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Album Review: James Morrison's 4th Album 'Higher Than Here' Is His Survival Guide To The Modern Singer-Songwriter Era
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Album Review: It's Time To 'Get Weird' With A
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Album Review: If You Haven't Heard Of Zella Day, 'Kicker' Is About To Blow You Away
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The rising stars of Singapore have definitely made it, and it seems like there’s no other way but up for the local quartet The Sam Willows.

A reminiscent of the band’s groovy spirit reflected most of the tracks in their latest record Take Heart, which saw the light of day almost a month ago. Their single of the same title has already garnered 600k views on YouTube and continues to attract both local and foreign fans from the Asia-Pacific region.

The demands of school, acting, and a variety of side gigs prove that nothing can stop the band from producing quality music. It seems as though the busier they get, the more inspired they become!

“Worn out” is probably not in their vocabulary as they answered our questions with bantering responses despite their busy schedules.

Want to get to know The Sam Willows a little bit more? Check out the interview below!


1. If you could listen to one band for the rest of your life, what band would it be?

Benjamin Kheng: Muse, or Bombay Bicycle Club

Jon Chua: Bon Jovi

Sandra Tang: Florence and the Machine


2. What original song do you have the most fun playing live?

J: Take Heart

Narelle Kheng: Riverdance

S: Take Heart


3. What pre-show rituals do you practice as a band?

J: We usually just huddle up right before we go on stage.

B: I love taking a pre-show nap. A 5 or 10min shut down time is all I need to feel rested and ready. And of course, a good vocal warmup. A sandwich helps too.


4. Who takes the most time editing a photo for instagram?

J: I know I take the least time.

S: I know Jon takes the least time.


5. Do you listen to your fellow local musicians? Who is your ultimate favorite?

B: Yes! I grew up with The Fire Fight, Vertical Rush, For This Cycle and SIXX. Lovin' all the new sounds coming out from our generation of course.

J: Sixx!

S: Too many! Charlie Lim/Take Two


6. How do you overcome creative block? If you ever encounter one.

J: I'll drive out to eat Ba Ku Teh, somehow it really helps

S: Google


7. "Rest of your life" seems to have a bubbly, colorful vibe. What's the inspiration behind the song?

N: we wanted to capture the unlimited, unhindered feeling of infatuation and how precious it is being able to hold on to that in a relationship.


8. Both Sandra and Narelle are known to be health enthusiasts. What are your morning routines like?

N: Morning? what is morning?

S: Wash up, stretch a little, BREAKFAST


9. From a recent interview, Ben described "Take Heart" as spicy. Describe your new album using different scents.



10. Your music is typically described as "pop." Do you see your style in that genre? If not, how would you describe it?

J: Yea I do. The genre of 'pop' is very loosely defined. I'd describe our music as one for all ages and the kind you'd bob your head to when you hear it on the radio.


11. You have a lot of fans who are still in school. What is one tip that you would give aspiring local musicians that helped you be where you are now?

J: ' People will discourage you, make fun of you, and stone you with their words. But keep the drive, keep going, and reach higher'

N: Enjoy life

S: Believe in what you want and fight for it, no one else will fight for you if you don't yourself.


12. The year is almost over and you're ending it on a GREAT note with your new album! What are you looking forward to as a band in 2016?

J: We'd be heading out to countries around the region to promote our album and also putting together a regional tour. That's what I'm looking forward to the most

S: Touring!


Photo credit: Lenne Chai, The Sam Willows (Facebook)

If Reconstrux Booking’s Pop Punk Fest earlier this year proved anything, it’s that there’s a healthy amount of local appreciation going around for the genre. It then became only a matter of time before the UK’s hottest export, Neck Deep, would wind up on our shores as well – sooner, rather than later it would appear.

More specifically, the Wrexham four-piece will be headlining a show on January 26 at *SCAPE The Ground Theatre as part of their World Tour supporting the release of their second studio album, Life’s Not Out To Get You. Unfortunately, their co-headliner State Champs is not slated to perform alongside them in Singapore.

We caught up with bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans to find out more about what went into the creation of the record and the experiences they’ve undergone since then.


1. A Day To Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon was involved in production for Life’s Not Out To Get You – other than bits of well-placed vocal contributions, what were some of the invaluable lessons (musical or otherwise) you learnt after working with him, Andrew Wade and Tom Denney? Any thoughts on #EZRevival2K15?

They are just really talented musicians and have worked on a lot more records than we have so their input was invaluable. They taught a lot about song writing and song structuring and it wouldn't have been the same record without them for sure. As for an EZrevival, I used to like a lot of bands that fell into that genre so if it starts coming back, that’s gotta be fun.

