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Ahead of his opening gala gig for the inaugural Singapore International Jazz Festival 2014, jazz crooner and songwriter Jamie Cullum sits down (a rare thing since he's always in Momentum) to answer a few questions from us at Spin or Bin Music. Aside from the fact that he and his band goes onstage without a standard setlist, he gives us a boozy answer as to why he's always so active on stage, and how fatherhood has changed the way he tours now.
How do you find being a dad these days, being away from the family to traveland play for crowds? Is it difficult to keep up?
I think any parent has to find that balance between work and home life no matter what job you do. I am working hard to find it! Of course it is difficult, being away is part of my job but it is hard to leave behind my thriving family. I try hard to be awayfor no more than a few days at a time. It makes my touring life very different.
Which also leads me to my next question: I’ve been to both your concerts in Singapore in 2007 and 2013, and both times you were jumping around the stage, or jumping on the piano, or even jumping down into the crowd. Now that’s a lot of jumping… Where do you get the energy to do what you do in each show?
Food, whiskey, adrenaline and momentum.
Let’s keep the Momentum going by talking about your latest album of the same name. It’s a lot more jazz influenced this time round, is there a reason you went in that direction when composing?
It’s funny - a lot of people say the opposite! I think with this album the soul of this album is of the jazz musician, but it’s dressed up with a lot of sounds from the current era of music. I wanted to make something that could only exist in this day and age but with a bunch of great musicianship behind it.
Which is your Favourite song on the album to play live?
Probably Save Your Soul. It seems to be the song that has touched most people from this album.
You have played in many venues and various settings (loved the time you performed at St Pancras by the way), both intimate and live with orchestral backing or a band. What is your ideal performance atmosphere that you will be able to vibe off the most?
It would definitely by one where we, as musicians, are able to bounce ideas off of each other spontaneously and freely. For that you need a good crowd, a good room and the stars in alignment.
I wanted to compliment you on finding the most ingenious methods of taking mainstream pop songs and jazzing them up. Will our Singaporean audience be lucky enough to hear another one of those this February?
I don’t have a setlist so who knows! But I’m sure I can squeeze more than a few in.
Speaking of cover songs, you reinvented the song Love For $ale by Cole Porter with a more grim, sonic overview on the subject matter, and a web film that was actually quite touching. How did that cover come about?
I have loved and played this song in a more traditional manner for over 15 years. I had a good think about the lyrics in recent years and it reminded of a lot a of the rap music I listened to growing up. Rap music was where I discovered jazz. I decided to try and do something which brought together those two worlds without it being too corny I hope. The film was devised by two filmmakers who have worked with Kanye, they are fearless movie makers. And that is what the song needed.
You are also helming a radio show on BBC Radio 2, how has that experience helped you musically?
Massively. It is inspiring to hear even more new music than I normally would and get to interview my heroes. It is also quite nice to have a regular job!
Any future plans?
Grand Theft Auto V.
You have been to Singapore at least twice now. What do you think of the audience reception here and what are you most looking forward to this February?
It was incredible last time. If they even match half of the excitement we got last time we’re in for a good night.
P.S: Can I make a tiny request to hear you play When I Get Famous/ Edge of Something in February? So excited!!!
Catch Jamie live at the inaugural Singapore International Jazz Festival on 27th February at Marina Bay Sands Theatres. Tickets available from Sistic.
With a solo album out really soon, Farisha Ishak's life has immensely exciting since she emerged victorious in The Final 1.
From intense recording sessions in the studio to rehearsals for live performances, the 20 year-old really has it going for her.
Personally, Farisha and I went to primary school together and it truly is amazing to watch her grow up and be where she is today.
Spin or Bin Music chats with the sweetheart of a songstress as she fills us in on what she's been up to and reveals some things we truly didn't know about her:
1) How has winning The Final 1 changed your life?
I will always be thankful for The Final 1 because of the amazing opportunity it’s given me to live my dream. It has also given myself and other budding musicians and singers that platform to showcase our music and I feel that the competition has definitely allowed me to work on my confidence as a person and performer. I’ve been blessed with offers for performances at various prominent events such as Singapore Day, The President’s Star Charity as well as The First XI Finals, to name a few. Concurrently, I was also recording songs for my album in the studio so I have been pretty busy since the competition but I’ve never felt happier because I’m doing what I love.
