Tabitha Nauser's come a long way — from Singapore Idol contestant to a four-year stint at 987 to belting out Spotify chart-topping singles. The 25-year-old singer shares what inspires her music and why she would never perform for President Trump.
8 DAYS: Last month, your single, ‘Body Language’, cracked the Top 5 of Spotify’s Singapore Viral 50 charts. You worked with Malaysian rapper SonaOne on that one. How did that collaboration come about?
TABITHA NAUSER: I first recorded ‘Body Language’ last year and it sounded very different. It was still sexy, but it had a darker, more mysterious sound to it. Then I met Sona in KL earlier this year. That was the first time I spoke to him and I told him about ‘Body Language’, which I felt lacked something. He listened to it and he said he could do a verse for it. Initially, we thought his version would be a remix of ‘Body Language’, but after hearing what he did, we really liked it. So we decided to put that out instead. What's also interesting is that we weren’t in the same studio when we were working on the song. We communicated through e-mails and WhatsApp. But I hope that in the future we’ll get to collaborate more closely, because I'm sure we can create quality music together.
What’s ‘Body Language’ really about?
If you take the song at face value, it's [about being] sexy. But if you dig deeper, it really is about being comfortable in your own skin and with your sexuality. I wanted a song that empowered women, because too many times, we are told what to do. [Like] what not to wear lest we attract the wrong kind of attention. It’s as if the responsibility is solely on us should something bad happen. I've been in the industry since I was 16 but [there’re still] people telling me how I should behave or speak.
Your debut single, ‘Bulletproof’, was remixed by Polish DJ Tom Swoon. Which artist would you love to cover or do a remix of ‘Body Language’?
I've got a perfect one — Zayn Malik. He would do an amazing job. Oh, and Drake. I love Drake.
In 2014, you joined 987 as a DJ. What’s your most memorable moment from that four-year stint?
I can't pick just one! I think most of the concerts that I got to attend (chuckles). Also, just the people I got to interview. Because as an aspiring artiste at that time, I got to know what it was like to be on the other side of being an artiste. One person that really stuck with me was Brendon Urie, lead singer of Panic! at the Disco. It was really interesting to hear him talk about how his music evolved over the years.
Did you learn anything that influenced you as a singer?
It definitely expanded my knowledge of pop and mainstream music. I didn't use to listen to so much bubblegum pop. A lot of songs rotating on 987 then weren’t songs on my Spotify list. But I got to learn how these songs were structured, and I applied those lessons in my songs. One important thing I learnt is that you'll never know if a song is going to be a hit — [you really can’t predict what] kinds of sounds people would gravitate towards or what will go viral.
You’ve also done TV, theatre, and radio. So what made you want to focus on music?
Music has always been a huge part of my life, and I've always felt I would be a singer. I did some TV hosting and theatre, both of which I have a genuine interest in. But in my heart I know singing is what I need to be doing.
When you dropped ‘Bulletproof’ early this year, you said you wanted to carve your own path with your own personality. How successful have you been so far?
I don't think I've achieved that yet. I still have much to improve on. That said, I feel that I am on the right track. I know myself a lot better now, whereas before I treaded too carefully. I know very well what kind of sound I want. But at this point of my career, I'm enjoying exploring a little bit. I don't want to be defined by genres yet and I certainly can't put a label to what kind of music feels right to me.
You performed at the after-party for the White House State Dinner for Singapore hosted by President Obama last year. Would you perform for President Trump?
I would not. I don't agree with anything that he says, or the kind of person he portrays himself to be. I can go on and on about Trump. I really dislike him.
On a lighter note, what’s the song of the year for you?
This is so tough! It's not a song but an album — Kendrick Lamar's Damn. He talks about so many important things, and musically, it's just beautiful. If anybody hasn't heard that album, I highly recommend it. There's no one else that writes like him.
Main photo: Aik Chen.