Nicholas Chim

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Having grown up in the working class, Nicholas uses songwriting as both catharsis and self-discovery. He believes "that there is an ideal, honest way to live and through the writing process, I'll be able to find it".

With the release of his new EP "The Greatest Enemy”, Nicholas looks set to get back on the road and reconnect with audiences. To him, rediscovering that connection between audience and performer is "the best feeling on earth and I want to keep chasing it".

Filtering by Category: Touring

Trouble Will Find Me - Tales from Performing

Performing music is a relatively safe process. You get to a venue, do your soundcheck, have a small dinner, pour your heart out for an hour or more and receive love from your audience in return. Then there are the other nights, when trouble will find me. 

Before memory fades, here are a few interesting stories from the years of performing.

Drunk guy messing with Shaun’s pedals - Wan Chai, 2013

Independent musicians in Hong Kong would tell you that you have to play at The Wanch if you’re coming through. I remember that they called it a “baptism of fire”. With its raw and honest vibe, it’s definitely the place to cut your performing teeth.

It’s a intimate space so with my four piece band at the time, so guitarist and friend Shaun was set up close to the entrance. A patron standing at the door, obviously inebriated, decided to become part of our set. He spoke loudly into Shaun’s ear while he was performing and even stepped on his effects pedals, believing that some part of the songs needed more distortion! This went on throughout the entire set. Poor Shaun!

Despite that, I would recommend other musicians to perform there if you can. There are very few places like it left in our modern world.

Getting molested - Aachen, 2014

I had just finished my set in Aachen and stepped out for a breather. Most of the audience had stepped outside too. Suddenly, this guy bear-hugged me from behind and whispered in my ears “your fingers, they fly like magic”. I looked at Rayner desperately for help but he refused to with a cheeky grin. Eventually the guy’s friend got him to let go and apologised on his behalf, explaining he was quite drunk.

Locked Out in the Middle of Nowhere - Melbourne, 2011

We were at Loch Ard Gorge to take a few shots for the music video for “I Want You Again”. Returning to the car, my friend Ian accidentally threw the car keys along with his jacket into the car boot and slammed it shut. Realising our situation, we tried calling the car rental company for help but our phones could not get any reception. We quickly ran to the driver of the last tour bus around, whose phone had enough reception. Thanks a bunch, Vodafone!

After an hour of enduring strong winds from the Antarctic and dropping temperatures, the mechanic from the nearest town found us and opened the car boot for us. We definitely learnt to be more careful, as well as how to jack open a car!

A Lack of Privacy - Munich, 2017

The Lovelace Hotel is a cool “popup hotel” which repurposes an abandoned building in the middle of Munich. I usually wouldn’t stay in such lavish accommodation while on tour but this time, it made sense since I would be performing there the next evening. 

As is the norm with cool hotels, you’re bound to be pleasantly surprised when you enter your hotel room. For Debra and I, it was the lack of a door for the toilet! This led to arrangements to maintain some level of privacy, but then there was the morning after I had pork knuckles and too much beer.. 

An Unforgettable Opening Act  - Melbourne, 2010

The younger me had no idea how music scenes outside of Singapore worked yet somehow, I managed to land a slot at the Empress Hotel in Melbourne within a couple of weeks of sleeping on a couch. 

I was to share the night with three other acts, one of them being a former Australian Idol reject. I told myself, “it’s just television, no one could be that awkward”. But I was proven very wrong that evening!

When he got up on stage, he plugged in his earphones and proceeded to play along to an Oasis song blasting in his ears. You had to be there to hear the level of terrible the sound engineer was subjected to. 

He didn’t bring anyone to watch and yet demanded his share of the pool. This is raised by everyone’s friends paying a small entrance fee each and is divided equally amongst the acts at the end. He also made me feel uncomfortable, with prolonged stares throughout the night. It’s taken several years for me to listen to “Champagne Supernova” again.

Looking Legit Emo Backfires  - Singapore, 2009

My band Vertical Rush was about to perform on national television, when suddenly a bunch of young men shouted from the crowd, “Take off your top!”, while pointing at a female friend of theirs. I though it was the usual heckling, so I reacted by saying “$10!” to put it to a stop.  

After the performance, said girl came up to me outside the studio and asked me for a photo. I felt bad vibes coming from her so I quickly grabbed bandmate Marcus and had him stand between us. Moments before the photo was taken, she leaned behind Marcus and began to say things like, “ oh my god you’re so hot, you look like xxx from Saosin..”. I didn’t how else to react except to run to the dressing room and hide.