2) What can we expect from your album?
My album has a great mix of different sounds and that’s what I think makes it unique, in that I believe it has a song for everyone. For example, there is the element of love in “Aligned” and “Oh Cinta” yet there is also heartbreak in “Stranded” and “Bukanku Tak Cinta”. In the midst of all that, you can also find songs that uplift your spirits and hopefully inspire such as “Life is Beautiful” and “Believe”. I am very proud of my album and I certainly hope everyone out there will not only identify with the messages in the songs but enjoy the music too.
3) What were some of the difficulties that you faced while creating this album?
My schedule would clash with recording sometimes. There was also a period when I was sick and we had to postpone recording. Recordings have to be consistent so any slight change in my voice will result in a postponement of a recording session. Also, as it was my first time doing professional recording in a studio, I was still getting used to juggling emoting the song and working on the technicalities in my singing. However, it was a great experience and I am still learning a great deal from my recording sessions.
4) Who were your biggest inspirations when it came to making this album?
The songs that I wrote in this album are influenced by John Legend and Emeli Sandé.
5) How do you handle school work on top of grueling recording sessions?
I am currently deferred from my NUS course to focus solely on my music career. However, I will definitely be going back to school and I believe that when I do, it would take a lot of sacrifice and spectacular time management to juggle the two. Nonetheless, it is a challenge worth taking ☺
6) Has there been any strange encounters with fans?
Hahaha well I wouldn’t say that they were strange but I think there was a very sweet fan who sent a letter to my home address. It was very heartening because in that letter he expressed his admiration for my music and it really is moments like this that make me so thankful for having an opportunity to share my music with everyone.
7) What is the one really funny thing that we don't know about Farisha that the world definitely needs to know?
I am a person who likes to create humour and I enjoy making people happy! I like to talk a lot and my family gets very annoyed at how random I can be sometimes. When I was younger, I'd be the noisiest person in the car, imitating tv advertisements and persuading my family members (who were unfortunately stuck in the car with me) to participate in my nonsense! hahaha On bad days, I would get ignored and told to keep quiet but on good days, I would manage to get the whole car to play along with me! Though I am no longer as 'enthusiastic' as I was before(as a child), I still fill the silences during long car rides by trying to initiate games and what not :)
8) What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you on stage?
There was once during a rehearsal that I fell down the stairs in my heels because the steps were uneven and I misjudged the height difference. BUT thank goodness that it (1) Happened during rehearsals so only the crew witnessed my embarrassing fall and (2) didn’t result in a sprained ankle. (the heels I wore were stilettos!!!)
9) Do you have any strange routines that you MUST do before going on stage?
Before performing, I have to be left alone because I get too anxious when I’m surrounded by people. I would normally visually go through my performance in my head before I go on stage. If all else fails and the air condition decides to turn backstage into Antarctica then I’d do jumping jacks. (in my heels and also in a secret spot haha)
10) What is your absolute favourite song to sing on stage?
I love to sing the songs that I’ve written. There is a certain kind of connection with songs that I’ve written and I love performing them on stage.
Photo credit: Hype Records
It's difficult to break into the American music industry, especially so when you’re an Asian artist, but Malaysian songstress Yuna has seemingly done the impossible!
Despite currently being on a crazy press tour for her new album Nocturnal, Yuna took the time off to chat with us, and answer a few juicy questions! Yuna tells us more:
1. How did the album’s name Nocturnal come about?
All of the songs were written when I couldn't sleep at night. I thought it could be like a compilation of songsI wrote in my nocturnal mode.
2. Nocturnal has a poppier sound then your previous releases, what influenced this progression?
My sound has always been pretty pop but I think it's more obvious on this record probably because people are paying more attention to the sound. I have to say it's more polished than the previous records
But I've been listening to stuff from SBTRKT, Little Dragon, Haim to mainstream artists like Justin Timberlake's 20/20, Drake, Frank Ocean, so it's a mixture of me and what I love.
3. What tracks on the album are you most connected to and why?
Mountains, I've always wanted to make a track like that.
4. Being based in the U.S. currently, was transition from Kuala Lumpur easy?
It was actually quite easy. I had a mindset that I was going to focus on writing and making music that’ll be heard worldwide, so it wasn't really a huge deal for me because it was what I wanted to do and I was actually doing it.
