At ThePiano.SG, our vision is to build a closely-knit piano community in Singapore. From time to time, we conduct interviews with well-known piano personalities, with the hope that we will be able to learn from their success and also to allow their stories to inspire the next generation of pianists. To date, we have interviewed Kevin Kern, John Perry, Anderson & Roe, and Adam Gyorgy. ThePiano.SG is proud to met with Michelle SgP, our homegrown artiste.
Michelle SgP is a multi-talented musician. She hails from Singapore but has the unique ability to create her own style that resonates with global listeners. Michelle works with a global team whose members are fully aligned with her, including Grammy-associated production teams. Under her able hands, she successfully morphs soul, jazz, pop and blues so that her creative compositions reflect her unique style.
Michelle has just released her most ambitious project, Multiplicity. This album is the product of working in close coordination with up to 68 individuals, from their 20s to their 70s, in multi-genres spanning 10 nationalities. It records the essence of her travels over the years as she sourced for inspiration and the right people to put the album together.
MULTIPLICITY – Michelle SgP: An Inclusive Global Recording Project.
This project achieved several first, an impressive feat for a single independent artiste. It was created by putting together a world-class production team using a myriad of genres, producing tracks that features inspiring individuals. This track was 10 years in the making and incorporates changes that happened in the music industry during the period. Recording and filming took place in six locations around the world: Los Angeles, Madrid, Bologna, Melbourne, Phuket and Singapore. Even though this project is multinational in nature, Michelle did not forget her roots, electing to use people who had some links with Singapore.
The song Dreams has been proudly featured overseas. It has been streamed in Nemo’s Garden, an underwater greeenhouse in Italy. It was also used for the Dance the Dream celebrations that had its finale at New York City’s Times Square.
Special mention must be made of the feature track Escape. Escape tells the story of several inspiring people whom Michelle met during the course of her travels. They are people who have persevered despite the adverse situations they have found themselves in. They include a man who had dismissed thrice from jobs and sank into depression, before becoming an award winner, as well as a writer born in extreme poverty but became a Singapore Literature Prize winner late in life.
The album was released on 13 January 2018 and will be launched at a concert at the Esplanade Recital Studio on 29 January 2018, before being brought on a world tour spanning Europe, America and Asia.
Below is the transcript of the interview that ThePiano.SG conducted with Michelle SgP.
1. So I hear you’ve gone around the world to record your album and used the piano as your main inspiration.
Yes, indeed. I've had the luck of recording on voice and piano in USA, Italy, Spain and most of the major studios with grand pianos in Singapore, as part of the process of recording Multiplicity. It was really a enriching process and very steep learning curve of finding out which sound and the type of studio was needed for the songs that fitted the vibe I was going for.
2. And you have tracks based on voice and piano on this album.
Yes. I love expressing myself through songs. It is about music and lyrics. And since I had three major loves, the best way to embody my works are by riding these three mediums (song, voice, piano/keyboard) simultaneously.
3. Why the piano?
It has been a lifelong affair. I have been playing the piano since I was a kid. I went through classical lessons, contemporary lessons, played with bands, where the piano was key. I also write mainly with the piano; some days it’s keyboard and guitars. The piano is to me is a beautiful all-encompassing instrument with the potential to paint a picture. While functional, as one can quickly play the chords and melody, it’s also an expressive tool. One can talk via the instrument. My late piano teacher till my teens, Mrs Dana, inspired me quite a bit, by teaching me constantly to ring my notes. If there’s anything I remembered from those years, that tip was a take-home from her which still resonates with me always, as I play. So you still hear my songs Dreams, Free to Fall, and Goodbyes. While with Serenity - just solo voice and piano, it was a take through a landscape painted by both the voice and piano.
4. Do you think the piano is relevant in today's music?
Definitely! You hear it used prominently in the songs of Sam Smith, John Legend, Adele, which in my opinion are today’s versions of Elton John, Nina Simone, Brenda Russell and Sarah Mclauchlan. And yes, the piano is still very key in many Mandarin pop songs.
5. How then do you make the piano relevant for your songs? What tips have you for our listeners?
I think one of the key things is to listen as much as possible to recordings of artistes using voice and piano as a medium. Research the current trends and styles. But there is also the other element of following ones heart, one that goes against trends. From there springs what would deem fit as your expressive tool. Your vehicle for expression and how you would choose to express yourself. I think as Asians, or rather Singaporeans, due to culture, we tend to feel safer staying within norms/boundaries, and we often end up copying. But when one looks deeply, everyone’s expressive tool and vehicle would take their own unique shapes, all the more with music so readily available on internet. So I think, when you’re set free from the norms on how you should be expected to go about writing (composing), who knows, it may spark something for you. So when your references come from what feels comfortable yet authentic, I guess that is a good place to start.
I hear you have very keen piano lovers on your page, so I'd like to share with you a free bonus video on quick tips for playing simple lines and writing with simple lines.
6. How do you classify yourself then?
That has always been a tough call. All my life I'd tried evading labels. As a musician, I want to embrace a number of styles. I've been referenced the Asian Diana Krall due to the many jazz gigs I do on voice and piano. But if you notice, there are no such tracks on Multiplicity as I wanted to also showcase another side of me for now, and it’s been a decade-long quest to do so. So you will find traces of soul, blues, EDM, pop, funk and world music. But one day, perhaps I will record an album with that Diana Krall-ish concept.