From Listening to Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato, Charmaine Koh has dominated the local music scene with catchy tunes!
From getting involved with music at the age of 6, she has already performed in local musicals, and getting involved in vocal competitions including the global stage at World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA).
Charmaine Koh has released phenomenal music and with latest release like “Why Don’t You Live” This 16 year old is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
1. Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
Fully born and bred in KL, Malaysia, I am a 16-year-old minuscule of a girl. I began getting involved in music at the age of 6 when I was exposed to Camp Rock on Disney Channel and from there, begged my mother to bring me for vocal classes. I’ve always been drawn to the stage somehow, be it dance, acting or singing. I was just fascinated by the art of performing. Although I perceived it as a hobby initially, it slowly grew into something I wanted to pursue as a career. I began performing in local musicals, gigs here and there as well as involved myself in vocal competitions. The point of realisation of making music as a career , however, occurred when I participated in the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) when I had the opportunity to perform on a global stage. Having feeling the euphoria and adrenaline from performing on such a stage and possessing the ability to do what I’m passionate about and move people with it reinforced my decision to pursue music as a career. WCOPA also paved the way for me to work with my current producers in LA and kickstarted my journey of being an artist.
2. What made you want to pursue music? Were there any inspirations that inspired you to start your journey as a musician? Did you always want to pursue music? When did you discover your passion for music?
It definitely is the experience on stage when I sing that made me want to pursue music. The experience is pretty much indescribable unless you’ve experienced it first hand yourself: I love the euphoria, adrenaline and the freedom it holds so much so I crave for it even more each time I sing on stage. The turning point was when I was exposed to a highly competitive environment with so much talent during WCOPA that instead of feeling completely intimidated, I felt like I found a place I could call home, a sense of belonging in this world: the world of the arts.
Besides Demi Lovato’s Camp Rock, Taylor Swift was the first singer I idolised when I got into music. I was truly obsessed. I remember singing every release she put out – one after another. Her tracks were a bible to me and made me want to sing every day as well as developed the urge for me to be a musician.
Yes, I’ve always wanted to pursue music. From a young age, before I knew for sure music was it for me, I knew for a fact that I was going to pursue a career that involved the performing arts somehow. But music was definitely the career I’ve always wanted to pursue.
As for the passion, I can’t exactly say when but it was at that point of time that I realised growing up that other interests would quickly come and go but not with music. I kept clinging onto it as the years went by. As a child, I’ve always thought that it was completely normal to have a singular, strong interest throughout the years, not realising that many of my peers don’t have that one thing they can stick to. And what indicated that music might be more than just a hobby was that this interest didn’t seem to fade.
3. How would you describe your genre of music?
I would describe my genre of music as chill, modern and dreamy. It revolves around the genre of contemporary Pop/R&B.
4. Who are some of the people that you look up to in the local music scene? Who are your dream collaborations?
In the local scene, I look up highly to NYK and of course, the one and only Yuna. I admire NYK for his boldness and courage to be different with his music. And he’s so humble too! His music is the real deal. I look up to Yuna for the talent she has in music: her melodies are incredibly moving and her lyrics are gold. What inspires me the most is her bravery to really push for what she wants beyond our country and into such a competitive market to pursue her dreams to the fullest. She really is paving the way for us, young artists here, in Malaysia.
As for my dream collaborations, I wish to work with NIKI from 88rising because of her skills with otherworldly melodies and her talent in fusing these melodies with substantial meaning. I also wish to work with Crush and ZICO, both to which are K-R&B singer-producers. I would want to pick their brains about the innovation and creativity behind the production of their music.
5. You just released a new song called, “Why Don’t You Live”, amazing would be an understatement, it is such a catchy song! What were the inspirations to the song?
Thank you so much Sevenpie! The overall message and theme of the song was derived from my summer experience last year. I was overseas last year during the summer and was immersed in that nostalgic, summer heat, truly embracing the meaning of ’Why Don’t You Live’. This ignited the concept of the song. I wanted it to be that power anthem that could make people get away for a bit and live for awhile. I didn’t expect its meaning to coincide with the COVID-19 pandemic, however.
