The Noise-Timbre Singer-Songwriter Programme

I’m sure many of you have heard about Noise Singapore and Timbre. The former is an initiative led by the National Arts Council which supports creativity among the youth here, and the latter is a chain of live-music restaurants/bars featuring local musicians.

Both entities are strong supporters of the growing music scene in Singapore and I was really excited when they joined hands to hold a competition for singer-songwriters.

Six aspiring artists stand a chance to be showcased at Timbre @ The Substation, as well as get a few music lessons thrown in. To take part, they will need to upload two video performances on YouTube, one of an original song and the other of a song of their choice.

I decided to take part, of course :), and I wanted to do a proper audio recording for this. So I got together with my friend Anthony Kok (who’s an extremely talented guitarist) and went down to Backbeat Studios in Jalan Besar last week. I booked a two-hour slot and we played two songs in a  “live” performance style. Adrian Ng, who owns the studio, did some some basic mixing for us, and Carol helped to record the video. All in, I was pretty pleased with the result!

The original song I submitted was “Bad Stuff Got You Good”, which I wrote for Carol to encourage her not to let the bad things in life get her down. Here’s the video:

You can check out the original home-recorded video of this song here.

The second song I sent in was a cover of “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. I love this song and to me it speaks of the happiness and freedom found in doing what you love. Have a listen here:

Yup, those were my two videos. Wish me luck! Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think 🙂

If you’d like to take part as well, visit this link, and send in your videos! The contest closes on 6 Feb, 2011.

Week 37 – Epiphany

This song is my first collaboration with a fellow singer-songwriter. His name is Jaye Foo, a Singaporean as well. His style of music reminds me a lot of Jason Mraz, very rhythmic and catchy. He’s quite into rap and hip-hop too. (You can check out Jaye’s site here.)

We met at the Maestro open mic at Scape Mall last August. His slot was just after mine and we said hi and all that. Then, we bumped into each other again when I was working at Scape, and got to talking about our music… and we thought yeah, let’s jam together and see what we come up with.

Both of us have quite different styles (Jaye says my style is very “flowing”), and I think interesting things are bound to happen when two different musical styles get together.

Do check out our song “Epiphany” – all about finding one’s destiny in life. More to come! 🙂

Epiphany
Music and Lyrics by Jaye Foo and Marcel Lee Pereira, 13 Jan, 2011

I wander like a kite
Tossed by the careless wind
No string to tie me down
No hands to pull me in
I kissed the galaxy
And wished a star for me
A light upon my way
That I will find my destiny

You asked for me
Now I’m ready to be singing
To the universe
And beyond
And beyond
So wouldcha come with me
And getcha Epiphany

Look at how I fly
A bird who’s found it’s wings
I follow my own path
I do not fear a thing
I kissed the galaxy
And wished a star for me
A light upon my way
To take me to my destiny

Week 36 – Gone To The Dogs

I was inspired to write this song by an article that appeared on the Yahoo! Singapore portal a few days ago. You can read it here.

The piece says Singaporeans are becoming more “liberal” in strange and head-scratching ways, such as walking about stark naked – in public, mind you.

I’m not kidding. The article says: “The trend of indecent exposure has been rising since 2007. Today an average of one case is reported every other day… According to published figures, there were 105 cases in the first six months of 2010, compared with 166 for 2009, 146 in 2008 and 136 in 2007.” That’s quite astounding, I must say.

A famous example took place in 2009, when a couple (a Singaporean woman and her Swedish friend) paraded themselves naked in Holland Village, a popular expat haunt. A few other nudists have followed suit, spotted at various locations such as McDonald’s, and on a public bus.

So, are repressed and straight-laced Singaporeans becoming more liberal and playing “catch up” with other cities, the article asks.

Perhaps.

In the news recently, a 12-year-old girl revealed that she had slept with a string of men. Did I mention she’s 12??

And a few days ago, a cab driver pleaded guilty to using a pen-shaped camera to secretly film up the skirts of his passengers. Seriously… what was he thinking?

Hey, I’m no prude myself, but someone’s gotta ask: Has this town gone to the dogs?

(This song was inspired by real events, and is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek commentary. Nothing more.)

Gone To The Dogs
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 7 Jan 2011

Albert drove a taxicab from dusk till dawn
Waited for a pretty girl to come along
With a hidden cam, a cheeky plan and a mind stuck in the dirt
He got his kicks shooting video clips up their skirts

John and Jill went out to chill one ordinary night
They decided to walk around in the nude oh, they were quite a sight
Hand in hand the two of them strolled into a cafe
It takes all kinds but I guess I find it a little insane

CHORUS
People scratch their heads and ask
Has this town gone to the dogs at last?

