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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

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