Singer-songwriter Charlie Lim travels for creative growth, but will always call Singapore home

Singer-songwriter Charlie Lim. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG  
Singer-songwriter Charlie Lim. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG  

Next month, singer-songwriter Charlie Lim will be playing some of the biggest shows of his career right here on homeground.

Less than two weeks after a triple-bill set at the House Of Riot show at the Esplanade Concert Hall on June 6, the 26-year-old will close the 28th SEA Games at the National Stadium by playing Still, a song he wrote for the regional sporting event.

"They mean a lot to me," he says of the two gigs. "At the end of the day, you are representing something bigger than yourself."

Lim, a full-time musician whose work straddles multiple genres including folk, soul and jazz, is also set to release his latest long-form work, a double EP titled Time/Space and a follow-up to his acclaimed 2011 debut, EP, at the Esplanade show.

The first half of the release, Time, sees him stick to linear, more conventional songwriting. Space, the other half, has him indulging his more experimental tendencies.

"I like a lot of types of music. So rather than just go into that realm, where a single album has a whole bunch of things and becomes completely schizophrenic, I divided them into two halves. You get a sense of polarity and it sort of satisfies both sides of the spectrum equally," says the meticulous and multitalented musician, who plays most of the instruments on his recordings.

Born in Singapore to a doctor and a teacher, he moved to Australia for his studies at the age of 14. While he has been playing the piano since he was four years old, it was only when he sang a jazz standard at a school performance there that he realised that music was something he wanted to delve deeper into. At the age of 15, he was the top Music Performance student in the state of Victoria's equivalent of the A levels.

"That was very affirming for me. When you are 15, you have all these delusions of grandeur of being a rock or pop star, thinking music is great, people like it and I can keep on doing this, I love it."

That dream did not disappear with his teen years.

After fulfilling his national service responsibilities at the Singapore Armed Forces' Music and Drama Company, he went back to Melbourne and earned a Bachelor of Music at Monash University.

Believing that the music scene in Melbourne was oversaturated with talent, Lim moved back to Singapore in 2013 and signed on with indie record/

management label House Of Riot. He has been based here since.

"Coming back here was a good thing because Singapore gave me more platforms to do what I wanted to do.

"I found great musicians and a great team to help me, all these little platforms that allow me to play music, that was the springboard for me to play festivals, go on tour and just keep the momentum going," he says.

In the past few years, he has played at major regional festivals, including Hong Kong's Clockenflap festival and Malaysia's Urbanscapes, and became the first home-grown act to sell out two shows at the Esplanade's now-defunct Mosaic Music Festival.

A tour in Japan and Malaysia in the later part of the year is in the works and he plans to apply for a grant or scholarship to study music production in London. But Lim says he will always come back to Singapore, not just to work on his craft, but also to help other local musicmakers.

"No matter what, Singapore is home, that's what I've decided, for better or for worse. I'm not saying that because it's politically correct, but because it's true.

"I always want to contribute back. You have to go out there, overseas, and learn more things, then you can bring back something to the scene. If it's just going to be insular forever, then you can never really grow."