years, Inch has gone on to make a name for herself as a gifted and insightful artist across multiple platforms. Notably, in 2019, she staged Til The End Of The World, We’ll Meet In No Man’s Land, a one-woman binaural play about climate change inspired by her trip to Antarctica the year prior.
As she gears up for her upcoming album, we spoke to Inch about its first track, ‘do i, do i’, her hiatus, and her decision to make this project a bilingual one.
You’ve been an active member of the Singapore music and arts scene for years, but for people who are hearing about you for the first time, please introduce yourself and tell us more about what you do.
I’m a singer-songwriter, musician and artist. I generally identify myself as a multi-disciplinary artist, so I sometimes bounce around making music, working in theatre, as well as producing art in a variety of different forms.
You took a short break prior to the release of ‘do i, do i’. Care to share with us what you’ve been up to during your time away, and how you’ve been coping with the pandemic?
It’s one of those things where I don’t think I stopped being a musician, but, I guess in terms of releasing new music, it’s been a while. Since 2018, I was actually working on my one-woman show, Til The End Of The World, We’ll Meet In No Man’s Land, which is a multi-sensory, binaural play that was staged in 2019. So, I was kind of busy writing the script, conceptualising and putting on the show.
When that was done, we were lucky enough to have a good run of the show – we even restaged it at the Art Science Museum, and we were slated to tour in 2020, but voila! None of it happened! [Laughs]
So, 2020 was a nice reprioritisation of what’s important and what’s not. The number one question I kept asking myself was: Is what I do as an artist essential in the context of the pandemic?
It’s very strange, but I’ve just been staying still and just observing the world. One thing that I’ve observed in 2020 is that the pandemic in itself has been a really great catalyst for failing systems. If an industry is not working or a system is failing, it just applies a very quick, swift death. Which is good and bad, I think. It’s bad obviously because the sudden change disrupts many people’s lives, however, it’s one of those challenges that gives you a good, hard look at your industry if it’s not working in any way.
I was a little hesitant on doing music again for a while because I kept asking myself where the state of music is these days, and where is the music industry even at. It’s very clear to me that artists, other than doing live shows, we don’t really have any real avenue of interest, people are not willing to part with their money to support an artist in so many ways. So, it’s a bit painful to realise, for me at least, that there’s been a real shift in value on what artists bring or what the general public perceives artists to be.
Coming back to music, I was pondering whether I should or if I even want to. But, on a personal note, it’s always been a way for me to wrestle with myself and to understand tough issues. So, 2020 has allowed me to rediscover what’s important, which is, for me, a sense of childlikeness. There’s a quote that I really like, “Reinvention is the purest form of hope”, so I always feel like maybe I should just go back and figure out how to reinvent what I know about myself.
‘do i, do i’, the first track from your upcoming project, has been out for a little over a month, how did it feel when it was first unveiled and how do you feel about it now?
a good warm-up track and a good reintroduction to who I am as an artist. The song is the first track I wrote after the two-year writing drought that I had. It was really about me trying to get myself out of a toxic emotional state and the wrestle to get out of it, so I felt that it’s a good first track to introduce the album.
The new album is called Childish, and it explores a lot of the child-like tendencies we have and the inner child, which can be good and bad, but it’s about embracing the childishness. So, ‘do i, do i’ is really the first iteration of it.
You said that the track is about the push-and-pull of a toxic relationship and the eventual walking away from it. What are some personal experiences or stories that you’ve brought into this song?
Well, I think that whether you come from an abusive or toxic relationship, I do believe that taking ownership for myself and what I was lacking was important. I went through a pretty tough time and I’m guilty of having a series of not-so-great relationships where I somehow feel I might have allowed myself to be in those positions. I kind of realised that the victim mentality I had before was really not helping me after a while.
When things go south, to me, it’s about taking ownership over what’s happened to you, and it helps you understand why you’re built the way you’re built ’cause sometimes you become submissive and you give up your own power – which is what generally happens, at least for me. Then, to me, it’s about finding out how and why I did those things, and in that process you kind of understand where your power is as well and how you can take it back.
It is known that that this new era with ‘do i, do i’ and the MV is about trying new things and revising old ones that bring joy. What are some new things that you’ve stepped into, and what are some old stuff that you hold near to your heart?
One of the old stuff I hold near and dear is definitely cooking, it’s a very creative and emotional passion and outlet of mine. I cook anything and everything, it really depends on the mood. I don’t think I’ve cooked anything more than once unless it’s become a staple or a classic for a festivity or a special occasion.
As for the new stuff, clearly from the music video, it’s dancing in public. I’ve always been more of a singsong gal, while my sister’s a dancer and all the dancing genes went to her. I do dance, but mainly in private because it brings me joy but I don’t really feel compelled to show people my dancing or feel that people want to see me dance. So, it’s not something that I’ve been actively dealing with. [Laughs]
You’ve made the choice to release ‘do i, do i’ in an English version and a Mandarin version, ‘欲擒故纵’. Why did you do that, especially for your first venture into bilingual music?
The truth is, I’ve always written in English and I generally think with an English brain. But, I’ve always wanted to try making Mandarin music and one of my regrets is never getting to venture into that language a little bit more. Mandarin is actually a really beautiful language that’s really profound and efficient. I read a book a while back about how we think in languages, and I’ve learnt that the way we think actually differs with the language we use. So, I do realise that when I’m using Mandarin, my thoughts are a little bit more cutting and poignant, just by the language and the choice of words.
It was also a fun exercise to be able to create music that would translate well in both languages. At the same time, I didn’t want to do a direct translation. Although the sentiment of the song is the same, lyrically, it’s a bit different.
I find translation work very fascinating. We needed to find words that suited the cadence of the melody of the song, you can’t just plop Chinese words into an English song – it’s going to sound weird. It was a careful process between myself and my Mandarin songwriter.
Can we expect more bilingual stuff from the album?
Yeah, actually the entire album will be bilingual. It’s made up of a 2-part EP, and both will have songs in both languages.
Besides the album, what are your plans for the rest of this year? What else can we expect to see from you?
You can expect me to be part of the National Day Parade this year, which has been postponed until later this month. There will also be more new singles before the album drops, so we are already planning them out.
This article Inch Chua Opens up about Reinvention, Toxic Relationships and Bilingualism appeared first on Popspoken.