Twitter Stalkers - Singapore, 2014

One day, I decided to search myself on Twitter. I saw an interesting conversation. It went like this:

A: Saw Nicholas Chim at the xxx Bus Stop, wondering what he’s doing here.

B: @A oh don’t you know? He stays in Teck Whye, *proceeds to disclose almost my entire home address on the internet*

I can’t remember what they said next but I decided to deal with it in a constructive manner. I tweeted them “Hey @A and @B, let’s meet in real life =) My next show is on..” No more tweets from them ever since!

 

Do you have any funny stories of your own? Share them with me in the comments section, maybe we could write a book of our collected experiences =) 

Touring Overseas - Why You Should Do It and How

I wrote this article on touring overseas back in 2015. It was wonderfully edited by Daniel Peters and subsequently published by Bandwagon and Red Bull. I'd like to thank Daniel for giving me the opportunity then, it was a great experience working with him :)

Though it's been a few years since, I believe that its contents still have some relevance today and would be of help to any musician aspiring to tour outside of their home country. I'm planning to write more about what I've learnt from the tours I did after this article came out, so do check back in regularly. I'm still trying to figure out technology stuff like RSS feed etc!

Enough chatter from me, hope you enjoy the article. 

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It’s been said that touring is the one income stream that musicians can still depend on to make a living. Even so, it’s still rare to see Singaporean musicians take their music abroad — aside from landing a slot at an international music festival, thanks to requirements to receive funding from the National Arts Council, among other obstacles.

With homegrown independent music bursting at the seams — in terms of releases and shows — this year, it’s about time we take advantage of our much envied passport and show the world what Singaporean musicians have to offer. 

It might seem daunting to take your music beyond this island but if done right, touring will reap larger benefits for your music in the long term. I want to share my knowledge with you, in the hope that this would inspire you to go on the road.

Why Should I Tour?

After all, you could just make it on YouTube right?

It can look like the more viable route to take to be discovered overnight, rather than deal with planning overseas logistics for five bandmates and their gear. Though it is true that YouTube has been a critical part of some musicians’ success, you can’t guarantee that it will achieve the same results for you. 

Having worked in the industry side of things, I can say that there are at least a hundred releases going live on iTunes everyday. Unless your song is that universally special (e.g. Gangnam Style), that release you poured your heart into is just going to add to the noise. 

Even an exceptional release is only going to be buzzing in any town for two weeks at most, so most bands don’t know what to do once they’ve exhausted their local community. If you feel that album deserves to be heard by as many people as possible, it’s time you put in the hard work and bring your music directly to a new group of people.

That’s what touring does for your music. People who’ve never heard of your band are being directly exposed to your music. By the end of your first song, they’ve decided about buying a copy of your album or not. They might go online to check out your YouTube channel and Facebook Page. There you go, brand new fans! If there’s a tepid response, it’s probably because the audience couldn’t relate to your music. You need to do much more research and practice your live set until it’s almost perfect. 

Know Your Goals

It’s important to define these as soon as you decide to tour.

Something vague like “I just want to get my music out there” won’t do. Anyone who plays music has that feeling. Lacking well defined goals causes you to lose focus and the tour would end up a very expensive “working” holiday. 

If this is your first tour, you will have to consider it as part of your marketing budget. That means you’re going to lose money during the first couple of times. My advice is to keep these trips as cheap and short as possible. A week-long trip is more than enough to start with. You don’t want the huge loss to outweigh anything good on tour. 

Flights make up the bulk of touring costs, so have someone more experienced in booking flights help you if possible. My travel agent managed to get us cheaper flights to Japan by booking several months in advance. I saved several hundred dollars by doing an overnight layover in Dubai en route to Germany. 

There’s no need to starve but you should try to keep the fine dining to a minimum. Salaryman diners, food stalls at train stations and street food offer affordable yet decent options for sustenance. I was surprised that a couple of onigiri from Lawson’s in the morning was enough to keep me going till after soundcheck!

For the more seasoned, you’ll be leaning towards making profit and expanding your followers base on social media. Be as specific as possible because that will determine your actions at the shows. 

For example, if your main priority is to sell as many CDs as possible, one thing you can do is spend time talking to everyone after your show. If people discover that you’re a great person who also writes great songs, they’d be more inclined to buy your CD. People generally hang around after a show for 30 minutes at most, so you have to move around a lot! You really have nothing to lose, so move past your insecurities and social awkwardness by staying focused on your goals.

The different people you’ll meet on your tour will not only enrich your worldview but it may just earn you fans along the way. 

"Music is about people connecting in a very pure way and the business aspect should never interfere with that."

