Looking for music inspiration in LA


Singapore singer-songwriter Renny Goh has never lived abroad nor has she been to the United States. But she is taking a leap of faith by moving to the music mecca of Los Angeles to pursue her passion.

Goh, 26, a regular in the live music bar scene here, leaves this month to pursue a bachelor's degree in music (composition and scoring) at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles.

She was offered a partial scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, but she decided to go to the institute instead because of the vibrant music scene in LA.

"Los Angeles will be a better scene. My goal is to meet people who can inspire me - songwriters, producers and engineers," says Goh, who plays a farewell solo show at St James Power Station on Sunday.

At the age of five, she received music lessons in piano. She got her start as a live performer after joining local pop-rock band Black Forest as a keyboardist on graduating from junior college and subsequently became their singer.

The band, which put out a three-song EP last year, opened for Taiwanese rock band F.I.R during their concert here in 2010, and played at the Mandopop festival Spring Wave, which featured Taiwanese stars such as Jam Hsiao and Cheer Chen.

What convinced Goh's parents that she could make music her career are the past five years she spent as a bar musician performing covers and originals at places such as Wala Wala Cafe Bar in Holland Village, Switch by Timbre in Bras Basah Road and Skyve Wine Bistro in Winstedt Road.

She says: "It was an agreement with my parents. At 19, I didn't have anything to show them that I could make it in the industry.

"But I've been singing for four to five years now and they see me bring in money and I'm happy, so they're quite supportive."

Her dad, a mechanical engineering lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic, and mum, a housewife, urged her to get a degree as a back-up plan. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology from the National University of Singapore.

When they realised how serious the elder of their two children was about music, they supported her decision to pursue it as a full-time career, and are paying half of her school fees in Los Angeles.

Goh, who counts R&B singer Stevie Wonder and alternative rock band Imagine Dragons among her favourites, says she is exploring new sounds, from folk to electronica.

A source of inspiration for her music is her 29-year-old cousin, who suffered third-degree burns over 70 per cent of his body from a chemical explosion in Tuas last year.

She says: "It'll take him two to three years to recover. But looking at him trying to make his way to a better recovery inspires me."

Asked if she wishes to follow in the footsteps of indie-rock singer Inch Chua or singer-songwriter Tanya Chua, who went to the US for a music career, Goh says: "I'm not going there to pursue a career. I want to go there to see how people approach music in different ways."

She hopes to work on a debut solo EP within the next few years. She says: "The only thing I'm scared of is being stagnant. I need a fresh perspective and a new take on things.

"In life, you want to learn. And if you're hardworking enough, the money will come."