5. Have you ever had any pressure from your label or the industry, expecting you to change?
No everyone I've met has been super supportive. Even if they were its probably just lack of understanding but once they finally know why I am the way I am, they're really respectful. People are really more open these days.
6. In addition to your singing career, you also own your own fashion label. How does music influence your design process?
It's two separate things, I feel. What I design for clothes is normally not based on my music, but more on what I want to wear on a night out to a fancy event or what I wanna wear to go out and run errands. It's more towards something stylish yet comfortable.
7. Who are some of your favorite designers?
Helmut Lang, Alexander McQueen, Richard Chai, Mary Katrantzou and Prabal Gurung… just to name a few!
8. Do you have any tours or collaborations for us to look forward to?
I'm on US tour right now. and then I'm going to Europe! Hopefully, I’ll get to come back to Malaysia and perform some more.
9. Lastly, what’s your most anticipated album of 2014?
Definitely Frank Ocean’s new album!
Yuna will be performing at the Esplanade Concert Hall on February 24. Tickets are available on Sistic now.
Photo Credit: Verve Records
Amidst pleas of beseeching the sisters to visit their respective countries, flowery flattery and even gifts, HAIM’s reportedly first ever press conference hosted at the Singaporean leg of St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival was one not without sugar, spice and everything nice.
When posed with the pivotal choice of being either the Powerpuff Girls or the west coast witches of Charmed, guitarist Alana Haim who is readily “on the PPG train” pipes up, “I’m Bubbles for sure!” before musing that the group lacks the particularly mean presence of a Buttercup.
Lead vocalist Danielle Haim disagrees much to Alana’s indignant retort of, “You’re not Buttercup - we’re like a mixture of all three.” Big sister Este Haim settles the dispute once for all by simply stating, “When you get me angry, I’m Buttercup. Don’t get me angry or Buttercup will come out. It’s like The Incredible Hulk and Buttercup meet and become moi. And they’re both green! It’s not a coincidence guys.”
Airing their triumph rather than relief of getting to release their debut album, Days Are Gone after seven years of being a band, the siblings had nothing but praise for the sheer accessibility of music nowadays including the commercial music streaming giant, Spotify. This hardly comes as a surprise seeing that HAIM’s Forever EP was released onto the Internet completely free-of-charge. Describing it as an “amazing way” to release music, Alana attributed the EP’s widespread reception with people’s “thirst for music” and their desire to “be the first person to hear something”, appreciating the fact that their EP was circulated “literally by word of mouth.”
The self-proclaimed baby amongst the trio also revelled in a journalist’s hasty comparison to Beyoncé Knowles adding that “I only wake up and dream that I am Beyoncé and it has yet to happen! We write about it in our diaries all the time:
Tomorrow can I be Beyoncé? Think about it. I’m going to go to sleep now.
As Este then sagely puts it, “I think the cool thing about music nowadays is that there aren’t really any genres and I think people have kind of stopped trying to reinvent the wheel and it’s just about a good song and not necessarily about a genre. I think that’s what we find exciting about music is just really fun, rhythmic music. That’s kind of I think the overarching theme for us is just rhythm I mean, I don’t know if you saw our set but we like to bang a drum now and again. We really enjoy rhythm. So I think that’s kind of the basis for us is just really good – like this [Tether’s muffled sensual synth solo plays in the distance], this gets us going. We love CHVRCHES. They’re really great. Comparisons comschmarisons. It’s really about a good song and how it sounds sonically for us.”
On the possibility of rapping on their next record, HAIM was perfectly content with being signed by Roc Nation alongside receiving support and e-mails from Jay-Z himself. “At this point I just wanna be on a first syllable basis with him and be like, “Yo whaddup Jay?” That’s my dream right now and then I’ll drop the verse. “Jay, verse?” two syllables. And then maybe we’ll move to three and we’ll see where that goes,” gushed Alana.
Evidenced by Laneway’s line-up (or to Este, “Lilith Fair 2014”) that possessed a strong female presence including the Grammy-winning Lorde and the omnipresence of the Beyhive, the band felt that “it is a really amazing time to be a lady in music” with the hope that it remains that way. In between Danielle’s repeated attempts to sort out her sisters’ locks that got in the way of their sunglasses, it was apparent that the band was indeed a “wolf pack” that might prove “hard to mess with” so (partly influenced by the week’s episode of Parks and Recreation) I decided to ask whether HAIM kept family matters and work-related responsibilities separate.
