Kuala Lumpur-born singer and songwriter Talitha Tan burst into the music scene six years ago. Her debut single Okay received heavy airplay and rave reviews, garnering 1.8 million streams on Spotify in 2016. A year later, Please Stay, her second single, hit one million streams on Spotify in less than 12 months. We caught up with the singer, who is also a fitness enthusiast, to find out what she’s been up to.
When did you get into singing?
I started singing in the shower, like everyone else (laughs). But in all seriousness, I sing because I enjoy it. At that point, it seemed like it’s the only thing I felt like I knew how to do. I watched people like Kina Grannis and Tori Kelly on YouTube, and I thought, “if they can, why can’t I?” I had a video camera. So I started posting up covers on YouTube. Eventually, I got noticed a little. Went for open mics, then started slowly getting called for performances. But never would I have ever thought I would have been where I am today.
Why did you choose a career in music, instead of, say, law or dentistry?
Because I am not interested in dentistry or the law. I mean technically, I do sports that are possibly capable of me breaking my teeth and also breaking the law. Never quite liked studies. I’ve always enjoyed being practical. I’m horrible on paper until my parents begged for me to at least get a “Pass”, not even an “A” in my papers. I knew from the beginning I was only interested in pursuing music. Having said that, I do feel like I’ve missed out a bit on general knowledge that could be somewhat useful. So, kids, stay in school. But don’t let it define you!
How would you define your musical genre?
My songs don’t really have a genre. I’d say I’m a mixture of the music I listen to. A pinch of R&B, Indie, Pop and Acoustic.
Have you had any professional training as a singer/musician?
Nope. Never. Not really. I had piano lessons when I was really young, but I can barely play anything now. It’s sad. I also took basic guitar lessons for a month and realised I could have learned all these on YouTube. My dad sent me for vocal lessons once because he insisted that I could not sing, but the teacher said there was nothing wrong with my singing and I never went back.
How many original songs have you written? Which is your favourite, and where do you get your inspiration from?
I have written, I think, officially eight finished songs. I can’t really choose a favourite because the majority of them are close to my heart. I pour my heart into my songs. For inspiration, (I get them) typical(ly from) heartbreaks, but hey, they work!
Any plans for an album of your own in the future?
You’ve collaborated with some of Malaysia’s best and international names in music such as SonaOne, Ali Aiman, Darren Ashley and Tatsuro Miller. What have you taken away from these collaborations, and which global name in the music industry do you dream of working with one day? He/she could be an artist or a producer.
Everyone has different ways of working, but music is somehow able to bring us all together! I am so thankful to have been able to work with these individuals. I absolutely LOVE their work. Malaysia has amazing talent. I’m so glad to have been given the opportunity to work with some of them. I’ve got to say a big “Thank you” to Darren Ashley for believing in my first official release Okay and for producing it. There are so many artists and producers I’d really like to worth with, but I can’t think of anyone specific right now. I guess Jhené Aiko? Tom Misch? Charlie Puth, maybe?
Who is your greatest musical icon?
Tom Misch, Charlie Puth, Billie Eilish, Jhené Aiko, they all make absolutely amazing music. It’s like when you listen to some music and you go, wow, this is some good stuff, I wish I wrote this. So yes, I want to be able to create music like they do.
What about your style icon? Anyone in particular influences the way you dress?
Not really. I just really love my Nike sports bra and short crop tops, and baggy pants or high slit pants because they are so comfortable, and I look super in them.
We know you’re very much into fitness such as parkour, rock climbing, powerlifting. How often do you train and why is this important to you?
And not to forget, motocross! It’s something I’m quite proud of. I used to train every day without fail. But then, every time I pick up a new sport, I’d neglect the others. So, I’m sort of a jack of all trades but master of none. I’ve just always wanted to represent Malaysia for something. So, because I was committed to all these sports, I couldn’t prioritise my music. Hence, writers block, et cetera et cetera. So, this year, I put the majority of the sports on hold to concentrate on writing and performing. And only on occasions, I get back into the sports I enjoy doing.
You’ve also started acting. How do you feel about acting as opposed to singing on stage?
I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten much opportunities to act, but I love it. I’ve always wanted to act. I love the idea of being able to be in someone else’s shoes. Like I get to be someone else for a period. I think it also helps you appreciate who you are. I’m definitely an amateur, but I’m happy to learn if someone is willing to take me in. But of course, music is my first love. Performing and being on stage is my happy place. Performing for fans and people who have followed my journey means the world to me.
What can we expect from you in 2019?
Follow me to find out!
*Talitha’s single Fooled Me in playing onboard Malaysia Airlines. Under Radio, locate the Chart Toppers segment to have a listen.