You lost your dad at a young age. How did you deal with his death?
My dad passed away unexpectedly when I was 15. The cause was excessive smoking that eventually destroyed his organs. Back then, my family owned a local pastry shop but we had to close it down, and consequently, we lost our income. My mother had to work and I had to take up three part-time jobs. That year, I also had to take PMR (the Malaysian equivalent of N levels). It was very tough for me as I had to take care of her and study at the same time. My mum developed depression, and after awhile so did I, and I started self-harming.
I always felt that I didn’t have a choice in this situation; I was forced to grow up and take care of my mother and myself. It was a tough process, and I had to grow up and be mature. I missed out on a big part of having a proper student life — for example, I didn’t even get to go to university.
How difficult was it when your mum fell into depression?
I still remember a day when my friend came to visit me at home. After that, my mum questioned my behaviour and commented that I was being unfilial because I was able to laugh in conversations even though my father had passed away. That really hurt me because I was just trying to be strong in front of her so she wouldn’t worry.
An incident that scarred me happened one night when she strangled me and held me against the wall. I couldn’t breathe. I kept yelling for her to stop until she snapped out of it. It shocked me because she almost killed me without realising it! Living with my mum came with a lot of stress and fear as I was also going through depression and suicidal thoughts.
What were some things people did that weren’t helpful to you?
Personally, a prayer and a hug would have meant the most to me at the time. It would be much more effective than merely saying “don’t be so sad” to someone who was already struggling so much.
How did you overcome self-harm and depression?
Two years ago, I went to see a counsellor I met in secondary school, who is a certified psychologist. At the school I attended in Malaysia, every Friday morning, the Malay students attended religious classes and the Chinese students went through talks with social workers. Because of that, I met a social worker who counsels me till this day! I wasn’t a Christian then, but he was, and he would pray for me and give me advice whenever I went to him for help.
So I only got treated ten years after I first experienced depression. The counsellor got me to choose one incident that I wanted to go back to. I chose the incident where my artiste contract fell through. When I first came to Singapore, I was working part-time and studying part-time in mass communication. I then took part in a radio station DJ competition. I got opportunities to host events and eventually signed a 5-year contract with an artiste management agency. It is a long story, but it was a difficult experience and when I terminated the contract, I ended up having to pay about $26,000 for the termination and legal fees. I was just 20 then. The worst part was that two songs that I wrote about my dad were stolen from me as they weren’t copyrighted to me anymore.
I ENDED UP HAVING TO PAY ABOUT $26,000 FOR THE TERMINATION AND LEGAL FEES. I WAS JUST 20 THEN.
I blamed myself a lot for this incident. I didn’t earn a single cent from the contract, and I made my family go through such a tough time. I even had to borrow money to pay money for the debt. I felt very useless as a daughter too. As I thought about this incident, I got a vision of the old me, sitting in a corner crying and I went to hug that version of myself. I told myself that everything is fine now and I do not need to be guilty anymore.
Following that, the real healing came at a church camp when a pastor prayed for me. When I rushed to the toilet to cry, I actually saw a vision of my father! He was cycling towards me and he hugged me. He also said to me, “I have to go now but Abba Father will take care of you”. That encounter made me feel like I could finally let him go and move on.
How has your view of music making changed after becoming a Christian?
I used to think that Christian and secular music are very different, but I realised that I can marry both to reach a greater audience.
When I lost the rights to the song I wrote about my father, I thought that was the end of it. But God is really amazing as He still managed to use that song to bless so many people! In this school in Malaysia, there was a class that struggled with their studies and behaviour. The school decided to organise a camp for them, and during that camp, they sang my song, and that inspired them to study! Some of them even went overseas to study eventually. I was shocked that a three-minute song could impact the next generation. I told myself that I wanted to continue writing songs that can connect with people and change their lives!
I BLAMED MYSELF A LOT [WHEN MY ARTISTE CONTRACT FELL THROUGH]... I FELT VERY USELESS AS A DAUGHTER.
What has been the most difficult moment in your journey as a musician?
I would say… 2018. Last year, I got married and shifted into a house with my husband. Yet, I couldn’t understand why there was an emptiness in my heart. In the same year, my church started planning for our album launch and I was busy with that too. I had actually stopped writing music for a year. My church leader came up to me one day and told me to continue pursuing my passion. I told him, “I don’t even know what my passion is anymore!” He replied that I had probably given up already, hence my lack of remembrance. I decided to pray one night and God gave me a song about how He is the light in the darkness. He made it so clear that He wants me to write songs to bring people out of darkness.
To you, God is ______? Why do you say so?
To me, God is Light. In fact, the name of the album my church launched this year is Light Has Won. God is light and He is making all of us to be His light to bring light to other people.