Music transcends language, culture and words.
As Singapore celebrates its Golden Jubilee, it’s high time we address the elephant in the room – we have no collective culture as a nation. In countries like the United States, music plays an integral role in shaping history and culture. A slew of musicians – from Stevie Wonder to Bob Dylan, Xtina to Beyonce and even Miley Cyrus – had a hand in shaping culture in America (and inevitably, the rest of world).
Back home, although we are seeing an increase in interest in local musicians, but there isn’t a corresponding support on the ground for local talent – how like that? Recently, we’ve seen the likes of The Sam Willows injecting much needed life into the local music scene, paving an avenue for the slowly but surely growing appreciation of local talent.
One to Watch
It is an encouraging sign that record labels are working to help advocate for local talent, and offering up recording deals. MMXJ aka MJ Kuok, was recently signed to Warner Music Singapore, and is set to release his debut single, Kings, this week.
Popspoken speaks MMXJ, who is of Singapore Idol fame, on his music and his thoughts on the local scene. Is the class of 2009 alumni, alongside season winner Sezairi Sezali and runner up Sylvia Ratonel, finally ready to step into a musical sphere he can call his own?
What’s behind the name?
The name MMXJ is formed from the initials of my brothers and I. They’re a big influence on me and were the ones who taught me how to play the guitar, sing, and eventually got me into music
Describe your sound/musical style in 3 words.
Melodic dance music.
How was it like working with Gentle Bones on Kings, and what goes on in the songwriting process, especially when it is a collaboration with another artiste?
It was awesome. He’s a pure talent and I feel truly lucky to have collaborated with him on Kings. When I collaborate with other artists, we usually first decide what we want the theme of the song to be about lyrically. We then play around with different vocal melodies until we find something that works well with the instrumentals. Lastly, we pen the lyrics to tell our story.
The song is about fighting for one’s dreams, and not letting someone define who you are – is there a personal connection behind this song for you?
Definitely. Growing up, I struggled with wanting to pursue music as a career. There would always be voices saying “How are you going to survive making music? Why don’t you get a real job?”. After graduating from University, these voices got the better of me & I gave up on the idea of pursuing music. The result was me jumping between 3 different jobs as I couldn’t find anything that I was truly passionate about. During this time, I would stay up for nights on end producing music and my desire to fight for my dream only grew stronger. Once I got better at production and felt more confident, I decided that I couldn’t suppress my dreams of becoming a producer/DJ any longer – I had to give it my all and fight for it.
Over the past couple of years, we‘ve seen a rise in number of local musicians. However, the support for local music has not grown accordingly, why do you think is so and what can be done about it?
The scene is definitely growing and has come a long way since 5 years ago. I think the main thing that needs to happen is for event organisers and mainstream media to continue providing the opportunities for local musicians to showcase their music. Once a level playing is created, it’s really up to the audience to decide what they like and want to support.
Your message to Singaporeans about supporting local music and talents – what would it be?
I think that Singaporeans are doing a fantastic job at supporting local music right now. The only thing I would say is don’t stop and keep spreading the word!
Having come from Singapore Idol background, what is your take on current reality singing competitions (like The Final One) and the level of talent that emerges from the show?
I think that they’re a great platform to give aspiring artists exposure and because there are many rounds of auditions to go through before getting in, the level of talent that emerges is usually of a pretty high standard.
Who is you musical inspiration and why?
Alesso is my musical inspiration. His approach to songwriting – to craft emotional and uplifting dance music, is what first got me interested in the genre when I first saw him perform live at Coachella.
If you could collaborate with any one on a song, who would it be?
Ed Sheeran, Jay Z, Jay Chou (sorry, one wasn’t enough! haha)
Which musicians are currently on rotation on your playlist?
Coldplay, Gentle Bones, Ed Sheeran, Reuby, Kygo, Myrne, The Sam Willows, Audien, Redmoon, Alesso, Inquisitive, Tinc, Lincey, Rave Republic
Other that Kings, what have you been up to recently?
Finishing up production on my debut album. The second single comes out in October and the album drops in November. Stay tuned!
Kings (ft Gentle Bones) will be premiering on Sep 25 via iTunes.