“Music in our family has just been one since basically birth. My parents loved playing music (despite not playing music professionally and having a day job) they really knew that music was a great output to get your emotions out and experience sound. They were really high on the arts, they loved the arts and so my mom would teach us little ditties on the guitar and my dad would put us on the drums when we were little. It was just the norm in our family. The only thing we don’t fight about is music. Everything else is like, “Why’d you wear my shoes? Why are you wearing my leather vest?” These are all quotes from Danielle Haim,” Alana explains.
Este continued, “We are a band that plays and writes music together but at the end of the day we’re sisters. When we’re back home or even when we’re on tour like we’re gonna leave right now and go grab dinner and discuss how amazing the CHVRCHES set was or how much fun Laneway was. It’s all the same thing to us – work, play, we’re family and we have a really good time together.”
Flaunting their well-versed prowess where sounds of the 1970’s are concerned, it was then that HAIM decides to burst into a seemingly unrehearsed rendition of the Sister Sledge hit, We Are Family, marking the end of their rather playful 15 minutes.
“Hopefully we’ll be back really soon. It would be really fun if we got invited back.” Este’s words, not mine.
Arriving at the Hard Rock Hotel, I decided it all seemed apt that the Colorado rock quintet OneRepublic would be hosting their press conference in this quintessentially American rocker hangout. The evening's rain had just let up, and the dim lighting in the venue made for a cosy hideout whilst awaiting the arrival of the band members, including Ryan Tedder, Zach Filkins, Drew Brown, Eddie Fisher and Brent Kutzle. The press conference however, was a little too short, and not many of us could actually get a word in, partly due to the long answers given.
The mouthpiece of the band was largely Ryan, although Drew quipped in with anecdotes once in a while. The rest of the guys looked comfortable to hand the reins over to their frontman, and sat patiently as Ryan answered questions from the press. I felt however, that the band felt a little lacklustre in this case, because the other personalities did not manage to shine. Perhaps a one on one interview might have felt more relaxing for them to come out of their shells?
In any case, the hosts, Shan and Cheryl, kicked things off by asking the boys about their "One Night In Bangkok" trip, and Ryan explained that they had a couple of days off and "jammed everything into one day" and "hit all the top attractions".
They even managed to get onto a "tuk-tuk", but didn't do so for long because of the pollution. Ryan went on a spiel about a country's culture, saying that for some bands, it is "just another hotel", and from the start OneRepublic "vowed never to be that kind of artistes", and it was actually quite endearing, it gave the band some sense of humanity, that they were interested in each destination's culture and people.
On Singapore, the band expressed their amazement, saying that "so much has changed in Singapore, it's almost like your country went on a building spree! We couldn't believe it, we were driving around and going 'that wasn't here, that wasn't here, that wasn't here'".Fans should be glad to know that Drew mentioned, "Our keyboard player felt very much like we were in Jurassic Park, which in America is the highest compliment!" What particularly caught their eye was the giant tree-like structures at Gardens by the Bay, where Ryan commented it looked like something out of Avatar.
Four questions in total were asked in this roughly 20 minute press conference, of which included a reference to Swedish DJ Alesso's remixed version of the EDM-fused single If I Lose Myself. Ryan admitted goodnaturedly that the original song on the record didn't connect as well as they wanted it to, saying that the record label had rejected an earlier version that was more "live-sounding", but it was "something that I hope we can put out someday". The band also acknowledged Alesso's version of their 2013 hit, even saying it was better. What do you guys think?
With super-songwriter Ryan Tedder on the panel, the band was asked if there were any songs that Ryan had written and given away that they thought would have worked for the band. To that, Drew commented that while that had not happened yet, they almost lost a song on their current record, Native. The James Blake / Prince-inspired Can't Stop apparently was written for no particular artiste, but Ryan affirmed, "I didn't hear it for the band," but lucky the band members rallied and convinced him that it was a great one. He went on to say that with the "biggest challenge" for them was trying to find the right songs, because of their "diverse musical tastes". The one common thread between the five guys? "British bands of the 90s", quipped Ryan, "if not, we would probably be 5 guys in 5 different bands".
Photo credits: Universal Music Singapore/ Ryan Tedder