“Having a strong and clear identity is a big thing for an artiste, but I’ve never really pandered to that. I’m flighty and fickle and have ADHD. It would explain why as a musician I don’t really stick to a genre. My style always changes because that’s who I am and now that I’m releasing the third and final part to this project, I’ve decided: I’d rather be defined by this mess instead of having a specific style.

READ MORE: A Heart To Heart: Narelle Kheng Gives Us The Lowdown On Her New Music & The Sam Willows

The whole project has taken so long to complete because I really took the time to delve into the meaning and making of each part (the first was the 2019 single Outta My Head; the second – dubbed Part 2 – comprised of the songs Tears, Let Me Be and Blue unveiled the same year; and the latest and third covers the tracks Just Shut Up and Complicated Love Song that drop from January 2021).

narelle kheng 2021
Credit:Stefan Khoo

Jersey-blend swimsuit, crepe de chine pants, and metal chain belt with leather and matching AirPods holder, Chanel. Coco Crush 18K beige gold earrings (worn throughout) and matching necklace, Chanel Watch and Fine Jewellery Boutique

For example, when I did Outta My Head, which was about toxic relationships and finding a balance of power, I made it a point to work with the Singapore Council Of Women’s Star Shelter refuge. I could have rushed everything out, but I really wanted to be on the ground to better understand the topic I was exploring. And only when I finished one part would I think about the next – each segment should relate to the times.

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I started working on part three in August 2020 (it was meant to have been released earlier last year, but was derailed by the pandemic). The first song in this part is Shut Up – my idea of a nice song you put on when you wake up and say, ‘I feel great’.

narelle kheng 2021
Credit:Stefan Khoo

Tweed jacket, leather vest, matching shorts, and metal and glass pearl necklace, Chanel. Coco Crush large 18K beige gold ring, Chanel Watch and Fine Jewellery Boutique

However, because I’m a Libra, I also believe that with the positive comes the negative. I move from a minor key in the verse to a major in the chorus to represent that shift – you can’t change the crap around you, but you can change your perspective. And I really wanted it to come out this month because that point of view feels so apt after the year that we had.

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The second song in this part of the project, Complicated, sees me come full circle – a happy song about how if a person has to go, it’s fine. (Outta My Head meanwhile was about projecting one’s self-worth onto others.) And the most important element of Complicated is the film (aimed for release by April) that I’ve created to encapsulate it as well as all the other parts of the project that were released before.

narelle kheng 2021
Credit:Stefan Khoo

Silk blend top and matching skirt, Chanel. Coco Crush 18K yellow gold bracelets and large 18K yellow gold ring (worn on left index finger), Chanel Watch and Fine Jewellery Boutique

For now, I’ve been referring to it as Three Girls (Walk Into A Bar) and it’s a friendship-focused production shot Richard Linklater-style that offers a different way of telling all three parts of my musical project with a different female character anchoring each one. I’m in the last short and play one half of this couple, Sam, that’s been in a band together and are now calling it quits.

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One of my biggest takeaways from this whole process has been what and who makes up my community because for the first time, I had the chance to pick and piece together whom I wanted to work with based on who I thought would best represent each part.

Creating music is never really just about the artiste even though it is often branded as such. And many people whom I’ve worked with in the past two years were women – good, strong women who are talented, full of empathy, know who they are and what they can contribute, and don’t overstep boundaries.

narelle kheng 2021
Credit:Stefan Khoo

Tweed halter top, matching pants, leather AirPods Pro case with metal chain, and leather and neoprene sandals

Whatever they added was tasteful and thoughtful and I feel that the bonds that we created through working together will be lasting. That’s what I really want to drive home: Making music is not only about quantifiable results or answering to a corporate entity.

Every part of this project has been wild and alive and that’s how I work and want to live my life. Maybe the biggest thing I’ve learnt out of this whole process is that I don’t really care about what others deem to be right or wrong for me as a musician. I’ve just grown into a much better person – and I am happy with that.”

Photography Stefan Khoo Videography Alicia Chong Styling Chia Wei Choong Hair Christvian Goh, usig Kevin.Murphy Makeup Clarence Lee, using Chanel All main clothes & accessories Chanel

A version of this article first appeared in the January/February 2021 Art & Music edition of FEMALE