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Charlene Su

Charlene Su

Meet singer-songwriter and commercial talent from Singapore, Charlene Su.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Charlene, a 24-year old creative based in Singapore. While I work for a tech company as a business development manager by day, I emerge out of my corporate shell to become a singer-songwriter and commercial talent by night. I love to say that I’m a creative by nature and beach bum by choice, too 😉

 

I released my debut single, “home with you” on all digital streaming platforms earlier this year and it would mean everything to me if you’d tune in and give it a listen x

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

I have a love-hate relationship with Singapore. It is safe, clean, convenient, efficient – wonderful in a multitude of ways. When Singaporeans return home from our travels, the world-class airport, with its indoor waterfalls, a/c, light shows, and plants galore welcomes us with open arms. It’s beautiful, awe-inspiring, almost ridiculous.

 

But all things carefully curated, stable and controlled can seem artificial and can be stifling. Singapore is ultimately a small city-state where everything is meticulously planned and formulated with precision. This clean, polished, curated visage came at the expense of some arts and cultural heritage – we lack that sort of gritty, rough, raw-edged honesty.

 

Our relationship is complicated ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

Singapore is ultimately a small city-state where everything is meticulously planned and formulated with precision.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

Singapore is known to be comfortable and convenient. I believe the majority of Singaporean creatives will concur with me saying that it is both the best and worst thing – a double-edged sword of sorts. I’ve always believed that people, myself included, grow best outside of their comfort zones. It may seem entitled for me to say that a neat and tidy country needs some ‘chaos’ for art to truly bloom, but artistic expression is borne out of feeling intensely, and art needs to be able to take its organic growth outside of specified ‘safe margins’.

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Priorities over conveniences.

 

How did you start your career in music?

I distinctly remember my parents driving me to ballet class when I was 9 as I sang along to a Savage Garden song on the radio. I told my bewildered parents that I wanted to be a singer then. I will never forget the shock on their faces as they realized the money they had spent on ballet lessons was for naught, lol. Being the ever-supportive parents they were, they signed me up for singing lessons and I joined the national children’s choir the following year. I then attended School of the Arts Singapore and studied music, specializing in classical opera and jazz vocals for 6 years. I attended academic college after that but music never left my side as I freelanced as a singer for weddings and corporate events throughout my tertiary education.

 

I’ve been writing songs since I was 14 and it’s been 10 long years but somehow, I only felt compelled to finally record, produce and release them this year. My debut single “home with you” is my first venture into this wild, wild world of commercial original music. I’m a newbie but I’m incredibly excited to see where all this brings me!

 

I’m a newbie but I’m incredibly excited to see where all this brings me!

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

In my tertiary years, I often sang late into the night – I felt most alive then singing for late-night crowds who were always excited to hear my music. I grew up surrounded by creatives as friends and they’d come down to my gigs all the time.

 

However, being traditionally risk-averse, my parents were wary, concerned that this almost nocturnal, freelancing lifestyle was going to be a perpetual one that lacked stability. I think many Singaporean musicians can relate. Although it was a struggle getting them on board, I convinced them that while my day job fed my body, singing fed my soul, and even if I were exhausted going straight to gigs after working in the day, I’d do it purely for the love of music anyway.

 

Since then, my parents have been quietly supportive, never failing to show me their love. When new songs are written, my dad eagerly asks to hear them before the release date. After a gig, I’d come home to a jug of herbal tea on the counter lovingly made by my mother, and that is more than enough for me.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

I hope to continue creating sincere, honest, timeless music that simultaneously acknowledges and navigates the vastness of emotion. I wish to play for people across the world who resonate with me as a person, and the content I produce. Continue to fight for what I believe in, and perhaps start my own business. But first, release my second song. And a third song. All in the works! Baby steps.

 

I hope to continue creating sincere, honest, timeless music that simultaneously acknowledges and navigates the vastness of emotion.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

Do I dare??? Damn.

Honestly, I’d be delighted if anyone was genuinely excited to create something that aligned with both our interests with me. It’ll be a blast.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

Women of much beauty and grace, who will not hesitate to punch anyone in the face if they are crossed. Intense, but in all the right ways and at all the right times. Resilient, with resolute strength. Selfless. Relentless. Leading by example with unwavering, all-encompassing love and passion for life.

 

Leading by example with unwavering, all-encompassing love and passion for life.

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

I can’t pull a name out at the moment. While I knew of some local female artists, there were none that I was enthusiastic enough about to follow. I was more exposed to acts from abroad, perhaps because the local arts scene has only recently started to catch the public eye. I think Singapore is slowly beginning to recognize our local talent, and I can only hope that the generation after mine would have answers to this question when the time comes.

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

No doubt. Music is still a largely male-dominated industry. People love to assume things from the way you look. For one, I’d like to be able to go to work and not have the fear of being asked on a date or being sexually harassed after a business meeting. But we still have a long way to go. It’s clear that sexualized and gendered tropes still sell incredibly well in popular culture. In a society that pokes and prods females’ bodies, demanding that we fit with a different trend each season, writing music has provided me an avenue to rebuild the shattered pieces left in the wake of unrelenting beauty standards. I’d like to think that dodgy music videos out of the equation, the minute I put on my earpieces and am left to my own creative thought, there is only me and the music.

 

Blow your own mind!

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

You have as many hours in a day as Beyoncé. Find success on your own terms and step forward in grit anchored in grace. Blow your own mind!

 

 

Photos courtesy of Wanjie Li, Michelle Lim, and Jerald Saw.

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