Jacintha returns with a new album, Fire & Rain

Jacintha returns with a new album, Fire & Rain

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Text: Adibah Isa

Singapore musician and icon Jacintha Abisheganaden returns with a James Taylor-inspired album, Fire & Rain

It's been 10 years since your last album. I'm sure you'll get asked why a lot, so would you like to give me the long or short version of your answer?
The long version is I'm a mother and I had a Singaporean son in ACS, so he had to do PSLE and O levels and I had to be a crazy soccer mum. and I did it quite nicely. Yeah, I loved it. I did the feeding, the friends and the sleepovers. And I had a ball - wouldn't have changed it for anything. But it is a serious business having a Singaporean son now, in Singapore. So I put him as a priority.

Have you ever had hopes of him to do music as well?

No, I don't do that.

Did your parents do that to you? I mean, your classical guitarist father Alex is a cultural medallion.

They provided me with a lot of lessons so with that provision, I would say to every Singaporean parent who has done that for their child - with the cost of living here - it is amazing. I grew up in a music household, so yes, I got singing lessons, piano lessons and art lessons and I was dragged around to record shops. There were orchestras in my living room. There was always a chamber group because my uncles had orchestras - the first orchestras in Singapore before SSO.

Why was James Taylor your main drive for this record?

I grew up with James Taylor. My best friend and I used to listen to James Taylor and then she died of cancer. And these songs live in you.

What else?
He's one of the top five recording artistes in the world to tour constantly and that kind of work ethic speaks to me. I had a lot of admiration for him during the Obama administration when he became a central figure in their use of music in the campaign, and the way he did it matched Obama's style of presidency.

How daunting was the recording process?
We have one take, you need to do 10 songs in two days, about one take each. I hardly had time to open the iPad. We don't spend 15 hours in the studio. It's completely different from when I used to do Asian pop and there were hundreds of hours that we would spend checking and tracking because what you want to do as an Asian artiste is to spend as much money and time in the studio as possible. Making it perfect.

Do you think you had to go through that whole crazy Asian pop phase to get to where you want to be now?

I think without it, I wouldn't have done it. But I have to say that my training in theatre has helped me more work out what I wanted from my own records.

How so?
Have you worked with Ong Keng Sen from TheatreWorks? It's quite traumatic. I say this in the most exciting way. We would do 12 hours of physical theatre with maybe a half hour break at 5.30pm. I have no idea why nobody went to the bathroom or ate. We were so obsessed with creating.

How much do you think streaming services and social media have changed the way you do your music, and the way you market yourself?
I don't really market myself. That's the thing, we're pretty low-key in the audiophile label but if you really look at the values and what is being done, and making vinyls now in Hollywood, I would say it's pretty gorgeous.

Do you miss writing? You used to write for the Straits Times.
Yeah, I miss writing a lot. I miss reading and writing.

Do you journal a lot?

I'm very focused on the product so if I've got to do it then it's got to be a book. There are a few potential books in the making but it's got to be perfect. I don't feel like I need to write about me at all. But if I sat down and wrote them, they'll be pretty romantic. It'll be a moment to do that. So do I miss writing? I do, but what I see is a commercial product. I see a book.

So it's not much of a process for you? It's the end product?
Yes, I like to see my dreams through so in that sense I'm very goal-oriented and I've been that way with everything in my life. It was a long and very slow-motion ride with my son. Very long. Motherhood was grueling. You're standing in the park with small children and wondering, 'What happened to me?' It used to be music and people around you. It was music and dance. But it worked out.

Entering the next decade of your life in October, what are you looking forward to the most and what are you afraid of?

I'm at a blissful place right now. I take on the projects I want to and I'm realising how sweet life can be and so I'm really enjoying this freedom. I hope to travel more because for some reason I seem to be quite fit. I don't care about baggage. 

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