The Philippines' Bea Lorenzo is the latest local artist to collaborate with an international act amid the industry's continuing efforts to bring OPM to the world's music stage. Hot off the studio is “Good for a Time,” her duet with Singaporean artist Benjamin Kheng.
Kheng clarifies, however, that the single is not the only product of his collaboration with Lorenzo.
“I think it's crazy surreal that we got to come together, do the song, shoot a music video, do a web series and get the song out. It blows my mind because Bea and I have just been online friends. So I really appreciate the fact that we can do something like this even in Covid times,” he said in an interview with Music Geek.
Chiming in, Lorenzo agreed and said,”[The experience] was so much fun! Definitely, a first for me to do an international collaboration, I'm glad it was with Ben.
“We have a lot in common,” she added. As artists, we pay attention to many details, and I appreciate that and being able to work with him. We value the same things in our music,” she added.
The Sam Willows vocalist teamed up with fellow Singaporean singer-songwriter, Linying, best known for penning and performing the theme song for 2021's Singapore National Day Parade, 'The Road Ahead.'”
For their collaboration, they penned lyrics that captured the desire to stretch time for as long as possible to savor the last moments before the inevitable end of a meaningful relationship.
“I looked through it and thought it would be nice to have it as a duet because it is a song about a breakup happening in real-time. People are sort of just separating, and I wanted to find a great companion to duet this with. I just remembered Bea having this gorgeous voice and a great personality. Linying and I felt that Bea was the perfect match for the song, and she's really excited,” Kheng said.
And so Filipino singer-songwriter Bea Lorenzo, best known for her prowess with the Kalimba, was brought on as a feature to turn the song into a duet, highlighting the shared experience of heartbreak.
“When the song was sent to me, it was already recorded as a demo, and it was beautiful. He showed me two versions. One was the piano version and the other guitar version. When I heard the song, I immediately knew I wanted to work with him on it. Such a beautiful song,” Lorenzo said.
“The main inspiration for the track was going through some relationships that are not going so well. I think we really just exchanged stories, and we were able to sing from that perspective of being grateful for the person who used to be in your life,” Kheng shared.
Kheng leaned on the expertise of Snakeweed Studios' Josh Wei (CL, Gentlebones) to oversee production on the track.
“When I first met him eight years ago, he was just a kid playing violin and beatboxing. He wasn't much of a producer. He just soaked it in. He went from track to track and worked with people, and then he was in LA for three or four years. He got to work with big artists. When he got back to Singapore, he was like, 'I want to do Singapore stuff.' He's just a really passionate kid. I love meeting people like that in this industry. They are young, very passionate and just do it. I love the kind of energy,” Kheng said on working with Wei.
Kheng is a Singaporean musician, actor and writer, and lead singer of former pop outfit The Sam Willows. He has landed a coveted spot on Forbes' annual “30 Under 30 Asia.”
Lorenzo is a Manila-based Filipina performing artist whose love for storytelling, stage theatrics, and minimalist arrangements in recorded music inspires and fuels her songwriting.
Here's more of Music Geek's interview with Benjamin Kheng and Bea Lorenzo:
What is your creative and songwriting process?
Bea Lorenzo (BL): It is changing all the time for me. I feel like I'm still molding it. For me I feel like it's more of when I find myself in silence or can't sleep or you just can't get it out of my head, then it's the perfect time to grab a ukulele and sit at the piano and then air my thoughts out. If I'm thinking of a person or something that happened in my life, I feel like the moment I keep ruminating through the thoughts in my head, I let it out through music. That is how it worked for me during the pandemic and I'm sure that's gonna change a lot.
Benjamin Kheng (BK): It's tough, man. I'll be honest, like Bea, I've written in so many ways. Like I started with melody first, with ideas first, crying first then writing and then writing then crying and them crying and writing at the same time. But I would say that it has been increasingly difficult because of the world we are living in right now. I am so distracted by my cellphone. The way people consume music now is different. So short and bite-sized. We are being fed with content continuously. So, it's hard to just focus on writing something true like is it gonna do well? As artist, in this day and age, if you're a part of this, you have to balance this beautifully between being emotionally truthful, relatable and selling. It's like a chef cooking a good meal. Sometimes, the best dishes ever like french fries is an accident. You really don't think about it but you made a mistake. And it works. It is a pleasant surprise and I think it's not easy to be an artist in 2022 with so much distraction. Hats off to everyone who is doing it right now.
What have you learned from each other through this duet?
BL: Working with Ben, I've learned to trust my ideas more. I feel like he's something that I haven't been able to do much as an artist as really to stick to a decision. Having to make all these creative decisions about a song is like this is how other artists do it. It is something that I struggled with so much. It helped so much working with Ben. Not obsessing over the finality of something we create. I see Ben as the supportive one and I'm inspired to have that for myself as well.
