Q&A: Fast Five with Charlie Lim

Charlie Lim standing outside with grass field and some trees behind him
Charlie Lim. Brisbane Festival. Credit: Aimee Han

Singaporean born singer, songwriter, producer, and artist, Charlie Lim was first introduced to music at a young age by his mother, who was a piano teacher. He came to Australia to study at the age of 14, and at 15, was recognised as the top music performance student in Victoria. He later returned to Singapore to fulfill national service responsibilities, before coming back to Australia to complete his Bachelor in Music, at Monash University.

Since then, he’s released two albums, including a self titled EP in 2011, and full album, TIME/SPACE, in 2015. He’s also spent time touring the Asia Pacific and the UK, and was invited to perform his song ‘Still’ at the closing ceremony for the 2016 SEA (South East Asian) Games, in Singapore.

Lim’s been described as ‘one of Singapore’s finest musical exports’ (Music Weekly Asia,) yet manages to stay down to earth and all about the music; Charlie Lim speaks with Peril Arts Editor, Magdalene H, ahead of his performance with The Mothership at this year’s Brisbane Festival.

Magdalene: Can you share with us your personal creative process for writing songs and music?

Charlie: There’s no one way I go about it, but it’s usually sparked by a couple of ideas –either musical or lyrical, and then I try to work out the nuts and bolts of growing it into a proper song – either on the guitar or piano, or the computer. Sometimes I work with producers who can help me execute ideas that I have in my mind, but most of the time it’s a lot of trial and error on my own.

M: Tell us what inspires you?

C: I think I get bored quite easily, so I’m always in between phases of immersing myself with different genres when it comes to music. Right now, I’m loving a lot of electronic music coming from the UK. But I grew up listening to a lot of late 90’s and early 2000’s singer-songwriters , you know, like Damien Rice, Jeff Buckley, Fiona Apple, John Mayer, Regina Spektor. So I guess that’s always going to be part of my DNA when I write. I like songs that are piano-able or guitar-able, meaning you can perform them live, with or without a band or a fully fleshed out production.

M: You played solo at the Brisbane Festival in 2015, and now you’re returning with your  super band, The Mothership. What can we expect from this performance?

C: I believe it’s been coined a ‘superband’ because they’re made up of some of the best indie and jazz musicians in Singapore. Which in hindsight was quite a peculiar experiment to begin with, but I’m glad it’s turned out pretty well; There’s an infinitely wider sonic palette and dynamic range because there are way more variables I get to play with.

You can expect great musicianship and a lot of sharp turns, because we shift gears quite a lot. The genre hopping and blending becomes even more apparent with the band, and that keeps it interesting for everyone.

M: Can you tell us about the challenges and highlights of performing in Australia, compared to Singapore?

C: I was based in Melbourne for some time, and did some touring around Australia when I was at Uni, and I understood how tough it was to survive as a musician. There’s an oversaturation of talent –pretty much everyone in their 20’s is in a band. *laughs* But that can be hard in terms of making a living; a lot of my friends in Australia are still working multiple part-time jobs to sustain themselves. On the other hand, because there’s just so much going on, there’s an endless supply of inspiration to learn and draw from. The diversity is incredible and shouldn’t be taken for granted. There’s also a lot of radio and community support here, which is something I wish we had more of in Singapore. Our only alternative music radio station LUSH 99.5 just got shut down, because they didn’t have enough listeners to compete with the more commercial stations, and, unlike Triple J, it isn’t backed by our government and wasn’t really given a chance to grow.

M: Where do you hope to be, in terms of your music, in five years from now?

C: Hopefully still doing what I’m doing now! But I’d love to explore working on different projects and collaborations beyond this solo singer-songwriter project as well. I do enjoy touring, and like any other musician, I’d love to just be constantly playing to new audiences in different parts of the world.

Magdalene H

Author: Magdalene H

Magdalene is Romanian-Vietnamese, grew up in Australia, and is currently living on the Arabian Peninsula. She holds a Bachelor of Professional Communication, with a major in Journalism, and is undertaking post graduate studies in Business, with a double specialization in International Business and Professional Communication. Magdalene also enjoys curating and contributing to several blogs, while navigating expatriatism, and parenting in the third-culture.