Narelle Kheng talks independent effort Some They Lie and working with Gentle Bones

Narelle Kheng talks independent effort Some They Lie and working with Gentle Bones

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Text: Adibah Isa

You know her as one quarter of The Sam Willows — now get to know Narelle Kheng for her first indie effort, Some They Lie, with a music video directed by Gentle Bones

What led you to produce and write this first independent project?
It's the first proper song that I can proudly call my own. There wasn't anything specific that spurred the single, but this song just felt more and more special as the process continued and kept growing on me, especially when I started to put the lyrics in properly. I never felt ready to put out a song prior because I felt the songs were either too trivial or too personal – this one just threads the line just right and it was the right time in my life. I had more brain space to really sit and think it through.

When did you start working on it and how long did it take?
It was actually a pretty long process because I sat on it trying to figure out which direction to go towards. We had initially approached Shorya with the track but due to a series (or one) really unfortunate event it didn't work out. I approached Tat Tong and we rushed out the track within two weeks because he was headed to L.A., but I wanted to sit and work on it a little more so by the time I was done he was back in Singapore just in time for the mix.

What led you to working with Joel Tan, a.k.a. Gentle Bones?
It was quite random really, we just sat down one day and started writing for fun and realised that we had something good. He had an idea of the music video, so we started to discuss and build on it from there.

What was the creative collaboration like and how did the two of you pen this song? What sort of experiences did you both draw on?
I always love working with Joel, he's an amazing mind. We sat together to write a basic draft of a song and I went back to expand on the song. He would help out whenever I hit a roadblock or needed an opinion. I draw a lot from my personal life and what I'm feeling at the moment and what I think about life.

What would you say you learned from him, and him from you?
With the Willows you always have other minds to bounce around and decisions are made collectively. This was the first time I had to call all the shots and make the decisions so it really helped me in crafting my own identity. The one thing that I admire most about him is his mentality towards music — he never stops even if a draft comes in in the middle of the night. He's up and straight to work. It definitely was a wake up for a lazy person (read "a**") like me. Whereas for Joel, it was his first time directing while I studied film in school and am more familiar with directing and running a set, so it was easier for me to guide or help him in directing. 

Where was the music video filmed at?
My uncle's house. He's always supported Ben [Benjamin Kheng of The Sam Willows] and I greatly. He even helped fund our first trip to North America! It was an insanely long shoot ending at 6am.

What do the other Willows think of this song and did you come to them for feedback?
Ben actually helped me do up some tracks for the song. They lent an ear too in the mixing stage to listen out for things I couldn't hear.

How different and similar would you say this style of music is from what you do with the Willows?
It's definitely different I think. Some artists draw a very distinct line between their personal lives and their work but for me they have to align. Someone once told me that Narelle as a person and Narelle Kheng in the Willows are two totally different people. So I hope it shows.

What's next for you in terms of carving out your independent music career? Are we expecting more independent work from you?
Hopefully, but I'm not setting any deadlines. Right now I appreciate having music for myself and I have my hands pretty full with the band heading into the next album and a few heavy acting jobs coming up.

Get Narelle Kheng's Some They Lie on iTunes and Spotify.