Photo: Leonard Soosay
In the epic masterpiece "War And Peace", Leo Tolstoy wrote: "The strongest of warriors are these two: Time and Patience."
Indeed, good things come to those who wait - people like singer-songwriter Jaime Wong.
The 31-year-old received the Noise Singapore Award for Music in 2012, and her debut self-titled EP released in 2015 ranked #2 on the local iTunes charts, followed by a sold-out show.
And now, she's back with her new single, "I Swore I'd Stop Writing About You", after three years of working on it, five years since she wrote it, and six years since her first EP was released.
Influenced by the likes of Damien Rice, John Mayer and Ben Howard, Jaime started off as a regular in the local open-mic circle and has gone on to perform at major local events including 100 Bands Festival, Baybeats Music Festival 2014 and SHINE Festival 2015.
We talk to this returning raconteuse about heartbreak, her hiatus and getting her groove back.
Photo: Tan Yan Long
Six years, wah seh! It must not have been easy turning a longing for someone into acceptance that things are over. What helped you and how did it affect your songwriting?
Time, really! As time passes, of course you tend to see things like a heartbreak from a different perspective and start to process it differently. I struggled a lot with writing music in that period of time because I found myself writing the same things and about the same person and subject matter over and over again.
I would stop writing some songs because I didn't want to complete them. So for a long time, I didn't have anything new.
This song is really me, throwing my hands up in the air, just surrendering and writing about what I felt the most, which explains why it's a little "free writing" in its form, without the usual fixed pop-song structure. I'd like to think it's a little "meta" too.
"One of my paintings. It looks fine but, like, 90% of it was done by my teacher," says Jaime, who took up painting during the pandemic. | Photo: Jaime Wong
During that absence from the music scene, how and where did you channel your artistic energy? And were there other reasons it took you quite a while to get back to writing?
I wish I had a better answer but it's because I am very good at this thing called procrastination. I think insecurity played a part as well.
After I released the EP in 2015, the years that followed saw a surge in local music and every day there's a new musician emerging, each better and younger than I am. I thought, anything I put out would be irrelevant so I just stalled, and used work as an excuse not to do music.
I took up painting last year; I haven't gotten very good at it, so artistic energies have not been channelled very efficiently elsewhere, until I put this single out, of course.
Covid-19 hit the arts scene especially hard. But did it also allow you to explore uncommon ideas or encourage you to really flesh out your songwriting?
I would say that the pandemic has pushed me to do more with music. During the lockdown last year, I decided to start a series of Instagram videos where I cover some songs that I was obsessed with when I was younger. I called it "We Were On A Break" because I've always told people that music and I are on a break when they ask when I am releasing new songs haha. It was pretty fun revisiting these songs I used to listen to endlessly and putting my spin on them!
I started my singing endeavours by putting covers on Youtube actually (I started the channel when I was 19). And doing the Instagram video series really brought me back to that period of time. It felt nostalgic for many of my peers who grew up listening to those songs too.
Shortly after the lockdown, my producer and I continued to work on the new songs, including this single, and just being in that creative space got me writing newer ones. I am really excited to put them out!
Cool leh - you started this weekly Sunday Instagram live series titled, "I Wish I Didn’t Write About You". Each episode is a 30-min long Instagram live session showcasing yourself and fellow Singaporean musicians discussing that one song. What prompted you to kick-start this?
I think quite a bit has changed when it comes to promoting music and creating traction for your music since I did this in 2015.
I honestly feel old talking like this but there has been so much advancement in music streaming platforms, social media, content creation... and there's so much new music that's being released every single day - which is great! But it also means it's harder for your music to get noticed, so there was some pressure to come up with something fun yet memorable to follow up to the release.
The single is about a person and subject matter that I swore not to write about (but did so anyway), and I know many of my musician friends probably have similar experiences with songwriting so I thought we could just have a casual chat about songs we wish we didn't have to write, on Instagram.
Is the livestream carefully planned or just hantam?
I thought of writing out a script because I just don't know what to expect and obviously I have zero experience as a livestream host.
But I think, at the end of the day, it's just me talking to my friends about their songs, their creative processes and them singing those songs they wish they didn't write to the audience so we will keep it casual and organic!
Hopefully, there will be funny and embarrassing stories behind some of these songs; it cannot just be about the love songs!
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