Do Your Research

You can take on the whole world but you need to pick your battles. Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to decide which countries would most likely prefer your style. You also need to find important information such as the currency difference, hospitality deals, the size of your target demographic before deciding you want to break into that market.

It’s best to work with someone who knows the ground well. Try to identify local bookers and gig organisers, contact them through Facebook and email, offer them something of value in return for helping you. 

Sometimes this falls through and you might then feel like booking venues on your own. This is very risky and I wouldn’t recommend this. In 2011 I’ve turned up to a venue in Melbourne, where the owner had completely forgotten about me and booked another band to play that night instead. Imagine how embarrassed I was in front of my friends who came out to see me!

Plan, Plan, Plan!

Murphy’s law occurs almost every time on tour.

Call me obsessive, but you need to plan for every contingency that could ever happen. Preparation before your tour ensures that only an Act of God can cripple your performance.

As a personal rule, I have almost whatever I need to perform in my carry on baggage. I’m usually anxious until my guitar is safely back with me.

Music shops aren’t exactly easy to find in larger cities, so make sure to bring extra guitar strings, batteries, cables etc. If you run backing tracks off your laptop, bring a backup hard drive. Keep your tech rider as lean as possible.

Plan your shows closely with your booker so that routes from one destination to the next make sense. When possible, buy a month long pass so you can travel with more ease.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s a short list of things that happened to me:

In Japan, two of our three voltage converters blew. I also didn’t get data roaming for my phone so we constantly got lost.

In Hong Kong, we had to take two cabs for every show because we stayed too far from the venues. That cost us (6 people) a fair amount of dim sum money.

In Germany, we got lost travelling to a host’s house to sleep for the night. It was raining as well. All because we got complacent and got off at the wrong train station!

Keep Your Team Happy

It really is true: touring isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. Unless you have a good host, there will be lots of waiting around until it’s time to perform. Continuous weeks of traveling, late nights, sleeping on couches can incite cabin fever even amongst the best of friends. Specific dietary requirements and other special needs of bandmates can make logistics an even bigger ordeal than it already is. 

The best way to beat cabin fever is to keep communication between every member open. If everyone feels safe to speak their honest opinion, I find it hard to imagine any frustration building up. It’s important to establish that discussions need to stay objective and should only contribute to making the tour better for everyone. 

Be mindful when you see your team start to lose their patience. Making effort to make them more comfortable will go a long way. Happy team members means better vibes when you perform together.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Spend a little more money so they can eat better food. 
  • Let them shower first.
  • Where you sleep doesn’t have to be fancy but make sure it is safe and clean. 
  • Plan to stay on after the tour for a small holiday. 
  • Pay them fairly. Agree on the split early on.
"Don’t be afraid to dream a little bigger for your music."

It's Okay to Make Mistakes

No matter how much you prepare, you’ll never get touring right the first time. You’ll still be making mistakes on the tenth time. Mistakes happen because every tour is inherently different. 

There will be so many factors out of your control but that’s what makes touring an exciting adventure. Learn to take it on the chin, be ready to improvise in any given situation and let life happen. 

For example, we missed our connecting train to Frankfurt. The old me would be panicking and need at least some time to calm down. Instead, I quickly used the local public transport app on my phone and found us another train to take us to the airport. It was old and slower, but at least we didn’t miss our flight home!

Time spent on the road, playing your songs thousands of times over, will show itself in your performance. Trust me, a seasoned professional act is very attractive to bookers. Once you put in time getting out there, everything else you’ve been hoping to happen for your music probably will.

Think Long Term

It would be a waste to put in that effort for a successful tour and only go to that country once. If there is potential for you in that market, you should commit to play there at least once a year.

Each time you go, aim to build long-lasting and authentic relationships. Not just with people associated with their local scene, but anyone who expresses a connection with the music. You never know who can help you, but people will only do so if you have been real to them.

I realised that my tours in Hong Kong and Germany happened after I had done something kind without expecting anything in return. Music is about people connecting in a very pure way and the business aspect should never interfere with that. People might forget how you sounded that night but they won’t forget how you made them feel.

Believe In Yourself

Many times, we give ourselves reasons to not go on tour. I’ve been guilty of that myself.

If there’s one piece of advice to impart, it's this: If you want something in life, you have to work hard and make it happen for yourself. Don’t wait for things to happen. Of course, you can just get Shia LaBeouf to scream that to you anytime if you need it.

Don’t wait to land a festival slot before you finally get to play outside of the island. Don’t be afraid to dream a little bigger for your music. Working a little harder can make the difference. It did for me.