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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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m not sure...maybe Easy Living by Billie Holiday and Lester Young. That was my wedding dance song.
I don’t have one.
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.
I like Sun by The Steve McQueens, The March Bounce by Chok Kerong, and godspeed by .GIF in particular.
Ghana Blues by Toto Bona Lokua, Still Here by Kllo, Blue World by Mac Miller
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
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.