At an age where most youth have yet to identify their life’s purpose, singer-songwriter Inch Chua, 29, has not only figured it out, but also accomplished what many can only dream of.
Her soulful lyrics, emotive voice and unique blend of folksy acoustics with electronic music and pop influences have been making waves in the music industry.
The prolific Ms Chua has already released three solo EPs (extended-play records) and two full-length albums.
Her musical journey began when she was a teenager and attended some alternative rock gigs, and was hooked.
When she was 16, she responded to an online search for a lead singer for Auburn’s Epiphany, which was later renamed Allura, and was disbanded in 2008 after its male members started serving National Service.
The next year, Ms Chua began to write songs and record them in her bedroom on her acoustic guitar, self-producing and posting her performances on YouTube as well as distributing her studio recordings through the Bandcamp music website.
In 2010, when songs from her The Bedroom EP about love, life, and friendship, were featured on international blogs such as Hype Machine, she won over many fans. and became the first Singaporean solo artist to perform at a major US festival, South by Southwest in Texas.
In the same year, she released her first full-length album, Wallflower, inspired by her childhood loneliness.
After she moved to the United States to challenge herself in a new environment, she got invited to perform at the global TEDxWomen Conference in Washington in 2012.
Her second album, Bumfuzzle, released in 2013, was inspired by her time living in Los Angeles and playing small gigs throughout North America.
The intrepid explorer subsequently undertook a solo expedition to climb Mount Everest, before launching Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, a collection of her journals and song lyrics, in 2014.
Driven by “curiosity, passion and love of craft”, she experienced kampung life by spending four months living alone and roughing it out on Pulau Ubin which inspired her most recent album, Letters To Ubin, in 2015.
Life hasn’t always been easy for her. Ms Chua, who is dyslexic, struggled with reading in school.
She recalls: “I would stare at a page and get stressed because I was unable to understand or vocalise what I was seeing.”
She also had to deal with being labelled “lazy”, “stupid” and “blur”.
Reading classes before and after school till she was 11 years old helped her overcome her learning difficulties. She also devised a way to read by observing the shapes of words and using logical assumptions to grasp their meaning.
Ms Chua, who went on to pursue arts management at LASALLE College of the Arts, was inspired by her motivated siblings — her older sister is a dancer and body art instructor in New York and her younger brother, a former national athlete working in the finance industry — to pursue her passion in the arts.
Her parents, who were sceptical of her career choice initially, gave their blessings after witnessing her commitment to her craft.
Gift of music
To reach out to youths by showcasing made-in-Singapore bands and musicians, Ms Chua co-founded the *SCAPE Invasion Tour in 2015 — which promotes Singapore music among secondary and junior college students — and mentored young musicians in the Noise Music Mentorship for the last two years.
For her efforts, Ms Chua is a recipient of this year’s Singapore Youth Award.
An ambassador for ISCOS (Industrial & Services Co-Operative Society Ltd), Ms Chua has also worked with COMPASS (Composers and Authors Society of Singapore) on the yellow ribbon songwriting competition last year, helping inmates write songs.
Says the upbeat Ms Chua: “I think it’s important to be part of something bigger than yourself. Living for oneself alone is quite an empty existence.”
Earlier this year, Ms Chua was one of 80 individuals in the world to take part in the 2041 ClimateForce International Antarctic Expedition led by veteran world explorer, Robert Swan.
“Besides witnessing the landscape, I was able to connect with some of the most interesting people invested in sustainability in the world, including scientists, researchers and corporates. It was a very educational experience,” she says.
Inspired by her trip and eager to evoke more empathy for the climate change issue, the mindful achiever is writing and composing her first theatre production, commissioned by TheatreWorks, in which she will perform as well.
For more information on the Singapore Youth Award, visit sya.sg