2. Life’s Not Out To Get You is a record that at times clearly strives to encourage positivity and Ben has spoken out about how there is tendency in the scene to wallow in self-deprecation and depression. What records do you listen to when you’re feeling down? Any advice to listeners who may be going through a tough time?

I listen to Taylor Swift, it’s pretty hard to be sad when listening to a lot of pop music. Advice would be to find what you love or what will make you happy and just go for it. By wallowing you're only stopping yourself from finding the happiness you deserve and could achieve with some work.

3. The Gold Steps video looked insanely fun, in a Wet Hot American Summer sort of way, but with more flaming skateboard ramps. Was it a chore to clean up after shooting it?

Well I imagine it was but we had to fly immediately across the country to start Warped Tour so we weren't actually around for the clean-up. But it was a very well organized shoot so I'm sure it was all dealt with really well.

4. There are hints of fantastical or even mystical elements throughout Neck Deep’s discography, namely Zoltar Speaks and Kali Ma as an Indiana Jones reference. I believe you guys even sold tarot cards as merch. Is the band a superstitious lot and have you ever had any encounters with the supernatural?

I could only speak on my own behalf on this subject and say that I'm pretty fascinated by the ideas of the super natural but I remain a sceptic. I can’t say I have ever had any experiences myself but who knows what the future holds.

5. I think it’s safe to say that Neck Deep is one of the more prominent pop punk acts from the UK alongside As It Is and Roam. Any other up-and-coming British bands we should check out?

Creeper, FLESH, there is a really great scene in the UK right now.

6. Oli Sykes recently claimed that “Bring Me The Horizon are as much a metal band as Fall Out Boy are a pop punk band.” As arguably the biggest British modern rock band, some semblance of evolution should be embraced but to what extent should a band “kick up [their] roots?” What is one musical route you cannot envision Neck Deep embarking on?

A route that I CANNOT see Neck Deep embarking on? I mean, in my opinion, saying we would ‘never’ do anything is no fun but I can pretty safely say that we won’t ever be releasing a reggae or jazz record?

7. They say “never meet your heroes” yet you’ve performed with both Blink-182 and New Found Glory. Assuming expectations were exceeded if not well met, what do you think could possibly top such experiences?

All those guys were super friendly and humble and great people to talk too. Only thing I could think of topping that would be hanging out with my mate T-Swifty or Katy Perry.

8. The band has enjoyed remarkable success within a short amount of time – supporting All Time Low at Wembley Arena, performing on the main stages of Warped Tour, Reading and Leeds etc. Having played both tiny and larger venues, are you looking forward to headlining more stadium-sized shows in the near future or are you content with the more intimate ones, gradually moving up the ladder?

Both small show and huge shows have a big place in my heart. They both have pros and cons, I’m just happy to be playing shows at all to be honest.

9.  Apart from A Part of Me, Neck Deep first caught my attention with the Walter White “series of very bad decisions” shirt (the Adventure Time-styled Lord of the Rings mashup is pretty sweet too). What’s the latest TV show/film you’ve been bingeing and can we expect more sort of pop culture-influenced merchandise?

We haven't done one in a little while actually, I'm not sure which will be next. we are all pretty big TV/movie nerds so I'm sure we will think of a new one soon.

10. Neck Deep will finally be touring Southeast Asia next year. What are you most excited about – what have you heard about Singapore?

I’ve only ever been inside the airport in Singapore and if the rest of the country is anything close as cool then I’ll be stoked. I’m really looking forward to just seeing the country and checking out anything I can.


Photo credit: Joshua Halling

I was a new artist and I wanted my name to get out there. So I was thinking what would be a cool [Jason Derulo moniker]. I was in a (recording) booth and kind of just saying my name. I think it was just the actual melody that stuck in people’s minds.

I went through a crazy recovery for seven months. [Side note: he suffered from a fatal broken neck injury back in 2012.] At the beginning I couldn’t do simplest things like tying my own shoe or putting my own shirt on. So it was a rough time, but a time I felt I needed to become the man I am today.

I now get to do the things that I want to do. At the beginning of my career, everything was kind of stepping on egg shells. I was just getting my feet wet.

I felt like I was searching and trying to find who Jason Derulo was instead of me just being myself. A lot of things got lost because of that in the beginning but now I am able to be myself and do the things that I dream of.

Stevie Wonder is somebody that I’ve always watched. He was an inspiration of mine. He happens to be one of the nicest and funniest guys in the world. So to be in the studio with a legend – that was incredible to me.

There’s a song on my album call Trade Hearts. It has a young lady (named Julia Michaels) on the track that the world has never heard before. I just thought she sounded so beautiful and I felt like nobody could’ve replaced her voice. So I was like, “will you please stay on the song”. She didn’t know if she wanted to stay on the song because she repels being an artist.