BK: I think Bea is such a perfect fresh air. A lot of artists are pretty single-tracked minded. It was such a joy working with Bea. She was celebrating every moment. She has such a good attitude. It was a long process trying to put this record together because of the distance and the teams but she was just caring about her craft and knowing her instrument. It was really inspiring to see her work and her process as well. Add to the fact that we're on different countries and different cultures. Very few artists carry that kind of genuineness and joyfulness and just really not afraid to be herself. It is so refreshing to visit that every day and talk to her. It was very nice.
Benjamin, you used to be the lead singer for The Sam Willows. How different is it now that you are doing everything solo?
BK: Actually, it's great. When you're in a band, we were four people but none of us were the leader. So, decision making is as four times as slow. It's different on your own. There's a lot of process involved. You're not sure if you're made up for it. It's terrifying as if you are a young artist and I'm just trying to figure it out. It's a wonderful but terrifying feeling at the same time taking ownership. Really fun!
And you also dabbled into acting. What do you think is the difference between singing and acting? How do you apply acting with singing and singing with acting? What gives you more fulfillment: singing or acting?
BK: It is extremely similar because you are trying to find the emotional truth. In singing, the beauty of it is it's from your mouthpiece but I guess acting is like journalism as well. You try to find the emotional truth in different people and things. And you have to be honest because the audience can tell if you're not honest. When you are being truthful, it is quite powerful. Acting is strange for sure. What it is taught me is to not judge a character and not judge songs. It doesn't matter what kind of character you play. What is important is you give it an effort. That's what we need to respect. Singing right now is giving me the most fulfillment. Being able to work with people all over the world and talk with people and just share our passions.
Who did you grow up listening to?
BL: Jason Mraz. Lots of Jason Mraz. The Beatles, Adele, musicals
BK: I was a musical theater geek. Actually, I listen to a lot of Lea Salonga as a kid. I felt connected in some way to see Asians represented up there. I was into stuff like Rent and modern musicals. Jonathan Larson stuff. I was really into metal at one point as well. I was really into Metallica. It changed a lot. I was really into High School Musical as well.
What is music to you?
BL: I learned from a philosopher that music is a perfect metaphor for life because a lot of people get caught in the whole pressure of coming here on earth to accomplish something big. He describes life as music. We come here to just enjoy it. Life is like a song or a dance. The whole purpose is to enjoy it. That made me so connected with what I do. I struggle with that wondering what kind of contribution I'm really making as a musician. To be reminded that it's really just about getting people to be in that moment and I feel that's what music does for people.
BK: Mine is interestingly the opposite. I was reading about “The Strange Things Kids Say”, it says, “where my feelings are too loud, I sing them.” And I thought it was so cute but so brilliant. It is so true. When you feel like when things are too loud, when they can't be housed on your body, when you don't have words for them, you can't describe them at any other way, for some reason, you set up chords and set up notes together tells that story. Artists are forever trying to chase that feeling. It's the way you feel when you listen to your favorite song. It makes you spend your whole life trying to tell everybody as to how you feel about that. I remember my favorite song is making me feel like this warm hug and I just wanted to chase and recreate that feeling. And tell that feeling to everybody in as many ways as I can. That is when feelings get too loud. So, I think the joy of sharing those feelings is what makes music so powerful.
How important is it to you that your music should be heard not just in your respective countries but all over the world as well?
BL: I think it will be a pleasant experience to be heard by anyone. I don't try to do this career with the goal of targeting specific places around the world. I like to approach it by making music, do my thing and celebrate it with me. I am grateful for them to be on the journey with me. So far, I'm lucky to be sharing it with audiences outside the Philippines. I'm just thankful that we are able to share our music around the world because of technology. It is important but not something that is defining success for me.
BK: 100 percent agree. If anything, it's a bonus but the joy is just in being able to share with people and seeing their reaction and sharing that feeling. If it happens, it happens.
What's next for you/ what are you excited about?
BL: For me, it's more songwriting. I want to really oil that machine that is churning out new songs, recording them, getting back out there and performing live again. I miss doing concerts and shows. I feel like it's happening already for so many other artists. I'm looking forward to the day I would get to step out there and perform for a live audience again.
BK: I would like to do shows. And just get better in Chinese.
What is your advice to aspiring singer/ songwriters?
BL: Don't try to be like someone else. It's gonna be tiring. Do you. Very cliché but it's so important.
BK: Be willing to take risks and make mistakes to find out who you are.
For those who don't know you yet, can you give us a background on yourself and how you started in music and the business?
BL: It started with just posting covers online. Because of that, I would get invitations to sing in places but eventually turned into paid gigs. Then turned into a career option. The songwriting part came later on when I started to make friends in music who writes songs. I felt like I gotta learn this. It started with peer pressure. I wanted to relate to friends who did write songs. Eventually, I learned to really love it. Now I do it to express myself.
BK: I was that kid who at the start said yes to everything. I started as a radio DJ when I was 18. I was a horrible one. I hated it. Similar to Bea, I've just done a lot of YouTube cover videos with my band. We got picked up there. I was doing a lot of theater at that time. Not really well, just doing whatever I could. And then just figuring it out. I guess I just like telling stories whatever the medium. That was the most fun for me. I have a weird career I suppose. I enjoy doing all sorts of strange things.
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