Centre Stage: Singapore’s Linying and the art of fortunate accidents

Every once in a while, someone suddenly emerges out of the woodwork brimming with such talent and promise that everyone’s forced to snap out of the reverie of indifference and pay attention.

Taking the charts both local and international by storm, Singaporean Linying shot to fame far and wide, amassing fans from as far as London, Melbourne, South Korea, Germany, Austria and Denmark — all places she toured in the past couple of months. It’s no surprise that she’s been compared numerous times to Bon Iver; their music shares that same vocal fragility and lush atmospherics chock full of emotions. It helps that the finesse behind her densely layered electronic soundscapes belies her young age of 22.

It’s been quite some time since the world (and Coachella) heard her hypnotic trills on EDM bangers by Felix Jaehn and KRONO, but the folktronica darling has since proved that she stands on her own two feet. Ahead of her stint at Neon Lights festival this weekend (and the last show in her ‘12 In The World‘ tour), we caught up with Linying to talk about the hype surrounding her, Singapore’s import culture and the French Revolution.

Photo: Lenne Chai

Hey Linying! How are you feeling after a rocketship of a year?

I’m not sure I’ve really managed to develop proper feelings about everything that’s happened in the past year; as they happen, I think most of what I feel is often surprise — or a sense of newness that only comes with experiencing something foreign, and I think that’s what characterises many of the things I’ve just gone through for the very first time.

You’ve just signed on with Nettwerk Music Group, the label that introduced Coldplay and Dido to the US market. Does that feel like more or less pressure to totally smash it now?

A little bit [more pressure] — but thinking about it feels suffocating and wrong. I didn’t put time and effort into teaching myself how to express my experiences concisely in song just to have the only experience left to experience be worry and pressure.

The name ‘Linying’ has been a constant in our social feed of music news this past year. What do you think of all the hype that’s been built around you?

Hype is just one of those things I can’t have any grasp on — I don’t get to be the person someone tells about me, and I don’t get to see myself appearing on other people’s Facebook posts unexpectedly. It’s always fun though, and I’m very appreciative of how well and kindly my music has been received.

So, Neon Lights! Who are you most excited about playing alongside in the line-up? Which ones are you stoked to catch?

Shura, Neon Indian, Sigur Ros. Gentle Bones and Disco Hue always put on great shows; they’ll be really fun to watch.

We’ve seen some of your watercolour paintings — they’re pretty trippy. If you were commissioned to do an art piece for Neon Lights, what would you create?

The thing with my paintings (and with the production for my songs, too) is that the most definitive elements always come from some kind of accident, or some attempt to achieve one effect and then having the whole thing go awry to produce another. So I’m thinking a mother of pearl tourmaline kind of graphic but it’ll probably turn out looking like something else.

Photo: Linying / Facebook

Knowing how academically focused most Singaporean parents are, how supportive were yours of your artistic ambitions?

I’ve been lucky — my parents are both realistic and supportive. They made sure I got through university properly with a degree (which I loved studying for anyway), and allowed me the freedom to give music a shot when it seemed like it could be a viable career option.

You’re a history major — tell us the most interesting history factoid that you can’t stop raving about.

That in the earliest stages of the French Revolution, the vast majority of people looked toward reforms enacted by monarchical rule to solve the problems they faced, but by the end of it, the king’s head was on a pike and anyone who disagreed was on the chopping block.

Jean Duplessis-Bertaux / The Storming of the Tuileries on August 10, 1792 Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sacré bleu! What would you be working as if you weren’t doing music?

I would really have loved to be an art historian — or maybe sell greeting cards on Etsy.

How much would you say growing up in Singapore has influenced your lyrics and musical direction?

A lot, but probably not in the sense that this question was intended — it’s the strength of the import culture in Singapore that has made it such that the majority of the music I’ve listened to all my life came from outside of the country itself. I was always hell-bent on getting the newest CD or live DVD of my favourite band or going to their concerts, and I think that’s why the music that I’ve ended up making covers themes that are so universal and neither geographically nor culturally specific, because it was only these universal themes that could appeal to me, being a listener so geographically and culturally removed from the musicians themselves.

Speaking of which, what’s been making rounds in your playlist lately?

Thoughts on the new Bon Iver?

I like it — it seems like a very natural evolution from the previous album. My favourite is ‘715 – CR∑∑KS‘.

Okay last thing — give a shout out to a list of folks in Singapore’s music scene that you’re thankful for — and your hopes and dreams for them.

Bandwagon, Lush 99.5FM — they produce some really great content and I’d love to see them continue doing so.

Coconuts Singapore is the Official Digital Media Partner of Neon Lights

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