Nicole was a 12-year-old who had a taste for men
She liked to see them after school, every now and then
One by one, their had fun, and it felt nice
Now they’re locked up, what rotten luck, they paid the price

CHORUS
People scratch their heads and ask
Has this town gone to the dogs at last?

BRIDGE
This town lost its head, I think it has
Is this just a passing craze, or one big bloody mess

CHORUS
People scratch their heads and ask
Has this town gone to the dogs at last?

Upcoming performance, Sat 8 Jan

Hey everyone,

It’s been a while since I’ve played my songs in public, so I’m really excited about a small gig I’m doing this Saturday.

It’s part of a guitar workshop for kids and teenagers held at the Jurong Regional Library, and I will be playing a half-hour set at the end 🙂

Do drop by with your family. It’ll be fun!

When: Saturday, 8 Jan, 4pm
Where:  Jurong Regional Library, 21 Jurong East Central 1, Singapore 609732

More details about the event can be found here.

Week 35 – Made With Love

A song can be inspired by pretty much anything. A book, a poem, a life-changing experience, all of them can trigger emotions that can be expressed in music. 

If you’re lucky like Paul McCartney was, a song could even come to you in a dream. That was how the melody for “Yesterday” came about, by the way.

Sometimes, an idea is born just by observing someone. And that’s the story behind this week’s song.

I was at a Starbucks one evening (it’s where I usually go to write), and beside me there was a girl who was busy making something. On the chair next to her was a bag full of coloured and patterned paper. On her table were about a dozen polaroid pictures of her and her boyfriend (I’m assuming).

Opened in front of her was a scrapbook with thick black pages, and on the corner of one page she had stuck little pink hearts.

Then, she cut out a pattern from the decorative paper, and attempted to create a border for one of the pictures, which she planned on pasting next to the hearts.

It looked like she had been at it for some time, and she was putting in a great deal of thought and effort into that scrapbook.

I thought to myself: “Wow, she really must love that guy a lot.”

As I packed up to leave, I caught sight of the words “Made With Love” printed on a paper bag. Apparently that’s the name of a scrapbooking store, probably where she bought all her materials.

Well, that’s how this song was born. I added a few touches, of course. A grandmother’s hand-made scarf, and a husband’s foray into the kitchen to surprise his wife… It’s the effort that counts, right?

I decided to just do an audio recording this week. The guitar and vocals were mixed with Cubase LE4, and the video was done in iMovie. Made with love… Enjoy!

Made With Love
©Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 31 Dec 2010

She’s 79 and her sight is failing
Her fingers bent, wrinkled and shaking
Still by lamplight she knits
All through the night
Weaving warm and coloured presents
For her grandchild, her joy and pride

A young girl sits at a corner cafe
She’s been there an entire Saturday
Precious pictures of her and her man
One by one, stuck in a book
Filled with pink hearts cut out by hand

CHORUS
It’s for you, she said, I know it’s not much
And I hope it’s enough ’cause
It’s made with love, made with love
With all my love

He’s home early, his arms filled with bags
A cookbook he got right off the rack
He fumbles like a child learning to walk
Fixing a three-course meal for two
Before his wife gets back at six o’clock

CHORUS
It’s for you, he said, I know it’s not much
And I hope it’s enough ’cause
It’s made with love, made with love
With all my love

It’s something I’d do for you
Only for you
With all my love
With all my love

And I hope it’s enough ’cause
It’s made with love, made with love
With all my love

Week 34 – The Man I Want To Be

While thinking of ideas for this week’s song, I stumbled upon a quote online. It goes something like this: “The man you want is the man I want to be, but without you, I can’t be that man. Without you, that man’s gone forever.” It’s author is unknown.

I think it says a lot when a man feels that way about the woman he loves. It means that for her, he will become a better man; that because of her, he is inspired to be the man that she wants.

It’s really quite a beautiful and powerful quote, and this song was born from it.

I’ll keep this post short, because it’s Boxing Day and I’m sure everyone has had a brilliant Christmas weekend. I’ll let the song speak for itself this time.

I feel so blessed for this long and happy Christmas, full of food, family and lots of love…

I’d like to wish everyone out there a cup filled with joy and laughter. And if you’ve been following this blog, and my songwriting journey, thank you so much for the support. God Bless you all 🙂

The Man I Want To Be
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 26 Dec 2010

You deserve someone better than me
I’ve made you cry more times than I can count
You’ve seen in me the good that I can’t see
I know that I was lost but now I’m found

For you, I’ll change my ways
In my life you take first place

CHORUS
You see the man you want is the man I want to be
You see the man you want is the man I want to be

Sometimes darkness makes the world so clear
How I cried when I almost lost your love
You stayed by my side despite the fear
Like a ray of light sent from above

For you, I’ll change my ways
In my life you take first place

CHORUS
You see the man you want is the man I want to be
You see the man you want is the man I want to be

Without you, I am gone forever
Only you… make me want to be better
Your breath has shook my very roots
I willingly surrender

CHORUS
You see the man you want is the man I want to be
You see the man you want is the man I want to be

Week 33 – Dance, Dance, Dance

Please bear with me for this longish post, I just thought I’d devote more time to the inspiration behind this song 🙂

Lately, I’ve been reading a few books by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, described as one of the world’s greatest living novelists. His books have been translated into many languages, and sold all over the world.

