“Art has a purpose and it is to remind us to feel”: An interview with Annette Lee

“Art has a purpose and it is to remind us to feel”: An interview with Annette Lee

Annette Lee may have risen to fame for her distinct presence in the film and music industry, but that is not to say she has never been an underdog. 

Having been dealt with tricky cards in her early years, the 28-year-old singer-songwriter had come face to face with many deterrents in her life. Most recently, with live shows suspended and the Arts being labelled as “non-essential” – both formidable challenges for an artist, on top of being a personality, director, and scriptwriter for SGAG – Annette clearly has her own battles to fight.

Yet, not once has she faltered, and not once has she accepted anything less than a victory.

In her newest EP Song For The Underdog, Annette comes through again, offering her listeners the reassurance, support and validation she once sought for, cleanly packed in a 5-track album. Its title track surfs on an electronically pumped fighter anthem, while ‘Gold’ and ‘Spring Will Always Come’ tend to the good parts of us that, at times, also need a little reminder.

Her heart and hands are full because of the Arts, but her desires to spread messages of hope and positivity are timely as the world combats a difficult pandemic. To celebrate her latest release, Hear65 talks to Annette about what’s behind Song For The Underdog, how the Arts have shaped her perspectives and careers, and more. 

Could you share with us the story behind your title track, ‘Song For The Underdog’?

Growing up, I always felt like the odds were stacked against me I was never the cool kid, definitely not a rich kid, my family was dysfunctional and I was constantly falling ill the list goes on. Yet I have seen times in my life where I have found victory after pressing on, despite the odds being stacked against me. I’ve also witnessed many others do the same. So I wrote the song to encourage anyone (including myself) who feels like an underdog, the tortoise to the hare in the race of life to keep on running and keep on fighting when they feel like giving up.

Tell us more about your new EP, and how the process of making it was like for you.

‘Song For The Underdog’ is kind of a collection of encouragement they’re words to myself, but also to people around me of whom I know need to hear them. Many of the songs were inspired in the pit of a dark moment, shedding light into my situation.

Once I had put these songs together, I started the recording process in Nashville, where I worked with producers Colton Price and Jerricho Scroggins in shaping the songs. It was a total blast working with them and the musicians in Nashville, and I’m so grateful to have had such amazing talent work on the record. 

Many of your songs deal with overcoming obstacles and difficulties in life. What other messages or feelings would you like to convey with your songs in the future?

I feel that as we get older, we experience more and more complex emotions, and find ourselves thinking about things that aren’t the most explainable. I really hope to encapsulate more of these unique experiences through my songs in the future, and while everyone’s journey is different, I hope that they will be able find their way to relate to and encourage someone who’s had a unique but similar experience too.

Besides being a singer-songwriter, you’re also a personality, director and scriptwriter for SGAG. How is it balancing your roles and careers at once?

I get this question a lot, and the honest answer is I just don’t have a lot of fun… HAHA. 

But I guess for me, work is my fun. I’m so passionate about creating art that I love spending time writing new music and stories. Okay, I know this sounds like I live in a cave, but on the contrary, I love being around people too! Being on set is actually my favourite part of a filmmaking process because I love seeing people come together to create something, and I take time to meet friends every now and then, and many times their stories inspire me too.

Is storytelling with film different from storytelling with music?

Oh definitely. But I love how both these mediums add a new dimension to each other when put together. I love choosing soundtracks for video projects I’m working on, and I also love creating music videos for songs I work on.

Has being so involved with the arts impacted your outlook on life?

It has helped me understand that not everything needs to be understood. Art is often perceived as having no purpose, or “non-essential” if I were to say it in the Singaporean way haha. But I think art has a purpose and it is to remind us to feel. There is so much complexity to life and emotions that we just can’t understand. And I’ve learned that that’s okay.

Tell us about your journey in music, and how you feel about it.

I’ve always been surrounded by music growing up, but I think my passion really began with writing before music though. Because I often think in images when I write, I started by adding illustrations to my writings from young, but when I taught myself to sing and play the guitar at 12, I started to add music to my writings as well. That was how it all began.

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Who are some of your inspirations for music, and how have they influenced your work?

My musical influences usually fall back to things I grew up listening to. Growing up, I listened to a lot of Switchfoot, Coldplay, and Avril Lavigne, and even The Beatles and that really shaped a lot of how I approach music-writing. But in every new season I have a new artist or sound that I listen to a lot (usually current pop) and that influences my sound at that point of time too.

Are there other kinds of projects you would like to take on in the future?

I would love to work on a movie or a reality series! Those are things I’ve never tried before and would love to take on someday! 

What’s a goal you have for your next step in music?

For now, it’ll be to collaborate with more musicians and perhaps try my hand at penning non-English songs!

Stream Annette’s new EP Song For The Underdog below, and watch out for the music video for ‘Crossroads’, which will be out Thursday (8/10), 9PM.