tALENTED Artist Charmaine Koh Gives An Exclusive Interview After Releasing Singles “Bonfire” And “MONTAGE”
Both songs are amazingly well-crafted and offer the best of the Malaysian artist with her impressive vocals, melodic rhythms and ear-pleasing pop sequences. A unique musical talent who’s destined for greatness, Charmaine Koh gives us an insight into her musical process and her next steps, so enjoy the insightful interview about the next big star out of Asia!
How would you describe yourself as an artist and how does that affect your musical style?
I would like to describe myself as a storyteller through song. The main objective for me is to always make sure that my music is able to make someone feel and visualize something – and not just in the lyrics but through the melodies, chords and the production of it all. I always try my best to translate the essence of a story into song through these components. And, I do this while creating in the genres of Pop/R&B which I find resonates with the true color of my sound.
You have a very soothing and versatile voice that can be used in many different genres. Are you looking to expand from pop, r&b and soul or just focus on those genres? If so, which other genres interest you?
I plan to stay in the realms of Pop, R&B/Soul for quite some time. I would say I have only started experimenting with these genres pretty recently and the more I do, the more I fall deeper in love with it each time. Most importantly, I think that the way I express myself through music at this point of time in my journey of being an artist is through these genres and I kinda knew it because I saw a pattern in the way I created my melodies, the songs I loved listening to, and what truly resonated with my soul. Furthermore, these realms are huge and they go way back so, I really would like to see myself creating in these styles I love while inventing my own sound along the way.
How is it like being a pioneer as a Malaysian musician singing in English? Is there any pressure? If so, how do you handle it?
There has been a huge rise in musicians from Malaysia singing in English and I am incredibly humbled to be part of this new wave of artists in today’s era. However, English-singing Malaysian artists who have had success locally/internationally are still relatively few, so as someone doing something different and quite new in the eyes of many definitely comes with pressure – feeling like I have the responsibility to do well and make a mark. But, I always try to rewire my brain to focus on the right things: creating, working on my craft, honing my skills, constantly striving to improve, directing my energy towards doing rather than stressing about the destination when the journey matters the most. Yes, I do have my rough days but it’s during times like these where I find it important to recenter my mission as an artist. Also, I am just one of many artists on this journey so knowing that I am not alone is comforting as well. At the same time, I would like to also give credit to the true pioneers: the Malaysian artists in the English music scene who came before me such as: Yuna, Mizz Nina etc. They were the ones that took the first step and gave me the courage to make music in English. English was what I grew up speaking and listening to, so it is only natural for me to create music with it.
What event or experience in your life made you want to commit to making music? Or was it always natural for you to be a musical artist?
For me, it was an accumulation of certain events that reaffirmed my decision to pursue it as a career. Participating in the World Championships of Performing Arts in Los Angeles, at the age of 12 ignited a flame within me when I saw people from all across the globe come together to do one thing: perform. I never felt like I belonged in such a community as well as I did then. The bigger turning point for me following after, was when I had the opportunity to do a summer program at Berklee College of Music – this program was what reinforced my passion in music as I was surrounded by prodigies all over who shared the same love for music as I did, had unique connections with music, all of which was absolutely inspiring and made me realize that I was in my element all along.
Besides being an incredible vocalist, what other skills do you have or looking to develop on?
I want to be able to continue developing my skill as a vocalist while finding my voice through writing more music consistently. I believe that this will help develop my style & sound while finding my place as an artist in this new era. As my strong suit has always been being a performer, dance is something I am also experimenting with these days. Honestly, being able to connect with music through different mediums like dance for example, has been reinvigorating and an eye-opener to things I’ve never experienced before which, I hope, will help in my growth as an artist.
Are there any collaborations you would like to have? If so, who would you like to collaborate with?
I would like to collaborate with 1. NIKI, a fellow artist of 88rising. I absolutely adore her writing and her take on the genres of Pop/R&B. Additionally, we both stand for similar things- and that is asian representation in the music industry today. I would love to create something revolving around that with her. She is one of the people who I enormously look up to because of her creativity, boldness and perseverance in the industry. 2. DPR LIVE & IAN – It would be a dream to be able to collaborate with these international, trendy, R&B artists. I adore them for their sound in music, which strongly reflects today’s era, the way they infuse different genres into their music and, how innovative they are with their art.
What are your desired milestones as a musician?
As I am growing more so as an artist now, part of the goal that I am working towards everyday is to one day be able to tour – tour around certain regions of the world and play music people resonate with. While consistently creating, putting my all into my work each time, constantly striving for betterment, I one day see myself at the Grammys as one of the first female Southeast Asian artists to be nominated for a category. Winning would be icing on the cake but, what truly matters to me is being in the presence of those A-listers who I have looked up to since the beginning and expressing my gratitude towards them and more importantly, being able to be part of a movement where it becomes evident that asian artists like me have a space in the global music industry, too