Singer Michelle Poh's new song took 12 years to release
New material from two budding local female musicians deal with staying positive despite difficulties. They tell NATASHA MEAH (firstname.lastname@example.org) how far they have come
The song, titled Serenity, is a contemporary ballad from the 40-year-old's debut album, which she hopes to release at the end of the year.
The album will feature three original tracks and covers that Poh has put her own soul, jazz and blues spin on.
Poh told M that releasing Serenity – under her stage name of Michelle SgP – has been a journey 12 years in the making.
When she graduated from the National University of Singapore with an arts and social sciences degree, Poh found jobs in the music field because that is where her passion lies.
She was 28 when she wrote Serenity. At that time, she had just left her job as an arts administrator at the National Arts Council.
"I was feeling lost. I had always wanted to pursue a career in music and study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, but never had the chance to. My parents couldn't afford the fees," the part-time vocal coach and conductor told M.
"One day, I started to pen (Serenity) and I was done within a few hours. I was going through a phase of rethinking my life and wondering if I was headed in the right direction."
In 2004, she packed her bags for the Netherlands, where she found her "art" and "voice" after "jamming" with musicians there.
She also met her Dutch husband there and the following year, they got married and moved back to Singapore.
Here, she did gigs at hotels and started recording Serenity and several other tracks at well-known recording studio Lion Studios with the studio's late managing director and chief engineer John Herbert.
Poh had hopes her career would finally take off.
"(But) a veteran told me that my sound was 15 years ahead of its time so I decided to wait for the right time," said Poh.
In 2006, she gave birth to her son and her music took a back seat.
"I needed to dedicate all my time to him. I spent the next few years raising my son and finally when I was ready to get going again (in 2012), my marriage didn't work out and my husband returned to Holland," said Poh.
The next few years were spent bringing up her son alone.
When she was finally ready to re-record her music last year, she headed back to Lion Studios.
"Just this February, I met Stephen Laurence Harvey, a record producer from Aberdeen, Scotland, (who has worked with Grammy-winning artists), by chance.
"We hit it off and I found that he was able to capture the sound I wanted for Serenity," she said.
Poh feels it is finally her time to shine and launch her own work, after years of being behind the scenes, having coached and mentored young talents like Eugenia Yip (Ginny Bloop) and members of MICappella.
Poh said that with Serenity's release, it feels like "a huge weight" has been lifted off her shoulders.
"It's been a tumultuous decade of detours, with plenty of rich lessons which changed who I was for the better. Life is not a straight road, but you just have to find your way."
Beth Yap: Her songs turn bad things into good
Home-grown singer and songwriter Beth Yap, 22, is gearing up to release her debut album Beauty For Ashes on May 31 at a concert at the Esplanade Recital Studio.
The eight-track soul-pop and funk album contains songs she has written over the years while completing her diploma in music and audio technology at Singapore Polytechnic.
"My songs are mostly about taking bad things and turning them into good things. I use music to turn bad situations into a positive product," Yap, better known by her stage name bittymacbeth, told M.
Her first single Haters Gon' Hate is about discrimination and bullying and is a call for mutual conversation and understanding.
It was released last November and reached No. 4 on Singapore's iTunes R&B/Soul charts.
Still, Yap admitted to facing struggles as a new solo female English singer, saying: "The market is not that big (for me) compared to (those who sing in) Mandarin or both languages... They can work in the Taiwan and China market, which is enough to sustain them if they make it there.
"If you write English music, chances are you will be more well-received here only after you base yourself overseas, like Corrinne May.
"I don't see so much trouble as an English artist, but more as a female musician.
"Sometimes, people patronise me. I've had a male junior at school tell me before, 'I'm surprised you know how to use your (looper) pedal'," said the guitarist.
Yap also hopes to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston this year.
This is the second time she has been accepted. The first time was in 2012, when she was in her second year of polytechnic studies.
"My parents felt that it would be unwise for me to drop out halfway because if things were to not work out at Berklee, I would at least have something to fall back on," said Yap.
Last year, she auditioned again and was offered two small scholarships from Berklee. Her place is reserved until September this year.
Yap also received the National Arts Council Arts Undergraduate scholarship last year, capped at $100,000.
Berklee's fees cost around US$65,000 (S$88,000) a year. Her studies would take four years to complete.
Yap said: "I hope to get a full scholarship so I can pursue my course of study in Berklee. If I don't, then I will further my education at a local university here."