Songs in the key of life

Singapore jazz singer Michaela Therese

Soul singer Michaela Therese has been in the music scene for 14 years and she is finally ready to release her debut full-length album of songs she wrote herself.

"The songs on the album span my entire career," the 32-year-old Singapore singer says of the album My Name Is MEEKELLAH, which will be released next Wednesday.

"The earliest is one I wrote in 1998 while I was still in junior college and just before I started doing gigs as a professional musician. And the most recent one I wrote last year is an ode to artists. Every song represents an era of my life."

She had held off releasing an album because of the changes in the way fans listen to music. "I realised that people stopped listening to music the way I used to when I was younger. I used to listen to albums from the first track to the last, pore over the album art and read every acknowledgment," she says. "But people are now listening to music differently and buying singles instead of albums, so I thought it might be better to release EPs."

Before this album, she released two self-titled EPs in 2008 and 2010. However, she is now ready "to share my music with the world".

She adds: "These songs are very personal to me and I guess it took some time for me to get used to the idea of letting people see all sides of me."

A single from the album, Final Call, best sums up the album, named after the proper pronounciation of her name.

"When I wrote Final Call in 2012, it was an anthem for me. I was 31 and I felt like I had reached a stage in my life where I had a certain level of self- awareness and I knew what I wanted," says Therese, who is single.

"So when the song came to me, I realised I wanted to write about and acknowledge the person that I used to be and say goodbye to that, and move on to who I had grown to be. I talk about closing a chapter and moving on and beginning a new one. Because it was a bold statement, I made it the first single for the album." The single was released earlier this year.

While she will launch the album with a private, invite-only show at The Vault on Wednesday, the public can catch her live at a solo gig on May 28 at Timbre at The Substation.

She also plays every Friday at OCF, a restaurant at The Arts House, and on Thursdays at Longtail bar in Customs House with musician Tim De Cotta.

Therese, who has been playing the piano since she was four years old, graduated from Lasalle College of the Arts in 2004 with a diploma in jazz and contemporary music.

She first gained prominence in the local music scene as one of the singers of now defunct hip-hop group Urban Xchange. The group were known for their radio hits, fronting a widespread ad campaign by soft drink giant Coca-Cola in 2001 and for having a song, I Wanna Be Like Jackie Chan, on the soundtrack of Hollywood cop comedy Rush Hour 2 (2001), which starred Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.

In 2009, Therese sang with American singer Brian McKnight at the Esplanade's Mosaic Music Festival. She has also performed in concerts overseas, including Colombo, Hong Kong, Jakarta and London.

The Eurasian-Indian singer also fronts soul-funk-jazz band L.A.B. The band also includes keyboardist Aya Sekine, bassist and singer De Cotta and drummer Teo Jia Rong, who helped out with the recording of her album.

She also has plans to record new music as Miss Mic, a moniker she uses when she performs in clubs.

But her focus now is on getting her debut album out and promoting it in Singapore as well as in the region.

She says: "I think the rest of my year will centre around showcasing the album. It was a labour of love, so I would really like to push it as far as I can."

dinohadi@sph.com.sg

My Name Is MEEKELLAH will be released on Bandcamp (go to michaelatherese. bandcamp.com) on April 30 and iTunes, Spotify and Deezer at a later date.

This article was published on April 28 in The Straits Times.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

Purchase this article for republication.

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