6. Your music video and song vibe so well together, how did you manage to pull it all off during a pandemic?
Thank you so much! I actually had the song in hand earlier than the music video so a lot of the brainstorming that was done during the pandemic was more for the concept of the music video and how to execute it effectively, while taking into consideration of social distancing and SOP. Luckily, when we were ready to shoot, the RMCO had just lifted so we took that opportunity to execute the music video, fearing another MCO would strike again, which it did as we are now entering the beginning of CMCO. Thank goodness! Due to the adequate amount of preparation prior to the shoot, everything sailed smoothly.
7. “Ordinary Girl” is one of your biggest hits yet! The lyrics are pure gold, what are the inspirations that you had to “Ordinary Girl”?
“Ordinary Girl” came from a time where I felt the little things in life could give so much joy, much more than you would imagine. Simple things like having the chance to celebrate birthdays with my loved ones and taking a stroll through the night were amongst the things that filled me wholesomely. Expensive jewellery don’t always bring such happiness; It is to tell us that materialism might not always make you happy in the end. Underneath that comes the theme of self-worth too, that you will always be enough, if you wear Gucci or even if you don’t.
8. For some of our first-time listeners, what song of yours would you recommend listening to first?
I would recommend first-time listeners to “Why Don’t You Live” first and to watch the music video too ;). The reason is because this is the track I feel the most connection to – it is the most relaxed I’ve sounded in a track which makes it pretty intimate between my listeners and I too. It also has so much of my personality as I am pretty much quite an optimistic person in life. In addition, the direction I’m heading towards to in terms of sound and style is most evident in this track so far. So do stream it on all platforms! I hope you like it.
9. The music video for “Why Don’t You Live” looked extremely fun to make, how did the idea of the music video come about?
It was a ton of fun! The idea came from being quarantined at home, feeling restricted and all. This was brainstormed between my video production team and I. Since the lyrics coincided with the current pandemic unexpectedly, we used it to our advantage. The music video jumps between the character’s imagination of the things she could experience beyond the four walls of her house and what she actually does in her house to actualise her imagination. For example, when she walks at the beach, she’s actually walking on a treadmill in her house. The message was to make the best out of any situation.
10. What was the creative process like for “Why Don’t You Live”?
The themes, inspiration and message came from summer nostalgia and was pieced together very naturally as I was taken over by that summer fun vibe. I first discussed the project with my producers when I was overseas last summer, surrounded by coconut trees and such. This definitely set the tone and hyped the concept I was going for. I was enchanted by the sheer bliss, freedom and exhilaration summer had. This season literally exists for us to have fun hence, the vibe and message of the song: to immerse ourselves in the now because we only get one shot at life.
11. Is there anything that you would change in the local music industry? If so, what would it be?
I wouldn’t say I want to change anything, I feel that it is improvement we should look towards to in our local music scene. As a young, Asian, and especially, Malaysian artist, I believe that we should invest more into the growth of artists, young artists especially because they are the future. By investment I mean quality facilities that help build the skills of those interested in all areas of performing arts and want to go all the way instead of being pressured to only keep it a ‘side-job’. What is also important is accessibility too, keeping in mind that it should not limit to those who do not have the privilege to access these facilities. Besides that, establishing programs and platforms that promote local talent in our country and beyond would also allow not just the nation but the world to know the rise of these upcoming South-east Asian, Malaysian artists. It’s all about awareness of the performing arts in the country and eventually investing and believing in it more and giving these artists the exposure they need to thrive to ultimately be on an international level.
12. Lastly, do you have any advice for Malaysians who are starting off their careers in the local music scene?
I would say this to everyone and as a reminder to my young, growing self to take our career as seriously as we want people to take it. If we want them to start believing in it, we’ve got to make the first move. The second thing would be to just do it, full on. Although sometimes we’re faced with the ultimate headache of ‘Is this the right thing to do?’, we’re already one foot in the ground and I know for sure that if we were to do anything else, we would break into an apple crumble. So there really isn’t anywhere else to go but forward and to the end.