Singing from experience

Becka’s album comprises pop, jazz and soul tunes.
Becka’s album comprises pop, jazz and soul tunes.PHOTO: RED ROOF RECORDS

Home-grown singer Becka's debut album is inspired by real-life experiences

When singer-songwriter Becka applied for an internship with home- grown independent record company Red Roof Records, all she wanted was practical experience in audio production and song arrangement.

The 24-year-old bilingual singer ended up getting a lot more than that. Impressed with her voice and songwriting, the label, run by Young Artist Award recipient, composer and musician Ruth Ling, signed her on in January.

"I wasn't confident before, I always had friends sing for me whenever I wrote songs," says the Singaporean, whose full name is Rebecca Tan Yi Xuan.

"One day, I was playing my songs in the Red Roof studio and I was singing them. After a few songs, Ruth looked at me and said, 'You can sing, why don't you sing what you write?' She felt that I could do it myself."

Tan, backed by a four-piece band, will launch her debut eponymous eight-track EP today with a gig at Sentosa's Merlion Plaza .

  • VIEW IT /BECKA DEBUT EP LAUNCH

    WHERE: Merlion Plaza, Sentosa

    WHEN: Today, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: Free (Sentosa admission charges apply)

The graduate of Lasalle College of the Arts' School of Contemporary Music says that her tunes, which span pop, jazz and soul, were inspired by real-life experiences.

When she was about to graduate last year with an honours degree in music, she found herself at a crossroads. Contemplating the milestone in her life, she wrote Say Goodbye, the only Mandarin song on the English-language EP .

"I was closing a few chapters in my life. It was a transition period from adolescence to adulthood. I wanted to write a song about how some things in life, whether good or bad, come to an end. That's the beauty of life."

A long bus journey she took while travelling in Vietnam conjured up Be Alright, a song "about yearning and desire, how you are far away from home and you are constantly thinking about someone who means a lot to you". But she declines to reveal the object of her affection in the song.

Her father works in the food and beverage industry while her mother is in the civil service. Tan, the elder of two girls, started taking piano lessons at the age of six.

Because of her passion for music, she decided to take it seriously and enrolled in Lasalle after her A levels at National Junior College.

During her three years at Lasalle, she started composing songs. "Day in and day out, you live, breathe and eat music," she says. "You don't just learn from the lecturers and your seniors - I think I learnt a lot from my peers. My time at the school was really inspiring and awakened the creative soul in me."

She is now a full-time musician and a private music teacher.

While she grew up listening to Western acts such as Scottish singer-songwriter Emeli Sande, English star Adele and American icon Stevie Wonder, the past year has seen her delve deeper into the works of Mandarin pop artists such as home-grown singer Jimmy Ye and Hawaiian-born, Hong Kongbased singer-songwriter Khalil Fong. She plans to record a Mandarin album next year.

"I'm working towards being effectively fluent in both English and Mandarin," says Tan, a former student of Anderson Secondary School, who comes from an English-speaking home.

Her grandmother, whom she was close to, spoke only Mandarin to her though, leading to an "emotional connection to the language".

Both languages have their merits in songwriting and she feels that, for her, some emotions are better expressed when performed in Mandarin and others in English.

She plans to expand her repertoire and do more than just sing and make music. "I also want to try out other skills like hosting, acting, anything that's got to do with performing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'Singing from experience'. Print Edition | Subscribe