The Beat Singapore's Up-and-Coming Artist: Singer-Songwriter Dru Chen
September 06, 2023
The Beat Singapore’s Up and Coming is a series where we feature rising talented artists from Singapore, giving them a platform to share what they’re passionate about and promote the music they (and us too!) would love for the world to hear. Do you want or know someone who wants to be featured? Email us at [email protected] or slide through our DMs on Facebook or Instagram!
In the realm of art, one’s journey often begins with a spark of inspiration, some from the influences of their upbringing, others from a striking life experience. Such is the case with the artist at the center of this piece: a soulful musician whose passion for music was kindled by his family and his curious mind, who now imparts the same to the younger generation of aspiring musicians.
For The Beat Asia’s Up-and-Coming series, we spoke to Singapore-based singer-songwriter, producer, and lecturer Dru Chen about his beginnings, his fascinating process when making his music, and his dream collaborations, among others. He also has some advice for those who share his passion for music.
Can you give us a brief introduction about yourself and tell us how you first got into music?
Some of my earliest childhood memories involve music. I distinctly remember being at gatherings where uncles and aunties would be chit-chatting away, and I would hide out in a room with a piano and just be mesmerised by the notes and the different combinations of sounds. I guess the fascination began there, in my introversion and curiosity of notes and chords.
Your performances show how well-versed you are in playing various musical instruments. Where did you learn to play these instruments?
My mum and dad loved music and were instrumental in encouraging me and keeping me disciplined in learning classical piano and violin as a kid. In high school, my music teacher allowed me to stay back after class and experiment with the various contemporary instruments in the room, such as the electric guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums.
You are heavily involved in the production of your music. What is your process in making a song and what do you think is the best one that you have produced?
Making a song usually starts [with] a good title, hook, groove, or “feel” which I can beat-box or record on the street [as voice notes] on my phone. When it’s time to write, I might ruminate for a while on the keyboard or guitar until I have a rough verse and chorus that feels satisfying and evokes something [emotional].
Then, if I have enough freshness and momentum, I might either demo it or just start laying it down properly on Logic in my home studio. I’ll throw on the instruments, play around with textures, layer background vocals if the song needs it, and automate effects and mix it until it hits the spot. It’s a fairly long process before it’s time to commit the stems and the stereo mix. We might try to do a Dolby Atmos mix afterward, which is exciting and fun. I can’t say which one is the best, but my most recent production is “Mess In Me” which is our latest single off the “Slower Life” album. I’m proud of the production [of] this one!
Where do you get inspiration for your music?
Inspiration comes from stories and moments that hit me hard, but inspiration also comes from the moving power of music, especially from a groove or a hook that just feels good. Music has the power to change the vibrations in our bodies and a room, so I always hope to catch these energies and channel them positively.
What do you think is your biggest achievement since you started this career?
There have been [several] moments. Launching my first EP, “Intentions,” at The Toff in Town in Melbourne back in 2013, producing a soul-jazz charity concert for migrant workers back in 2016 with my wife Melyssa Goh, doing my “Mirror Work” album launch with The Black East and Warner at the Aliwal Arts Centre in 2019, and the “Slow Life” show at Esplanade Concert Hall in 2021 with Yung Lee Records and LINCH. Performing and producing a crazy energetic electric set to a sea of people at the New Year’s Eve countdown in 2020. It’s been special.
Can you tell us about your recent album, ‘Slower Life,’ and how it came to be?
“Slower Life” is a culmination of 3 years of work on a special bunch of songs A&R’d and distributed by Yung Lee Records with a fellowship of beautifully talented collaborators Gentle Bones, Rangga Jones, Shye, Charlie Lim, Calvert Tay, JZlee, Jesse Bear, and Paul McMurray, among others. At the launch show for 2019’s Slow Life album, we decided to try to come up with a deluxe edition, but by the time it was ready, we had enough songs for a whole ‘nother album, hence "Slower Life."
What advice can you give to those who are passionate about pursuing music?
Find your “ikigai:” what are you good at, that you love to do, that the world needs, that you can get paid for. If you don’t want to go all-out, there’s no harm in making it your creative expression. Create your definition of what it means to pursue music. Just be intentional with what you do, and don’t take it too personally if that gets in the way of your enjoyment and passion.
If given the chance to collaborate with someone in the industry, who would it be and why?
I love HYBS, Phum Viphurit, brb., dhruv, and yuji. Authentic, experimental, and amazing talents all-round, and very inventive songwriting and production!
What’s next for Dru Chen? Do you have any new gigs, releases, or projects we can look forward to hearing from you soon?
I look forward to writing my new batch of songs with a twist in concept and change-up in sound. Can’t wait to get back into my next experimental phase. Thanks for checking out “Slower Life,” and have a great day ahead!
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