Malaysian-Australian artist Yeo is a bit of a mixed bag. A singer (although he still doesn’t really consider himself one), a songwriter, a producer, a DJ, a music director and an absolute legend on the bass and keytar… the list goes on. Yet amongst this wealth of identities, the artist still manages to find his own method to the madness; creating a unique, ever-evolving brand of sound that intersperses bleak pictures of reality with glimmers of the purest hope you’ll find.
Coupled with his Asian diasporic background and his love for travel, there’s just something about his songwriting that pulls you in, no matter what walk of life you’re from. One of the driving production forces behind local muso Charlie Lim’s latest album CHECK HOOK, the pair seem to be taking their musical partnership in front of the scenes on Yeo’s latest single By Myself, in the lead-up to his upcoming long-awaited album Recovery Channel. We extracted some soundbites from the down to earth artist about his collaboration with Charlie, his upcoming album, and a few other snippets that see him telling it like it is.
About his upcoming album, Recovery Channel
Yeo: At the moment it’s called Recovery Channel. Like Discovery channel. Because I guess when I was writing the songs, I was in a very deep mode of recovery… actually, life is just like, you just keep going… (so) all the songs are still part of that same story of me getting better. Recovery Channel, it is. And if anything, with my music, it’s always been this way. I wanna help people.
How this album helped Yeo face up to his love for slow R&B
Yeo: In Ganbaru and Desire Path, they both have one R&B song on each, and when this album was coming together I was like, let’s face it – I like slow music. I like R&B, why do I keep fighting it? I should just embrace it. At one stage, it was gonna be an EP of slow jams. I don’t know what changed, it just ended up being a whole lot of slow songs.
About new single ‘By Myself’ and working with Charlie Lim
Yeo: So it has a little bit to do with what I was going through. And I kind of went through a little bit of a crisis, and that was at the end of a long struggle with a back injury… so my physical health became good, then I had to deal with mental stuff. At that point in time, all my closest friends came through and were like, “Hey, we’re still here for you. We’re not going anywhere”. Like me and Charlie, we live in different countries, we don’t connect as often as we’d like to. But eventually I came and saw him… and he was also really supportive as a friend. I guess I wrote the song about coming through that and reaching out to people, and so I guess that’s how that song comes about. And you know, me too, I’m not scared of feelings. I feel like my perspective was definitely easier to understand if you were one of my guy friends.
Why he doesn’t consider himself a singer
Yeo: I still don’t think I’m a singer… I feel the buzz when I’m on stage and I’m singing to people and they really connect and stuff like that. So great. It’s really fun, but it’s not my preference. I definitely don’t like singing in the studio. That’s really difficult. It’s harrowing. Just recording is so honest (that) you hear every little part of you that’s not any good, all your little mistakes just come through in recording. Ugly. Yeah, and that just makes me respect really good singers. It’s really hard to sing well. People like Charlie, he’s got an amazing voice.
Down-to-earth and blatantly honest, artists like Yeo are hard to come by these days. An artist who makes you feel in equal parts disheartened by the state of our current society, yet empowered by the possibility of change, Yeo’s latest single is but a taste of what’s to come. From going deep on the topic of recovery to how Yeo wants to just release an instrumental album and be done with it, the only element that was constant throughout our conversation was how purely the artist tries to express himself through his music.
And no matter what may feed through in his multitude of influences and musical styles, this is the element that ties his works together and keeps you coming back for more.
Listen to By Myself feat. Charlie Lim here:
Photos courtesy of Christopher Yip and Yeo.