Singer-songwriter Inch Chua draws inspiration from quiet kampung life on Pulau Ubin

Singer- songwriter Inch Chua has been staying at a kampung on Pulau Ubin to find inspiration for her new songs. -- ST PHOTO: DANIEL NEO
Singer- songwriter Inch Chua has been staying at a kampung on Pulau Ubin to find inspiration for her new songs. -- ST PHOTO: DANIEL NEO

Since March, singer-songwriter Inch Chua has been staying mostly on Pulau Ubin by herself.

A typical day for her starts from between five and seven in the morning, when the sound of roosters crowing wakes her. She goes for a morning jog and then heads down to the coffee shop near the island's jetty to have breakfast as well as use the Wi-Fi connection there to do administrative work on her laptop for an hour or so.

For the rest of the day, she hikes around the island, takes mid-day naps and works on her music.

She pumps water from a well daily and, once a month, has to empty the toilet's septic tank.

Such has been her inspiration for the 20 new songs she has written so far while living on the island.

She says: "I always find it particularly funny that my peers will always say, 'Oh no, if you want to find inspiration, you must go overseas, somewhere far away.' I think that's a lie, there's got to be a place. And Pulau Ubin came to mind because it's so out there."

Chua, also known by the stylised moniker iNCH, plans to stay at a three-bedroom kampung house on Pulau Ubin until the middle of next month.

There is solar power available in the house, but because the wattage is so low, she uses electronic gadgets sparingly and turns on her mobile phone only occasionally.

For meals, she cooks or buys food from the island's coffee shop or hops on a boat and heads to the hawker centres at Changi Village.

"That's the interesting thing about living on the island, you get conscious of how much food and water you consume, so I realise I do things like conserve a lot of water when I shower," says the 26-year-old.

She will also be performing at Barber Shop by Timbre on June 27 as part of the Singapore International Festival of Arts' public engagement initiative, The O.P.E.N.

Some of the new songs she has written will be in an EP she plans to release in September; the rest will go to a full-length album expected to be completed next year.

In a joint project with The Artists Village, National Art Council and Lee Foundation, she has also conducted workshops in which participants get to spend time with her on the island and see how the rural environment affects the music she makes.

Adapting to a new environment for the sake of her music is nothing new to Chua, whose discography includes an EP, The Bedroom, in 2009; as well as two full-length albums, Wallflower (2010) and Bumfuzzle (2013).

In the past few years, she has lived in Los Angeles and New York, gigging and doing music work. She has plans to return to the United States, possibly to Chicago.

But for now, she is enjoying the simple life. The kampung is next to a cemetery, but Chua is not in the least spooked. In fact, she relishes the quietness of the area and even goes for night walks there.

"The solitude really affects me in a good way. I do find that because of the pace of life here, putting myself in an environment like that has altered my thinking. It calms me down, which is something I have been wanting because I am a nomadic person and it's good to practise the art of stillness for a while."

Watch the videos here and answer two questions.

1) In the first video above: What Malay word does Inch Chua use to describe her life while staying on Pulau Ubin to get songwriting inspiration, as she says in the first video above?

2) In the second video above: What is the name of Chua's new album inspired by Pulau Ubin, as she mentions in the second video above?

E-mail your answers to and correct entries will be placed in a simple lucky draw.

Watch more and connect with Inch Chua




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Where: Barber Shop by Timbre, 01-03, 1 Old Parliament Lane

When: June 27, 9.30pm

Admission: Free with The O.P.E.N. Pass. The pass costs $45 from Sistic (call 6348-555 or go to Limited single-entry tickets available at the door

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