Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Music to soothe your soul - An interview with CLO

YouTube singer, Clarence Liew, will be performing and judging at the coming NYP Jam! finals!  Our student writer, Ho Khin Wai, catches up with this talented singer-songwriter, also known as CLO, to find out what makes him tick.

“Music has charms to soothe a savage beast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak” - William Congreve

This is what I feel when I’m listening to Clarence Liew’s music.

Also commonly known by his stage name, CLO, the talented 20-year old YouTube singer has captured the hearts of many followers with his smooth, jazzy tunes akin to those sung by Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson. Now you can’t say there aren’t any talented musicians in Singapore!

I had a great time meeting and chatting with the homegrown musician, and as we talked, I found some “secrets” to what makes him stand out from the rest of the wannabe YouTube singers! Want to know how he does it? Read on...

The Beginning

Clarence started learning how to play the guitar at the age of 12, after learning a song from his sister. He liked it so much that he dedicated his time to learning new chords and songs. Clarence soon found his talent in singing when he was asked to be a replacement singer in a secondary school talent show. To his astonishment, he received many positive responses from his teachers and schoolmates, which spurred him on to post his own song covers on Facebook.

As luck might have had it, Gabe Bondoc, a popular YouTube singer/songwriter chanced upon Clarence’s cover of his song, ‘Jacob’s Blues’, and invited Clarence to perform together with him in the Philippines. Unfortunately, Clarence had to give up the opportunity due to National Service.

However, under Gabe Bondoc’s advice, Clarence finally debuted on YouTube in April 2010. Today, he has attracted a pool of fans and followers not only from Singapore, but also from US, UK and Europe.

1. For our readers who have never heard of your music, explain your sound in a few words.
It’s sincere, creative and doused in jazz and blues.

2. You are one of the rising stars in Singapore. Did you imagine you would be this well-received when you first posted your videos on YouTube?
Nope! I was just trying out YouTube entirely for fun. I wasn’t planning on anything serious. However, when one of my cover videos, ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ by Stevie Wonder gained popularity, I found that I could do more to entertain my viewers.

3. Which song in your YouTube channel did you enjoy recording the most? Why?
I really enjoyed doing the mash-up of ‘We Found Love’ by Rihanna and ‘Glad You Came’ by The Wanted. It was the first time I made a proper MTV-style video, and I hope to do more of these videos. However, I will still try to keep to my roots. So, you probably will still be able to see me singing and strumming the guitar in front of a camera in the future.

4. I see that you have done quite a number of performances including the big YouTube Stars Concert and the Shine Youth Festival. Do you get nervous before performing on stage?
Definitely! (Laughs) Well, I try not to think about it before the performance and I usually get more comfortable once I am on stage. I kind of “feed off” the energy from the crowd, especially when the crowd gets heated up.

5. What was going through your mind when you were invited to perform in the YouTube Stars Concert with big stars like Jason Chen and Tiffany Alvord?
It was amazing, man. I got the call and offer when I was in camp during National Service, and I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone at that point of time. You can imagine the exhilaration and excitement all bottled up inside of me. I was so very excited and nervous at the same time. Boy, I prepared loads for that performance.

6. Tell me about a funny or awkward moment when you were pursuing your music “career”.
Well, let me think… Oh! There was this time during the YouTube Stars Concert when my fans, whom I didn’t know I had before, were holding up big placards and standing right in front of the crowd. I only could see them moments later when I finished performing as the spotlights blinded my view. It was really sweet, but awkward for me!

7. Any music idols you look up to?
My inspiration for my music comes mainly from singers such as Jason Mraz and YouTube artistes like Jeremy Passion and Gabe Bondoc. I like their music because it’s soulful and their personality and sound are are genuine on and off-stage, which is something I respect a lot.

8. What is the next step for ‘CLO’?
I would like to go back to school to study music in National Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). However, I will still continue to do covers and make music on YouTube, and also continue performing live. Among all these things, I am now concentrating on producing a new single and will release it by the end of the year.

9. Tell me about your new single!
This will be my first-ever single, entitled ‘Mary Jane’, which is due to be out in December 2012 and aired on Singapore radio stations by January 2013. Mary Jane is a fun and cheeky love song I wrote based on my personal experiences - I really liked this girl but I was in no position to confess to her, so I gave her up. The song title’s based on Mary Jane in Spiderman too. I will be performing this single at NYP on 4th Janurary.

10. Will you be cutting an album anytime soon?
Yeah! My new album is slated to come out by the end of 2013. It will feature new songs, new originals that I have written and recorded based on my life experiences.

11. What is your ultimate goal in making music?
Simple. I hope to bring smiles and raise funds for the less fortunate people in poverty-stricken countries like Vietnam and Cambodia through my music.

12. Other than music, what hobbies or interests do you have?
Well, I enjoy cooking, playing sports, running, going to the gym and chilling out with friends.

13. What advice would you give young and aspiring musicians out there hoping to make it big on YouTube?
Keep it real. Don’t be someone you’re not and don’t make music just for the fame and getting likes and subscribers. Always make it a point to connect with your audience. And most importantly, you have to keep doing it (posting videos). It’s a really tough journey… so don’t expect to become popular overnight.

Catch CLO 'live' on campus on Friday, 4 Jan 2013. He will be a guest judge at the NYP Jam! finals, and performing 'Mary Jane' and other cover songs.

Khin Wai is an NYP Year 2 Banking and Financial Services student from School of Business Management (SBM). He started writing for NYP Portal in 2011 out of interest and was soon "addicted" to it. He has also written book reviews for Straits Times YA Classified. Besides writing, he loves singing and has performed for various events in NYP under NYP Soundcard

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