After I wrote Want To Want Me, the first song in the writing process, you never think that the first song you do is going to end up on the album or if it’s going to be a big hit. That just never ever happens but for some reason, it became my first single and went on to become one of my biggest songs. It’s crazy because I wasn’t going to put it on my album.

I have a record label. I’m a 50/50 partner with RCA Sony, so I’m constantly looking for the newest big thing and staying up on what’s popping and fresh. I try to keep my ear to the street; that’s how we say it in Miami.

Record labels are really tired of building artists. In 2015, labels are not like, “oh my goodness, this person has potential, let’s help them built and become incredible”. They’re not trying to do that. So as an upcoming artist today, you have to build your fan base.

The best way of being a finished product is to actually have a fan base so you might wanna keep posting videos until one of those videos really catch on and you start getting more subscribers on YouTube, more followers on Twitter and Instagram.

There are people out there that are uberly talented but people don’t connect with. So you’re looking for someone that has some sort of connection; someone that people can gravitate to. People like Shawn Mendes, he had this huge internet following, so it’s very attractive for a label to go after an artist that already has this fan base.

Certain people have egos and I can’t really deal with egos very well because I have a bad temper. So if you say something crazy to me, we’d be going at it.

As I get older, it gets more and more vivid and I’m able to paint the picture a lot better and I think that just comes with age.

When I have visions of what my music video should be, what I do is I actually write the treatment myself and I look for a director that I can partner and co-direct with. I believe people can really see the difference.

Jason Derulo with his dance crew at Sunway Surf Beach.

Dancing is amazing but singing is the gateway to the soul. People are really connected to a story and I don’t think you can have a more vivid story by singing to somebody so I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Five words? I really can’t describe myself in five words… (long pause) I am the shit. That’s four. I am the shit man!



Photo credit: MTV Asia / Aloysius Lim / Jason Derulo's Facebook

Carly Rae Jepsen is not your average pop star. Sure, her unavoidable huge hit, Call Me Maybe, helped propel her into pop stardom, but trying to match the success of that achievement is no longer on the cards. Instead she has ventured into a more mature alternative pop genre, citing Cyndi Lauper as an influence.

In our light press conference that took place at Sunway Resort Hotel & Spa last Saturday, Jepsen candidly opened up about embarrassing moments in the past, her fashion taste, sliding into the glass slippers of  Broadway's Cinderella, the process of making E·Mo·Tion and of course, the Tom Hanks!

Malaysia inspired her to write music

Since being here, I’ve had this sudden burst of radiant energy. I’ve just spend the morning in my hotel room with my guitar working on a new song which has kind of a 70s flavour to it, which is making us laugh because obviously E·Mo·Tion is so 80s. We have been teasing that we’re just working our way backwards. *laughs*

Difference between Asian fans vs American fans

I feel like the energy here is just incredible. I think that passion is something I really admire and appreciate and I think it’s going to affect the show tonight in a big way.

Pre- show rituals

Before the success of Call Me Maybe happened, I was actually unable to pay these guys I toured with, so I would cook them lasagne and we’d train for three hours. These guys are not just bandmates but they are family. Since the first show we played together, we would have this secret handshake that we did – it’s quite embarrassing. To this day we can’t go on stage without doing it.

One advice she didn’t follow and never regretted

I’ve always been one to believe that if you have a big decision in your life, that you have to do the thing that you know you are always going to wonder about, rather than the thing that feels safe. When it came down to the decision to a Broadway show on Cinderella, it probably made no sense for my musical career.

I just knew it was going to be one of those things that I wanted to do, because it was a bucket list thing to do. I had a couple of people who were saying “don’t do it, put another album out right away just because you can”.

But it ended up being the greatest decision I ever made because the work was a really inspiring place for me to live. It was just nice to live outside of the bubble of the pop world and kind of embrace the new bubble.

When I came back and was really to put this album out, I felt rejuvenate and had a total different perspective on it.

Pressure of creating Call Me Maybe 2.0

In all honesty, those were the things I toyed with a lot before I dove into writing of Emotion. Kiss has a lightness to it and with the success of Call Me Maybe being so big, it was a gift but also a challenge to know what to write next.  

That’s why it took me so long, over two and a half years, over 200 songs of experimenting before landing on somewhere that felt right for me. Emotion is darker and older in a lot of ways and musically, it’s everything that I wanted.

Deciding on what made the cut for E·Mo·Tion

I knew that I wanted the album to be very 80s and emotional, and that helped narrow the list. Seeing Cyndi Lauper play in concert inspired me to dive into that [80s] world. That helped narrow it down to the top 40.

From there I had friends and family and label mates listen to my list of songs and pick their own favourites. The same top 10 kept reoccurring and E·Mo·Tion was born.

