INTERVIEW: Singaporean Singer, Actress, Director Annette Lee

Pic by Daniel Ho

*Hi Annette, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?*

Helluuu! I’ve been very busy but very good!

*Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Songs For The Underdog”?*

It’s a fun celebratory anthem for everyone who feels like an underdog, the tortoise to the hare in the race of life – to encourage them there is a hope to win that they just cannot see just yet.

*Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?*

So in Dec 2017, 13 Singaporean teenagers formed a ‘kpop band’ called Beaunite, and uploaded a debut video (like the kind real kpop bands do haha) to Youtube. the video became viral overnight (were #2 trending on Singapore’s Youtube) and the girls became targets for brutal cyberbullies, causing them to retreat into oblivion.

My heart went out to the girls because their stories resonated with me so much: they were girls with a dream being told they’ll never make it – a lot like who i was growing up. So i wondered, what would happen to them 10 years down the road? Would they still be chasing their dream? And that inspired the song (an encouragement to the girls and anyone else like them, that they can still find victory against the odds), as well as the premise of a Youtube web-series i made called You Only Debut Once (an imagination of their lives, years after the incident).

*Why naming the record after this song in particular?*

Growing up, I always felt like the odds were stacked against me – i was never the cool kid, definitely not a rich kid, my family was dysfunctional and i was constantly falling ill – the list goes on.

Yet i’ve seen times in my life where I found victory after pressing on, despite the odds being stacked against me. So i wanted this to be the title track because it’s a message that could make a world of a difference for someone out there who could be in the gap between gaining their biggest win ever (if they’d just press on a little more) or giving up right before the finish line.

But of course, despite my wins there are always new odds stacked against myself, so I found that this song turns around time and again to encourage me too.

*How was the recording and writing process?*

I wrote a lot of the songs during difficult moments i was going through in the past couple years, or after moments of epiphany while travelling.

*What role did Nashville play on the writing of this music?*

I recorded the album in Nashville, with producers Colton Price and Jerricho Scroggins.

*How did you get to balance your background as an actress with your music and the other way around?*

I get this question a lot, and people also include the fact that i write and direct videos too. It /is/ a lot, and the honest answer is – i just don’t have a lot of fun… HAHA.

But the thing is, sometimes work can be really fun. I’m so passionate about creating art that i love spending time writing new music and stories. I know this sounds like i live in a cave but on the contrary, i love being around people too – being on set is actually my favourite part of a filmmaking process because not only do i get to see words hit the screen, that’s also when i get to interact with the cast and crew, and there’s something magical about humans coming together to make something.

Of course, apart from the few fun bits there’s also a lot of unglamorous and tedious parts of creating a piece of work – so to avoid burning out i usually take deliberate breaks in between projects to travel, consume more art, or meet with people to have conversations with them – but often it’s in these downtimes that i get some of my best inspirations for new work too.

*Speaking of which, what made you want to make a tie-in webseries?*

The webseries is about a Singaporean girl trying to be a Kpop star, and I guess it was all related to the incident that happened in Dec 2017.

For the same reasons that inspired the song, I wanted to tell a coming-of-age story that people could relate to, and tackles the themes head-on (unlike the more abstract manner of the song), yet through the blither lens of comedy.

*What aspect of your own life and today’s society did you get to explore on this record and the show?*

I really got to explore themes of cyberbullying, fame and friendship in the age of social media, and something a little more perennial – what it means to win, lose, and doing the right thing.

*Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?*

I wrote a lot of the songs during difficult moments i was going through in the past couple years, or after moments of epiphany while travelling.

The song ‘Gold’ was inspired after trips to a few gold mines around the world.

*Any plans to hit the road?*

Yes! I’m planning for a regional tour in Asia, and I’m doing a show back home called ‘A Party For The Underdog’ on 1 Mar. i’ll be sharing songs from the new EP, but it’s more of a giant party with food and games, where everyone is invited – especially those who are often left out – to come and celebrate before their wins instead of waiting for a win to celebrate.

*What else is happening next in Annette Lee’s world?*

They say life imitates art, and soon after writing for the show, I got an opportunity to do a Korean remix for one of the songs off the EP with a South Korean music producer. Super excited for that!


About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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