The first of his books I picked up was Sputnik Sweetheart, which got me hooked. Then I read Dance, Dance, Dance, which inspired me to write this song, but I’ll go into that later…

At this very moment, I’m trying to read The Elephant Vanishes and Kafka On The Shore at the same time (because I have to return both books to the library soon!)

Not that I’m rushing through them; I’m reading the books slowly, paying attention to the wonderful way he describes everyday objects.

Take, for example, his description of an unused alley behind the protagonist’s house in The Elephant Vanishes. He ventures inside in search of his missing cat:

“Oh, well, I think, might as well look for that cat. Leave later developments for later. Anyway, it’s a damn sight better to be out and about than to be cooped up indoors waiting for the telephone to ring.

The spring sun cuts clean and crisp through the ceiling of overhanging branches, scattering patches of shadow across the ground. With no wind, the shadows stay glued in place like fateful stains. Telltale stains sure to cling to the earth as it goes around and around the sun for millennia to come.

Shadows flit over my shirt as I pass under the branches, then return to the ground. All is still. You can almost hear each blade of grass respiring in the sunlight. A few small clouds float in the sky, vivid and well formed, straight out of a medieval engraving. Everything stands out with such clarity that I feel buoyant, as if somehow my body went on forever. That, and it’s terribly hot.”

Amazing isn’t it? Anyway, back to Dance, Dance, Dance, the novel.

I won’t go much into the story, but anyone who’s read this book will remember the mysterious Sheep Man, a being who lives somewhere between worlds and who’s task it is to help the book’s protagonist, who’s completely and utterly lost in his search for answers, get connected. This is what the Sheep Man tells him to do, and by the way, this is exactly how he talks:

“Dance,” said the Sheep Man. “Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays. Yougota dance. Don’teventhinkwhy. Starttothink, yourfeetstop. Yourfeetstop,wegetstuck. Wegetstuck, gottakeepthestep. Yougottalimberup. Yougottaloosenwhatyoubolteddown. Yougottauseallyougot. Weknowyou’retired, tiredandscared. Happensoeveryone, okay? Justdon’tletyourfeetstop….Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays.”

Yup, when you get stuck, you gotta dance. Dance like your life depended on it.

Dance, Dance, Dance
Inspired by a novel of the same name by Haruki Murakami
© Marcel Lee Pereira, 17 December 2010

I get lost sometimes
Walking down the street with a blindfold on
Confused by the things that have come and gone

I think I think too much
Staring at shoelaces come undone
Tripping me up when I want to run

I gotta tie it together
I’ve got nothing to lose

CHORUS
So I’ll dance, dance, dance (x 2)
As long as the music’s playing
Stepping to my own beat, swaying
Dancing like my life depended on it

You see I won’t ask why
I’ll just keep my body moving
I won’t stop till my world is grooving

Round and round I go
Spinning like a ball of clay
To find my shape on the potter’s tray

Wishing’s not gonna do it
I’m gonna get to it

CHORUS
So I’ll dance, dance, dance (x 2)
As long as the music’s playing
Stepping to my own beat, swaying
Dancing like my life depended on it

Dancing to my music
Dancing to my own beat
Dancing to my music
Dancing to my own beat

Week 32 – Save Me A Kiss On Christmas

I’ve been meaning to write a Christmas song at some point, so I guess this week’s it. It’s two weeks before Christmas after all, so why not? 🙂

Spending time with family is I think one of the most important things to do every Christmas season, other than of course celebrating the birth of Jesus. That’s why songwriters have written much about coming home for the festive season.

Songs like “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, ” Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and “Driving Home For Christmas” are some of the more popular examples I can think of.

This week’s song is all about coming home. It’s written from the perspective of someone who has gone away from the woman he loves to seek his fortune. She has given him her love and support, and is patiently waiting for him to return.

Now, after he’s done what he had to do, he’s trying to get home for Christmas, but he isn’t sure he’ll make it time. Flights are full, traffic is a killer, and everyone just seems to be getting in the way…

Still, he’s hoping for that special Christmas miracle to happen and he’s asking his love to save him a kiss when he returns.