What surprise me with E·Mo·Tion was the buzz it was getting from songwriters and people I really admire and that meant more to me than I could have imagine. So I think that has inspired me to just try to go deeper into the art of writing and music and to be respected in that community. I want to keep challenging myself and keep pushing to be the best songwriter that I possibly can.

Whom would she like to write songs for

I think it’d be really fun to write for a guy and take on a different perspective. A boyband would be really fun.

Embarrassing Moments

I think all of us look back at different versions of ourselves can have moments where we smile fondly and other moments where we kind of cringe in embarrassment and I have both of those when I think back at that side of myself.

It was really exciting to be part of Canadian Idol because it was so competitive and being in the public eye for the first time ever really helped me. It was a big stepping stone for my career and I’m so glad I did it but I also look at the things that I wore and how I acted and I just go “Oh! What were you thinking?!

Her fashion taste

On a day to day level, if I’m going to the grocery store or going out with friends, my music has nothing to do with my fashion. What I wear one day would not at all represent what I wore the second day. I’m a girl today and tomorrow I’d be a total tomboy knowing me. 

When I’m on stage that’s when I let that sort of seep through. My music is very 80s and I allow myself to dress in that direction as well. But it’s not a jail; it’s my desire to be a little more theatrical I guess.

Working with Tom Hanks on her I Really Like You music video

It was a dream came true to work with Tom Hanks. He is by far my favourite actor in the world and to have him lip sync to a song which I wrote with some friends was just surreal. I don’t know if I could ever top Tom Hanks. It’s Tom Hanks!



Photo credit: MTV Asia / Kristian Dowling/ Joshua Ong

Dragons aren’t just myths and legends anymore. They’re here come 25th August, to rock Singapore Indoor Stadium.

With a collective stage presence that’s known to be absolutely electric, it’s hardly a surprise this Las Vegas group sold out shows and played at the biggest music festivals around the world.

Yep, Imagine Dragons owe their meteoric rise in the music industry to their diverse sound, creative directions and philanthrophic efforts. It’s not a winning formula for success they’ve concocted; it’s just how they’re put together, amassing a continental fanbase that’s quite formidable.

So when they’re not behind an illegal Muppets fight club, what does the Grammy Award-winning band have to say about their upcoming concert in Singapore, and their latest album, Smoke + Mirrors?


1. I Bet My Life is a great track - if you guys had to bet your life on something - or someone - who or what would it be?

 We bet our life the Singapore show will be a good time.


2. Describe the upcoming concert in Singapore - but it must rhyme with Smoke + Mirrors!

Soak in Tears? Cloak and Fears?


3. What was the best musical inspiration you got from a tour?

The best inspiration comes from the fans we interact with at the shows. They inspire us constantly.


4. An artist or a band you dream to work with onstage/offstage?

Maybe Paul Simon? Paul McCartney? Any Paul, really. There is actually one artist we’ve always wanted to work with that we are planning something with right now. But it’s a secret.


5. The one Singaporean dish you are dying to try?

Not one in particular, but we have heard how amazing the food is and can’t wait.


6. What major influences made Smoke + Mirrors a more diverse sounding album than Night Visions?

Both albums were pretty diverse, but maybe Smoke + Mirrors seems more so because it was written on tour. You experience such high highs and low lows in touring, and that is reflected in the music we wrote which may have made the music more diverse.


7. I think the Tyler Robinson Foundation is an amazing and forward initiative - so will there be any chance of working with charities overseas, such as Asia? You have lots of supporters and fans here.

We are so excited about the work the charity has done and has planned for this year. We’ve had selfless fans all around the world participating and raising money for these families. We’d love to continue that work in Asia.


8. You guys mentioned before that your second album is actually a New Year's Resolution - but are there any personal or band resolutions yet to be fulfilled?

We are always setting new goals for ourselves. It’s the crazy thing about our band that we have come further than we could have ever dreamed and still feel this insatiable drive to do better and push harder.


9. Smoke + Mirrors explores "world cultures" as a musical item - so, what impressions do you have of Singapore's musical culture?

We haven’t been able to spend enough time in Singapore to really experience enough local music, but there certainly have been Asian influences from our last tour. We had some of our greatest musical experiences last year collaborating with Asian artists from Japan to Korea.


10. Imagine if you guys could have a pet dragon - what would you name it and why?

Falkor the Luckdragon (from the film “The Never Ending Story”), because he was one of the greatest dragons of all time.


11. You guys often say that you are very critical of yourselves. Mind sharing what are some of the criticism you have given each other - or yourselves?

It’s not as much that we are critical of ourselves as that we constantly are pushing ourselves. If you ever feel too comfortable as an artist, you probably are doing something wrong. We try to analyze, maybe too much sometimes, how each show is going.


Photo credit: E! Online