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Local music amps it up
THERE are only four original compositions in Jaime Wong's debut album, but you could say a bucket (or more) of blood, sweat and tears went into writing and recording it; so much so she admits suffering from "a bad case of confirmation bias" after initial sessions for it were completed. Eager to release it after spending so much time working on it, the eponymous EP was held back after her producer Leonard Soosay and fellow singer-songwriter Nick Chim finally managed to convince the 25-year-old that two of the songs "weren't cutting it".
"It was very demoralising, and frustrating because I was so eager to get it out," reveals the recipient of the Noise Singapore Award 2012, a National Arts Council initiative that comes with a cash prize of S$5,000 for young artists to spend on showcasing their works. "But I am glad that whole episode happened because I learnt something valuable the hard way - that is, never settle when it comes to your craft."
The extra effort has more than paid off with the EP making an impressive #2 debut on the local iTunes chart on the week of its release; something which caught Wong totally off-guard. "I don't really know how the charts work, and I am not too fussed over the EP sales but I'll be the first to admit that it felt pretty good to see my EP cover next to the Fast and Furious original soundtrack; I was excited for two days!" she recalls with a laugh.
Growing up in a household of music lovers, Wong's first attempt at songwriting took place while walking to school one day when she was just nine. She briefly signed up for classical guitar lessons at 12 but stopped when she got bored. Two years later, she picked it up again on her own by looking at chords online and eventually taught herself to play by ear.
Things only got serious when at 16, she discovered "the musical genius that is (Irish singer-songwriter) Damien Rice". Like the latter, Wong's brand of introspective folk-pop often finds her wearing her heart on her sleeve.
But she insists her songs are not always based on her own personal experiences; some are also inspired by the books she's read, music she's listened to and movies she's watched.
The pensive Skin, which is the oldest song on the EP and has an accompanying music video was "born out of the loneliness" she experienced when she moved to Canberra for her undergraduate studies in 2009 and then extrapolated from the music, books and movies she consumed to get over that lonesomeness.
"Sometimes I write songs with the perspective of a particular character of a book I am reading, sometimes I cook up alternative endings to a movie I am watching and write them into songs, sometimes I just make up stories in my songs," she explains, "Of course, there are a couple of songs that have elements that are very personal and I wish for the listener to pick out where and what they are - I crave for that kind of interaction and intimacy with listeners."
The years she's spent performing publicly has made her more comfortable on stage now and she says she's now confident to experiment further, musically. "I am trying to move away from the standard 'intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus' structure and experiment with new mediums," says Wong, who now works as a risk analyst and has a master's in strategic studies.
She also isn't getting stressed out over whether her follow-up will crack the charts the same way her debut has. "The pressure comes from (the fact that) this is my first EP and I poured my heart and soul for everyone to judge," she says instead.
Jaime Wong plays Lepark @ People's Park Complex on May 15 at 7.30pm. Tickets are available from http://jaimewongep.peatix.com. Download the EP at smarturl.it/jaimewongep. Find out more about Jaime at jaimewongmusic.net and facebook.com/jaimewongmusic