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25 Mar, Saturday
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Q&A with Dru Chen: Who We R

As a pop, funk and soul singer-songwriter, Dru Chen‘s music juxtaposes Indie Pop with the rhythm and blues of Soul, creating a distinct sound that’s accentuated by his glossy vocals. His latest single “Who We R” takes a break from his usual genre into something more pop and contemporary. The Tropika Club team took a chance during the Circuit Breaker period to catch up with Dru.

Q: Your latest single “Who We R” is the first single taken off your second album which was supposed to be released this year. Can you share more about the motivation behind this song?

A: Yes, that’s right, we’re sitting on some tracks that I’m very excited to share to the world this year. On “Who We R”, songwriter Paul McMurray showed me a folk-country tune he wrote. It had so much heart, and felt like a song he had clearly lived through. I reacted to it in a way that made me compelled to produce, arrange and re-work it into something contemporary. With the masterful touch of producer Jesse Bear, we managed to turn it into something we’re all very proud of.

Q: The music video is absolutely creative – did you play a part in the direction? 

A: Thank you! That was the brainchild of director Jayden Tan, and our stylist Liyana Norman. Jayden has directed and photographed for fashion, beauty and advertising, and has done music videos for iNCH, Ffion among others.

He reacted to the song, and came up with the visual theme of a callback to parties and celebrations past, with a tinge of melancholy.

Liyana came up with the “lobster suit”, while Jayden (bless his love of nature) came up with the “plant choir”. It was one of my favourite shoots because I loved seeing Jayden and Liyana come up with surprise after surprise. They are so talented! Jayden is also the most gifted set designer I’ve ever come across. He has so much vision.

Q: Do you see yourself more as a singer, songwriter or producer? And why is this so?

A: This is a hard question. I see myself as an all-round music creative. Some days I’m working on a lyric or a translation, some days I’m setting words to music. Some days I’m making an arrangement or production for a song that’s already been written, and some days I’m mixing a song. Some days I’m editing sound effects and balancing sound levels and voice overs on a visual piece. Some days I’m performing vocals and guitar onstage, or recording keyboards, bass, and violin on a production. Some days I’m teaching any of these aforementioned skills.

Q: How would you describe your sound?

A: I’m addicted to groove. I’m big on music traditions like old school r&b, jazz, blues, and things like that. I’m also really inspired by soul and urban phrasing, but at the same time I grew up classical, and also as a sound engineer-producer. Put that all in a blender, with big dose of classic pop melodies, and funky rock guitar. A bit musically ADHD, really. Who knows what music I’ll be making next!

Q: What’s your favourite song?

A: I think “Track” by Lewis Taylor comes to mind. Absolutely mind-bending. Gosh, I can’t limit this to one tune. “Concerto For Orchestra” by Béla Bartók, “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye, “Grace” by Jeff Buckley, “Somebody To Love” by Queen, “Dosed” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Untitled” by D’Angelo, “Adore” by Prince.

Q: Who are your musical influences?

A: Currently I like Jordan Rakei, Bruno Major, Kendrick Lamar, Joji, Post Malone, and here in Singapore, .gif, brb., Gentle Bones, Charlie Lim, and producer Flightsch. In my formative years, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Queen, Prince, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, D’Angelo, Jeff Buckley, Lewis Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel, and The Beach Boys have all played a critical role at some stage of my development.

From Dru Chen's 'Who We R' Music Video
From Dru Chen’s ‘Who We R’ Music Video

Q: We saw your duets on YouTube and the chemistry that you formed with your partners were awesome. Do you have plans to do a duets album?

A: I would love to! We live in a day and age of collaborations. The YouTube duets were all cover tunes, but the fun really starts when you write together. I’m currently in the production phase of a potential duet, so watch this space!

Q: How are you taking care of yourself during this COVID-19 period?

A: My wife and I are trying to cook as much as possible (right after this interview, it’s my turn to cook!). I try to check in with my friends and relatives on the phone as much as I can to keep our spirits up. I try to exercise a few times a week, sometimes with a jog or better yet with some HIIT videos online.

Q: Do you have an evolving fashion style representative of your evolving music style?

A: Yeah! My dress sense definitely mirrors the music that I make, for sure! I was donning throwback suits when I did my first EP ‘Intentions’ to match the soul-funk vibe. I stripped it right back to white tee’s, denim, and messy hair for the ‘Mirror Work’ album which had a really raw, 70’s vibe. With these new batch of pop tunes, it’s a much wider style palate, and I’m into experimenting, as you can tell from the ‘Who We R’ video. Zacchaeus Ng and Liyana Norman are the brilliantly talented duo who have styled me from the genre-bending ‘Distant Memory’, all the way up to ‘Who We R’, and every shoot and live show in between. I owe so much to them—they are amazing!

I try to look at skincare from a holistic point of view. For me, it all starts with stress management, sleep, hydration, and fruit.

Q: What’s your grooming regime? How do you take care of your skin?

A: I try to look at skincare from a holistic point of view. For me, it all starts with stress management, sleep, hydration, and fruit. But I do a peculiar thing where I apply “barrier cream” lightly all over my body as soon as I get out of the shower. I think this came from my days of studying in Australia where it tended to get pretty dry, and I needed to find a way of keeping the moisture in. That’s it!

Q: What is one message you would like to give to your fans?

A: I hope everyone is keeping well, mentally, physically, and spiritually. If you’ve got time to listen to music, and you’ve chosen to listen to mine, I really appreciate your support, and I hope my music serves a function to you. I can’t wait till this circuit breaker is lifted so we can go out there with renewed vigour and play some live shows! Take good care, and love yourselves. Peace!

Find out more about Dru Chen at his Facebook and Twitter.

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Terence is Tropika Club Magazine's deputy editor who loves learning about animals and their behavior. He is also an anthropologist, so he is very interested in how different cultures interact with animals. He has worked in the publishing industry for over 10 years, and have been lucky enough to work with some amazing authors and editors.

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