Some things you only dream of, some things you set out to do. Some things you remember for the rest of your life, when that one thing came true.
The last day of May will be such a case for local singer-songwriter bittymacbeth, as her debut album “Beauty For Ashes” was launched to a sold-out crowd at the Esplanade Recital Studio. Supported by well-known local acts such as Benjamin Kheng, Inch Chua, Ariane Deborah, Dru Chen, Shak’thiya Subramaniamm, and more, the diverse repertoire showcased the talent of bittymacbeth and that of her musician friends.
Displaying the true extent of her musicality, bittymacbeth (real name Beth Yap), played song after song from her album with help from guest vocalists. At “Celebrate” she was jubilant, accompanied by a 3-piece brass ensemble. At “Alcatraz” she was reflective, with Tim De Cotta crooning alongside her. Through it all, though, her trusty bass guitar never left her side for long.
In between songs, though, Beth revealed her true and genuine self. Offering up countless thank yous to everyone who helped make the night happen, from God to her family and even the sound crew at Esplanade, she reminded the audience of just how many people it takes to help actualise a creative’s career. If it truly takes a village to raise a child, then it takes an entire neighbourhood to raise a musician, especially in Singapore.
Beth herself speaks about the uncertainty of being a local musician in our short conversation with her. Enjoy shots from the show between our email interview with the rising soul-pop singer-songwriter!
DNM: “Good songs come out of bad times” is the theme of your album, “Beauty For Ashes”. Besides songwriting, how do you cope with bad times?
I tend to just keep to myself and soldier on through the problem while at the same time praying and thinking of a way out. My faith gives me hope and strength. Sometimes I’ll tell those close to me about my problems but I try not to bother people with them.
DNM: The song “Beauty For Ashes” was written after the album title was conceived. Is this similar to your usual songwriting process?
No, actually, it’s more of a simultaneous process, where I’ll start with the hook or chorus, coming up with the lyrics and melody together at the same time. When I’m done with that I’ll usually get the title from the key word or phrase from there.
DNM: If you could write an entire album about any issues that are close to your heart, what would they be?
Rising costs of living, redrawing of electoral boundaries.
DNM: Which local and international artists inspire you?
Charlie Lim (coincidentally my Shine Festival mentor right now), Dru Chen, Tim De Cotta and his many bands, Inch (been listening to her since I was 16), Ben Kheng – that’s why I asked them to guest at the launch – and so many others, like JAWN and Bennett Bay and Vandetta and The Good Life Project and The Steve McQueens… we have a lot of talent who I feel should be international artists too.
Khalil Fong, Yuna, Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper Experiment, Allen Stone, and Switchfoot also inspire me.
DNM: What do you consider the toughest part of being a musician in Singapore?
The uncertainty. We never know what the future holds and if we’ll be able to make a career out of our music for the rest of our lives… or at least I have that deep-seated fear.
DNM: Finally, what is your go-to hawker food after a long recording session?
Depends whether I have more recordings the day after not. If I don’t, I’d gladly have bat kut teh or har cheong kai or prata kosong. If I do, I’ll probably get something like beef noodles, something soupy and not fried or spicy.
Photos by Axel Serik