Junk food for her soul

> New kid on the block Jo­ce­lyn Stemi­lyn re­veals her af­fair with theatre and mu­sic

The Sun (Malaysia) - - YOUTH - PEONY CHIN

JO­CE­LYN TAN, or bet­ter known by her stage moniker Jo­ce­lyn Stemi­lyn, may have been around in the lo­cal scene for a lit­tle over a year but she has al­ways been sur­rounded by mu­sic her en­tire life. Grow­ing up near a su­gar cane plan­ta­tion in Perlis, Tan’s fam­ily played mul­ti­ple in­stru­ments. “My mother sang, and even my then do­mes­tic helper played the guitar!” quipped Tan, who also sang, played mu­sic and danced in church.

Then, she left for Kuala Lumpur to pur­sue her theatre stud­ies in Uni­ver­sity of Malaya. It was here that she joined its mu­sic club, Yao Lan Shou Mu­sic Com­pos­ing Unit and started singing and com­pos­ing mu­sic.

She de­buted last year with her song Junk Food, pro­duced by Dae Kim, with whom she fre­quently per­forms. Tan, who veers to­wards elec­tron­ica and am­bi­ent mu­sic, re­cently re­leased her new sin­gle, Pedi­cure.

Can you re­call the first song you ever wrote? I was 15 years old when I re­alised I could write songs. I’ve for­got­ten the ti­tle, but it was a song of grat­i­tude to­wards my friend. It was for a very close friend of mine who left the coun­try to study. She was my clos­est com­pan­ion in school and I felt very sad. Hence, I had the urge to write a song for her. I recorded and sent it to her.

How did study­ing theatre in Uni­ver­sity of Malaya open your eyes to the world of per­form­ing arts? Those three years of my life were in­ter­est­ing. Per­haps we’ve watched too many Hol­ly­wood flicks or Broad­way mu­si­cals, so we had a cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tion to­wards per­form­ing arts. But in Malaysia, it’s way tougher – it’s not al­ways like Broad­way. Some­times, you have to do re­ally raw, stripped down, and even tra­di­tional plays. In a way it broad­ened my hori­zon be­cause I al­ways thought I wanted to be a mu­si­cal ac­tress, but then I re­alised that per­form­ing is not just about singing and act­ing. It’s a lot of other things – you need to know how to work the props, light­ing, and all the tech­ni­cal bits.

How does your back­ground in theatre in­flu­ence your mu­sic to­day? It helps in the way I ex­press my­self, es­pe­cially dur­ing live per­for­mances. Peo­ple have com­mented that when I per­form, I have a cer­tain per­sona with one song and a dif­fer­ent one with another.

What’s your opin­ion on the lo­cal in­de­pen­dent mu­sic in­dus­try, as a new­comer? More and more peo­ple are do­ing mu­sic in­de­pen­dently. There’s Kuda Mas. Lit­tle Dragon. A house by the beach. 120. def­i­nitely more va­ri­ety, more shows and it’s more in­ter­est­ing; there are new faces all the time. So far, I feel that ev­ery­one is very sup­port­ive; we usu­ally talk to each other at gigs and have a good time. The cir­cle is still re­ally small and ev­ery­body knows ev­ery­body. But I’m glad that it’s ex­pand­ing. Peo­ple are also more open about cross-genre mu­sic.

What has been your most mem­o­rable per­for­mance to date? When I per­formed with Dae Kim at Fin­dars’ ELEC­TRIC DREAMS back in Au­gust. It was a small event, but the at­ten­dees were very re­laxed and open­minded. When I jok­ingly asked ev­ery­one to stand up for my song, they ac­tu­ally did! They moved along to my song Pedi­cure and stuck around chat­ting with each other af­ter the show. It was a very heart-warm­ing show which we don’t get very of­ten, to be hon­est.

She’s least ner­vous when she’s per­form­ing.

The 26-year-old is a barista dur­ing the day.

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