Q&A with Ken Loh: What Can I Do
A talented singer-songwriter who started his musical career through busking along the streets of Orchard Road, Ken Loh has enchanted many with his raw vocals and the poetic lyrics of his songs which often tell stories of love and relationships. Ken’s debut “Songs about Them” reached #2 on iTunes Top 200 Alternative Genre chart as well as #14 on the iTune Top 200 All Genres charts. The tracks, “Confused” (single) and “Lip Service”, reached #6 and #40 respectively on the Spotify Top Viral 50 All Genres chart in 2018. The opening track of the EP, “Shadows”, reached #15 on the iTunes Top 200 Alternative Genre chart. While Ken is currently pursuing his studies in Sydney, the Tropika Club team took the chance during the Circuit Breaker period to catch up with Ken.
Q: Your career in music started from busking along the streets of Orchard Road. How did this trigger your career in music?
A: Yes it indeed started from busking! Well, I did not grow up in a particularly musical household, we mainly did loads of sports; competitive swimming and tennis for years and years. My dad has a strong appreciation for guitars and had a few really nice instruments lying around that he occasionally played. He got me to go for some guitar lessons at the old Timbre (Sophia Road) when I was 15 but my interest in that was short lived. It wasn’t until I transferred schools to do the IP programme at TJC that this interest really grew. I started playing guitar for a friend of mine for school events and other peripheral stuff. It was never a serious thing.
I remember very fondly of my trip down to Melbourne in 2014 where i saw a busking band, Woodlock, play along Bourke Street. I was galvanised by their energy and with the idea of busking/street performing. After graduating from JC, I went on to apply for a busking license and decided to give the whole singing/playing guitar thing a go; I never did sing until then. Hahha, I’m glad my blind faith and slight ignorance turned out okay. Yea, it started along Haji Lane and slowly it just grew into something that was beyond my wildest imaginations. I haven’t been playing/singing for a long time and I am just glad to be able to be doing what I am doing today.
I then decided to go record some music and was introduced to Edric at GRYD Studios and yea, the rest just kind of fell into place after that! Now, I am in sydney pursuing a degree in Music with a focus on songwriting. How wild!
Q: Your debut “Songs about Them” reached #2 on iTunes Top 200 alternative chart. What was the inspiration for both the Album and the Album Cover?
A: Ah! Hahah, looking back at those bring back very fond memories and questions of “What were you thinking Ken?” and “Wow, that looked so sad” hahaha. My dear friend and photographer-wiz, Coby Lazaroo, had a chat about how we can approach the photoshoot and we decided to work around the themes of vulnerability as it aligns with the songs in the EP. Looking back i would have definitely done certain things differently but i am very glad with how it all turned out! The shoot was incredibly fun and i had my closest friends with me helping me out!
Q: The third song is titled “Amy”. Could you share more about the title?
A: hahaha! oh yes well, it is what is says it is. I think its very self-explanatory hahaha! Well it is, lets say, its about a particular individual whose name may or may not be Amy. Its very much, as with all my other songs, an exaggeration of what happened (just to be a little more melodramatic) sprinkled with shavings of the truth. The voice memos you hear in the beginning and ending of the story were also of the actual individual and of actual WhatsApp conversations; hahah ill just leave it at that.
Q: Your latest track “What Can I Do” shows a change of direction from your earlier album. Could you tell us more about this change?
A: Yes! Well, i have learnt so much in the last 2 years whilst being in a different country and around different people. This really changed my perspective of music and the music making process. I did not deliberately seek out a different sound and i think What Can I Do is just a snapshot of what i was enjoying during that specific period of time.
I used to only want acoustic guitar as the sole instrument in my songs and was slightly averse to having other instruments in them but after being introduced to various other genres i began to better appreciate different approaches to music making. I guess What Can I Do is my attempt to summarise this change and growth.
Q: How would you describe your sound?
A: Big question! I really don’t have a concise answer to this question. Hmmm, i think, as of now, I would see it as intimate and melodic? I don’t know hahaa! But if it’s of any worth, I have been really enjoying the these works over the last two years: 22, A Million by Bon Iver, Rainbow Valley by Matt Corby, Southeastern by Jason Isbell, III by The Lumineers, Hoax by Kevin Garrett and This Empty Northern Hemisphere by Gregory Alan Isakov.
I guess I enjoy making folk/singer-songwriter music with a contemporary flair.
Q: What’s your favourite song?
A: The questions are getting harder and harder! Hhaha, well currently I am loving The Weather (Acoustic) by Lawrence. If you are talking ALL-TIME favourite song/s, I would have to say any song from O by Damien Rice. That album played such a pivotal role in my musical education and journey and to not mention it would be sacriligious! I listened to that album on repeat in my teen years and tried to learn every song when i started busking. What a songwriter Damien Rice is!
Q: Who are your musical influences?
A: Damien Rice, Bon Iver, Matt Corby, Allen Stone, Gregory Alan Isakov, Jason Isbell, Phoebe Bridgers, Boygenius the list goes on!
Q: We understand that you are pursuing your musical degree in Sydney. Can you share more about your life there?
A: Yes I am! I am nearing the end of that journey and am contemplating the next phase. Its been very eyeopening! The amount of new music I have been exposed to is beyond my comprehension and the amount of amazing musicians i have met here makes me want to do nothing but practise. I have truly been humbled by this experience. I am but a small fish in a very very very big pond.
Also, i live in a share house with my music school mates and this experience alone has bore me countless fruits. We have so much fun being around one another. as you can imagine, it is a very emotional, noisy and creative household! i would not trade it for the world… unless the world means Hainanese Chicken Rice and a big cup of Kopi Peng gao sui dai… then i might actually seriously consider the exchange.
Q: How are you taking care of yourself during this COVID-19 period?
A: I believe this period has been very tough on everyone and trying to stay productive and occupied has really helped me through this couple of weeks. I am taking this time to practise practise and practise! I am putting time into learning how to produce my own music, writing new songs, collaborating and just doing all things music. I am also trying to learn how to cook properly which my tummy has been very thankful for albeit this has been very detrimental to my waistline and favourite trousers. Also, i have finally picked up meditation, something that i have been trying to do on a regular basis for awhile now; the Waking Up application by Sam Harris has been a great investment.
Apart from that I am just trying to stay positive and productive!
Q: What’s your grooming regime? How do you take care of your skin?
A: I try to keep things simple and efficient! I have relatively sensitive skin and retrospectively, i perhaps have spent most time and money on that aspect. I have tried plenty of cleansers from expensive ones to regular pharmacy ones and after making my rounds, I like the Garnier Men facial cleansers; i don’t have one that i gravitate towards but they all seem to work very well for me! I also like to use B & Tea Balancing Toner by Aesop after i shower! It just feels really refreshing!
Apart from these the only other thing i invest time and money into are fragrances. My absolute favourite fragrance shop is located along Arab Street ! Its called Sifr Aromatics and it is the best shop to go for customised oils and perfumes. My favourites are Egyptian Lotus, Baudelaire and Shadow Fax. I like floral scents with sandalwood/cedarwood/ambergris and sorts. I highly recommend checking this shop out!
Q: What is one message you would like to give to your fans?
A: do something today that you’ve been putting off! now is the best time to do the things that we otherwise would not have done!
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