Going onstage (www.esplanade.com).


Now Hear This: Charlie Lim

The singer-songwriter shares more about the music that has shaped his sound


Published: 18 Aug 2020

Time taken : ~10mins

Since his debut in the Southeast Asian music scene in 2011, Singapore singer-songwriter Charlie Lim has performed at major festivals worldwide, such as Summer Sonic (Tokyo) and Bigsound (Brisbane). He has also performed 2 sold-out shows as part of a triple bill with Inch Chua and The Great Spy Experiment at the 1,600-seat Esplanade Concert Hall – a feat that has never been accomplished by any other music artist in Singapore. We speak to Charlie ahead of his Baybeats Unplugged set on his musical influences, his favourite tracks from his latest EP and other recommendations.

What type of music did you listen to growing up? If there is a song that collectively sums up your childhood what would it be?

I didn’t have a discman but I had a stereo and a tape deck, so I’d borrow and record my older cousins’ CDs onto my own cassettes. There was a hodgepodge of stuff, everything from Disney soundtracks and really cheesy Richard Clayderman to ’90s boybands and ABBA. I remember learning all the harmonies to Backstreet Boys’ Millennium. I’m pretty sure I Want It That Way was all I sang for a few months when I was in primary school. It’s a good song, I still rate it highly.

Did you always know that you wanted to work in music?

I wasn’t sure that I could do it professionally until I moved to Melbourne when I was about 15. I could do music performance as a subject and I managed to top the state of Victoria for it, leading a pop rock band and we played to some pretty big crowds and fancy venues. I guess I started getting a few delusions of grandeur and just went headfirst into it. No regrets of course, but plenty of heartache (laughs).

Which artists have had the biggest impact on your sound?

A lot of contemporary singer-songwriters like Jeff Buckley, Damien Rice, Regina Spektor, John Mayer, Ray Lamontagne. I worshipped bands like Radiohead and Silverchair. I got into the whole neo-soul/soulquarian era as well during my late teens and early 20s, so D’Angelo, Bilal, J Dilla, Lauryn Hill etc. 

What is your most memorable record/project to date?

They’ve all been fun I guess. Beep Studios had a massive hangar as their main studio for a while and we recorded some of TIME/SPACE there, which was pretty overkill. 

Your album TIME/SPACE went to #1 on Singapore’s iTune charts within an hour of its release, what was the most challenging track to record on the album?

Probably Bitter, which took over three years to put together. A lot of re-recording to get it just right. There’s over 160 tracks on that song, I believe...which was a pretty intense session for that time.

You recently released your EP, CHECK-HOOK last year in 2018, what is your favourite track from the album to perform live?

We do a pretty mean version of Welcome Home with live drums, so that’s always fun to play. The arrangements are always very intricate, and this one feels like it’s on the urge of falling apart at any moment, which makes it even more exciting to play.

You collaborated with LIONCITYBOY and other artists to do some covers on YouTube over the course of the circuit breaker. What are some of your go-to songs to cover in a live set?

We used to do this free jam of Radiohead’s All I Need. It was pretty intense, to us at least! We probably scared a few members of the audience.

As a singer-songwriter, producer and artist, it’s important to stay inspired. What is the song that you would listen to, to get inspired when embarking on a new project?

There’s no go-to song, really...whatever’s on the playlist at the time I guess. But listening and referencing specifically isn’t healthy either because you start to subconsciously want to sound like something too much.

What is a song that never fails to put you in a good mood?

I’m not sure...maybe Easy Living by Billie Holiday and Lester Young. That was my wedding dance song.

You were involved in the NDP 2018 theme song, We Are Singapore. What is your all-time favourite NDP song to date?

I don’t have one. 

You recently released a track titled, Room at the Table, a song dedicated to migrant workers in Singapore. How did that come about?

It’s not about migrant workers specifically, but the proceeds of the song are going to charities which are helping them during this crisis. The song is borne out of the prelude I wrote for We Are Singapore back in 2018, which is about taking an honest snapshot of where we are right now, instead of glazing over everything through rose-tinted lenses. It’s also about reminding ourselves to have more patience and taking more ownership of being the change we want to see.

What are some tracks from local artists that you listen to frequently?

I like Sun by The Steve McQueens, The March Bounce by Chok Kerong, and godspeed by .GIF in particular.

Name the top three songs currently on your playlist.

Ghana Blues by Toto Bona Lokua, Still Here by Kllo, Blue World by Mac Miller

Lastly, what can audiences look forward to at your upcoming performance?

Acoustic versions of songs from each of my three records filmed in a sweaty carpark and recorded at 9am. I also had blonde hair at the time, so you can see for yourself if that was a mistake or not. 

Get on this beat

Baybeats Online 2020

Join us for the online counterpart of the biggest free alternative music festival in Singapore. Baybeats Online is a three-day music festival featuring a fist-pumping line-up of prominent Singapore acts, with talks and workshops.

21 – 23 Aug 2020
From 8pm
See schedule
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