Why Tabitha Nauser won’t do Mandopop (even if she can)

The former 987FM DJ tell us about her debut single ‘Bulletproof’, why she has no plans to break into the lucrative Chinese music industry, and more

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Photos: Tammi Tan, Sony Music Entertainment Singapore

When Tabitha Nauser performed a cover of A-Mei’s ‘Ting Hai’ as a contestant on Singapore Idol in 2009, she recalled being told that she “should definitely break into the Chinese market.” After all, many of our country’s top musical exports – think JJ Lin, Tanya Chua and Stefanie Sun – are part of the Mandopop scene.

However, it’s clear that the 25-year-old Swiss-Indian singer, who recently inked a recording deal with Sony Music Singapore and dropped her debut single ‘Bulletproof’ in February, is not keen to embark on that route.

“I guess that would work if I really loved Mandarin and if that was the market I really wanted to break into, but it’s never even crossed my mind,” she told Toggle in an interview. “Although it would make a lot of sense, like I’m sure I would make a ton of money and be famous, but that’s not where my heart’s at.”

Of course, the former 987FM DJ doesn’t completely rule out the possibility of dabbling in the genre, be it recording a one-off single or a duet with a Mandopop star. “But I don’t think that would be my entire career,” she said.

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Instead, Tabitha sees herself touring all over the world with international music giants from the western world such as rapper Drake coming on as surprise special guests and making the audience go crazy. “That’s my biggest ambition right now,” she gushed, adding that she also has dreams to collaborate with Pharrell Williams, Kanye West and Bryson Tiller.

With ‘Bulletproof’, a sultry and dark R&B track (complete with a sensual music video that premiered last month), Tabitha has finally started taking her first steps towards that vision. But, we wondered out loud, what took her so long? After all, she emerged from a high-profile singing competition and has displayed a penchant for music ever since she was a child.

“I was really young when I did Idol, and many different people were trying to tell me what kind of music I should do and what I should look like,” she explained, adding that she wanted to learn more about the industry herself before entering it. “It basically boiled down to me wanting to make sure that I put out something that I believe in 100 percent.”

Read on for more as Tabitha tells us about making her new single, what her family thinks of the sexy music video (which includes a nude scene) and more:

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Toggle: You say you wanted to be ready before making your official music debut. What makes you think that time is now?
Tabitha:
I can’t really put it into words, it’s just something that I know. Everything aligned and it just made sense to drop everything else and do music. I’m really blessed because I got to do radio and I learned a lot from there that helped me to pursue my own music path as well.

How did the deal with Sony come about?
I got to know them because I’m close with The Sam Willows and Sezairi (who are under Sony), so we’d been meeting for normal catch-ups since early last year, then it sort of came to [them asking] if I wanted to do music, and I think they saw what I was going for and it all just came together.

How was the experience recording ‘Bulletproof’?
It was so much fun! I spent about a week in the studio with writers and producers in Sweden, who were super cool and easy to work with – if there was anything I wanted to change, they were open to it. I enjoyed myself so much that I wanted to stay even longer but every session would finish on time. (laughs) The music video was filmed in Singapore, and it looked exactly like those behind-the-scenes clips on MTV, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is so cool!” It really, very dope.

How involved were you in coming up with the look and concept of the music video?
My idea was to let Zhao Wei Films take full control of it, so they came up with a couple of different ideas and I picked the one that I thought worked best for the song, and they ran free with it. I picked this concept because it was interesting to show different versions of myself, and also I just like dressing up. (laughs)

How was your family’s reaction to your music video?
My mum was freaking out! She was like, “Wow, this is the music video! But you’re naked!” (laughs) [Ed’s note: There is a tastefully-done scene of Tabitha in the nude at the end] But she loves it. She told me, “This is actually really beautiful.”

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Screenshots from Tabitha's 'Bulletproof' music video

Was that nude scene at the end your idea?
Yes. We wanted to push the envelope a little, but not to the point that it was “ugh” or in-your-face for the sake of being in-your-face; we wanted it to be classy yet edgy, because I feel like in this side of the world, we kind of take things a little bit slow so I wanted to turn things up a bit. (laughs)

What are your thoughts on the reception of ‘Bulletproof’ so far?
It’s been pretty insane! A lot of people have been supportive and I’m just hoping that it continues. There have also been a lot of comments calling me “Queen” and “Mum”. Did you know “Mum” is a thing!? I’m like, why are they calling me “Mum”? (laughs) But I find the weirdest comments the funniest.

Moving forward, are you going to continue with this sensual, R&B concept?
I would love to keep within the theme of it being sexy and confident, but I also want to play around. I don’t want to fit into a particular genre when it comes to music, so I might come up with a very slow ballad, or a fierce, loud track.

How are plans for an EP or full album coming along?
We’re going with an EP that is coming out this year. We’ve recorded some stuff already but I think we might be re-recording them because we want to work on getting the right songs, message and vibe. I want people to listen to the album and say “I feel confident, I feel like I want to move”, that kind of vibe, and I definitely want it to be sexy for sure.

Tabitha’s single ‘Bulletproof’ is now available on online digital platforms.

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