One-on-one with Charlie Lim

Known as the man with the smooth velvet-like and hauntingly enthralling vocals, Charlie Lim lets us in on his personal contemplations on his craft and on the local music scene.

Following the release of Time and Space in June 2015, the double EP saw an unprecedented surge to the top spot on the local iTunes chart within the hour, and gathered more than 1.5 million plays on Spotify since then. He quickly gained traction in both the local and regional scene, clinching numerous gigs all over the region such as Mosaic Music Festival in Singapore, Clockenflap in Hong Kong, Jarasum Jazz Festival in Seoul and Java Jazz Festival in Indonesia.

In spite of recent developments, the 26-year-old singer-song writer does not seem to buy into the glitz and glamour, and remains level-headed when asked if he perceives himself as a forerunner of the local scene today.

“I try not to think of that too much and to put that kind of pressure on myself is tough. Because you start thinking outside of being an artist who simply creates but more so on the social or artistic utility behind your craft. (More than anything), I think it’s important, (as artists), to push the envelope to what you can do and to be experimental.”

In the brief conversations with Charlie, his devotion to music is only apparent, especially when it comes to songwriting. Charlie shares that he’s an overthinker and tries to analyse and deduce most things. Unlike common romanticised illusions of songwriting being completely cathartic and purgatory (though it can sometimes be), inspiration comes to him in the little moments in his day. He would then sing or scribble lines into his phone and even tweet lines. “It’s usually happens when something happens or when I’m observing something, reading, watching a film and travelling.”

When asked about his pillars of inspiration for music, Charlie was prompt in singling out Jeff Buckley and was unabashed in expressing his admiration for Buckley’s music and performances as he shared about the artist of late.

“I grew up listening to Jeff Buckley. He is a famous singer songwriter back in the early 90’s. He died very shortly after his first album which is a huge shame but I think his premature passing actually garnered more fame for him. But he was kind of like this crazy reckless creative force. I was just blown away by how he would never play the same song twice. I think he was kind of my model when I was growing up.”

Spending a good part of his formative and college years in Melbourne, the bustling art hub has played a pivotal role in his creative endeavours. From yearning to “make it in the West(ern)” industry to drawing inspiration from the contemporary sounds of the community in Melbourne such as neo-soul and RnB. After graduating from Monash University with a Bachelor in Music Performance in 2012, he considered staying in Melbourne to kick start his music career but was eventually drawn back to Singapore.

“I was getting more opportunities in the Southeast Asia region so it made sense that I returned. At that time, I signed on with House of Riot and things took off from there. I don’t think we know how lucky we are in Singapore. In other art capitals like New York or London which are over saturated with talent and everyone works really hard, there’s so many places that you can go to listen to an original band play live. But I guess because you don’t have many people doing that in Singapore, you have a higher chance of standing out if you are decent at what you do… Furthermore, Asia is also kind of seeing its renaissance in indie music so I thought it was good to go with the flow. That being said, I would love to go to London and to start from the bottom again. And that’s the best way to learn.”

In his last few parting words, Charlie encourages the young and budding musicians in the scene with these words of advice.

“Just keep at it and to chase what you love. Success is how you define it yourself. You don’t always have to follow that same definition and it is easy to fall into that trap especially with social media and how things are validated. But chase what you love and remember that same feeling you get when you finish writing a song or you finished performing for the first few times; that feeling of satisfaction and contentment.”

Interview by Jiaeenn Tay.