Swimmer-turned-singer-turned-actress Narelle Kheng is stretching her wings

Former national youth swimmer Narelle Kheng will create DIY furniture pieces on her show.
Former national youth swimmer Narelle Kheng will create DIY furniture pieces on her show.ST PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO

Narelle Kheng branches out from swimming and music to star in new Channel 5 show

She has made waves in the local indie music scene with folk-pop band The Sam Willows and also in the pool as a former national youth swimmer. Singer Narelle Kheng is now ready to take her next domain - prime-time television.

With her looks and multiple talents, she could be featured everywhere in the media as the next big thing if not for the fact that her older brother, Benjamin, seems to have taken that particular spotlight.

He is in the same band, was also a national swimmer, has starred in a few stage productions and is also in the same TV show.

Narelle, 20, and Benjamin, 23, star in a new Channel 5 show, Do It Yourself, set to premiere next Tuesday at 9pm. Touted as a magazine, info-tainment hybrid show, they play a pair of siblings (surprise!) who inherit their grandfather's interior design firm.

Tasked by a celebrity played by Channel 8 veteran actress Aileen Tan to do up her apartment as cheaply as possible, the pair take on real projects in each episode and create unique, DIY (do-it-yourself) furniture pieces.

For Narelle, taking on the television role is not her way of catching up with Benjamin's huge resume, says the communication studies undergraduate at the Nanyang Technological University.

"I don't feel like it's me trying catch up with Ben in terms of acting. It's just fun to do things together," she tells Life!.

And acting is something that she is keen on exploring right now.

"I'm kind of at the age where I'm exploring a lot of things. I enjoy being in front of the camera, being on set and doing the rehearsals for Do It Yourself.

"There have been a lot of really good moments in this show and it's right up my comedic alley. It's the kind of comedy I like, the mockumentary style where you get to break the fourth wall and talk to the audience."

She is in talks for a role in an upcoming telemovie project, she says, but declines to give details because it is still in the planning stages.

What she is free to talk about is Do It Yourself and she says the way she and Benjamin interact on screen is not too far from what they are like in real life.

"I'm a lot like my character, very strict, uptight and very thrifty when it comes to money. That's why in The Sam Willows, I'm the one doing the band's finances, while Ben is the one who is fun, the marketing guy who is good with people."

While her brother has been making an impact outside of the band in the theatre circles as an up-and-coming actor - with prominent roles in productions such as Ah Boys To Men, the musical adaptation of Jack Neo's national service drama - Narelle's acting experience has largely been confined to school productions and as a non-speaking extra on Channel 5 and Channel 8 television shows such as Zero Calling.

The siblings first came into the public eye when they were studying at the Singapore Sports School and were part of the national youth swimming team. But they gained prominence only with the rise of The Sam Willows.

Within their first year of forming in early 2012, the quartet, which also comprise vocalist- keyboardist Sandra Tang and guitarist Jonathan Chua, both 23, scored radio and television airplay and hundreds of thousands of YouTube views, as well as released a self-titled EP. They have also done overseas tours since then and have played gigs in the United States, Canada and South Korea.

Along with the Kheng siblings' various other projects, the band are now also hard at work firming up new material, Narelle says.

"This year, we're focusing on working on new songs and thrashing out ideas for a full album. We're still in the pre-production stages but we're looking to go into the studio soon and release at least a new single this year."

dinohadi@sph.com.sg

Do It Yourself debuts on Channel 5 next Tuesday at 9pm.