Lyrics below:

Save Me A Kiss On Christmas
©Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 11 Dec, 2010

The nights are a getting colder, this time of the year
I’ve been away too long, sung my song, climbed my mountain
Your voice was all I could hear

You told me to follow my heart, down the uncharted path
Since I’ve been gone, you’ve waited for me, so patiently
How I’ve prayed to see you again

There’s a star rising above your door
I’m a long way off, but I’ll get there for sure

CHORUS
The streets are filled with people
With nowhere to go
The city lights
Part of a show
Time moves too slow
My heart’s already flown
Save me a kiss on Christmas
I’m coming home soon

I’ve missed my flight and the traffic’s not a pretty sight
Will I get out of here, I’m lost in space, want your embrace
Your smile like starlight dancing in your eyes

A voice inside of me, telling me to believe
To hope against hope
I see a star rising above your door
I’m a long way off, but I’ll get there for sure

Week 31 – Bad Stuff Got You Good

This song initially started with the title “Don’t Let The Bad Stuff Get You Good”, and I built the verses from the phrase.

I wanted to play on the words “bad” and “good”. “Get you good” can mean someone’s going to beat you up, as in: “You’d better watch out, I’m gonna get you good!”; Or it can also mean someone wants you real bad, as in Shania Twain’s song “I’m Gonna Getcha Good.” What I wanted to do was to encourage people not let the bad things in life get them down, and say it in a slightly unconventional way.

I finished up what was to be the first draft of the song, and played it for Carol. (She’s always the first one to hear a song I’ve written ;))

She didn’t really like it. There were too many “ohhhs” in the middle, and the verses were repetitive, she said. And she also suggested I change the title to make it “less obvious”. I agreed with her. Plus, the initial version was about 5 minutes long and could do with some tightening.

The next day, I spent the entire afternoon doing major rewrites. I made the verses less repetitive and cut down the breaks between each line to make the verses flow better. I also changed the title to “Bad Stuff Got You Good”. I felt it was more punchy, less obvious, and still got the message across.

Here’s the final result:

Bad Stuff Got You Good
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 2 Dec 2010

Rain clouds comin’ in too fast
A shroud of sadness that never rests
Find a shelter on your windswept way
Winter’s troubles fade in May

Put love and hope on your speed dial
They’re trying to get to you, my child
Like birds of spring singing at your door
Let them in, don’t cry no more

CHORUS
Oh… when the bad stuff got you good
Never worry
More than you should

God won’t give you what you can’t take
Won’t break the promises he’s made
When all else fails you’ve got me, don’t forget
I’ll do my best to pick up the slack

CHORUS
Oh… when the bad stuff got you good
Never worry
More than you should

BRIDGE
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Like you haven’t got enough
To care about

So smile for me and steal my breath away
You’re amazing and I want you to stay
We can face each day as it comes
What good is life without the sun

CHORUS
Oh… when the bad stuff got you good
Never worry
More than you should

Week 30 – King Of The Toadstool

I’m generally a very easygoing person, and there aren’t many people I really dislike. I mean, live and let live, right?

Carol tells me many, many times that I’m too nice, and she’s worried that people will take advantage of me. Anyway, whether that’s true or not isn’t the topic of this post.

So yes, about this person this song is about… I’m not going to name any names, of course. Nope, no details whatsoever. I’m not even going to say if this person is a guy or a girl. Suffice it to say that he/she is the “King of the Toadstool”.

What do I mean by that?

Picture an ugly amphibian perched on a toadstool, lording it over the flies that cross the path of its sticky tongue. The flies are the only ones that fear it, and it relishes that power. This toad thinks it’s the king of the world; it takes great pleasure in its glorious position, its mushroom throne.

It doesn’t realise that it is just a toad, and its “kingdom” is just a tiny patch of earth… And the flies? They are scared of everything.

The proverbial frog in the well.

If you read the lyrics below, you’ll get a better idea of how I feel towards this someone. And if he/she eventually stumbles across this post, I couldn’t give a damn, really.

King Of The Toadstool
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 27 Nov 2010

You’re the fat fish in a small pond
Wielding fear like Machiavelli
Telling everybody what to do, ohh…
I don’t have a problem with authority
Go to hell, respect you gotta earn

The fake plastic horns on your head
A million empty threats
Killing every Monday, Wednesday ohh…
Go ahead ‘cos you don’t scare me
From the bottom of your well, you’ll never learn

Chorus
You’re the king of the toadstool
Thinking you rule
But the sky is too high
Above your throne
You’re the king of the toadstool
Prince of the flies
But there’s no way I’d stick around
No I won’t

I’m no bug on your tongue
Got the first ticket out
I’m not getting high-strung
Gonna disappear

So your majesty you
Gotta find someone new
Clean your own dirty shoes
Cos I ain’t here