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: Songwriting

The Journey Makes The Destination

For a week or so, my mind has been recalling the time I accompanied my mother and her friends to trek in Nepal. I think it’s because something I learnt then has finally begun to become truly relatable to my life.

I saw the trip as an opportunity to not only spend quality time with my mother, but also to try something new to expand my perspective. I also hoped I could healthily gather song material and inspiration post Forgiefan, instead of seeking a new muse to break my heart. Little did I know what was in store for me.

I totally underestimated how hard the Upper Mustang trek would be. Misinformation left me unprepared to take on the mountain range. By the third day out of 10, I had lost the full use of my right leg. It took two jeeps and a horse to get me back to civilisation. As I wasn’t aware of my negative mental habits then, I beat myself up for being so weak. I felt guilty for costing my mother so much when it came to treatment post trip. I was so angry with everything and everyone for a long time.

It’s been several years since that trip. A lot has changed and I think I’ve grown a lot emotionally. One thing I’ve finally understood is that the journey makes the destination.

There are generally two ways to get to a summit to take in the amazing scenery around you. Firstly, you could take a jeep up to the summit. It’s quick and convenient but you won’t appreciate the view as much. Alternatively, you could do it on your own two feet. When you do, you really feel the size and age of the mountain. Reaching the summit this way is also a most exhilarating experience. You swell with pride, knowing that the achievement was hard won and no one can discount it.

The same thing applies to our individual journeys, songwriter or otherwise. Though painful at times, we shouldn’t take the easy way and rush to reach our goals. We need to trust the process. Only then, will we fully appreciate the view as we reach our summit. Even if it doesn’t make sense right away, looking back a few years later hopefully will =) 

I got to see the most beautiful natural scenery, unspoilt by man and technology. Shaun had asked me to help him buy a Tibetan singing bowl, so I bought two for myself and incidentally discovered the overtone that would become a big part of the song Overboard and my live performance. I was so pleased that everywhere I’ve performed in Germany, people are so enchanted by its sound!

Most importantly, I got to learn this crucial life lesson, which I hope would serve you well too.

Hard Truths for Young Musicians: Who You Are Affects What You Write

One piece of advice to songwriters floating around the internet is to finish one song a day. Though there is some merit to that, it isn’t that one can’t complete a song but rather write one that they know they can be proud of years later. What these songwriters don’t realise is that, they can’t grow in songwriting if their internal world isn’t.

The Writing Starts in Your Mind

The famous horror fiction writer Stephen King said that “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”, but how exactly does one do that? Just as we should consistently spend time writing songs, we also need to cultivate habits that promote mindfulness. 

Being present emotionally is so hard when everything is screaming at us for attention but nevertheless, it is critical that we do so. By strengthening your sense of identity, you can critically appreciate incidents happening around you when they do. This way, the material needed for the actual writing session is being harvested on a daily basis. Without doing so, it will be hard to create songs with depth.

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” - Stephen King

Think Deeper 

I’ve been teaching songwriting to a recently new student. I like her songs’ vibes but somehow they seem to just miss the mark lyrically. Our hours together are mostly spent dissecting her lyrics, encouraging her to dig deep and realise what she truly wishes to communicate. I’ve found myself telling her repeatedly to not skirt around the issue and not to be afraid to “hit straight”.

For example, try writing about what really affected you today. Did someone ruin your day? Examine yourself, try to understand why you let that person trigger you. You’ll realise there’s so many layers to your own psyche and voila, so much material to work with! 

There is Life Beyond Heartbreak

Nothing is as complicated, diverse, multi-faceted and yet relatable as matters of the heart, which is why so many songwriters start there. The trouble is, what else are you going to write about after that one traumatic breakup? Or worse still, would you unintentionally invite new drama into your life?

I’m not discounting your breakup and loss. It was no doubt a painful experience for you and I’m glad you’re using songwriting as part of the cathartic process. I highly encourage you to explore themes similar to romantic relationships for a start. The human condition is so much more than that.

“The Greatest Enemy” was my first attempt to switch from musing over unrequited love to disappointment and anger in other areas of my life. It was definitely more difficult to write but I knew I had to start writing about more mature subjects. There will be always be a place (and market) for songs about puppy love but at a certain age, I believe it’s simply not appropriate anymore.

Don't be more in love with how it looks

In this visual age, musicians spend just as much effort into creating their image as they do on writing their songs. I get that the packaging needs to match the product. It’s something that I need to work on improving. However, you need to remember that audiences can smell bullshit very quickly.

If you’re not convinced, check out this remark made by a girl I was dating about an up-and-comer a few years back: 

You, you are the real deal. At first I was so impressed with her songs and performance, but after sitting across from XXX for an hour, I realised she (or more likely the onstage persona she put on) is just fake.

You might get away with overcompensating with your aesthetic for a while but you won’t be able to sustain your fan base. 

Get a Life 

Books and films are a great starting point to find inspiration, but they should serve as a counterpoint to your personal journey. Your songs should always reflect more of you than the book you read! Unless you’re actually the author of the book and are writing music to serve as an accompanying soundtrack, you simply wouldn’t know the subject material well enough.

So go out and take a trip that challenges you. Experience life until you see where you fit in this world and its schemes. Seek personal growth, not serve superficial #wanderlust. You might not think it makes a difference, but people will feel it.

Why I Write

2018 marks 10 years since I began this solo project. After so long, I sometimes find myself losing sight of why I decided to pursue this crazy dream of mine. 

Therefore I wanted to commit this to writing, so that I can always come back here and remind myself. At the same time, I wanted to give you the listener, whether you’ve just discovered my music or have known about me for years, an insight into the motivation behind these songs, behind the disparity between who I am on and off stage.

I guess the best place to start would be with the environment I grew up in. I come from a single parent household, where my mother repressed her emotions to provide for my sister and me. I went to a public school in the nineties, when young people thought it was cool to join gangs and unwarranted violence was part of life. My mother brought us to church on Sundays, where I was exposed to music and soon after picked up the guitar.

It wasn’t long before I began writing my own songs with the simple chords I knew. In songwriting, I found the only place where I could be vulnerable and thrive, a channel to express loneliness and other “negative” emotions that seemed unacceptable elsewhere. It’s never a competition of who had it worse growing up (there will always be someone worse off), but because of the habits I picked up from my mother, I felt there wasn’t anywhere else to express that part of me. 

During the years of performing in now defunct emo band Vertical Rush, I experienced moments on stage when a song I wrote to work through a sense of loss touched an audience member deeply. In those moments, I felt connected. Not just to the audience in front of me, but to a universal energy much larger than me. 

For me, that connection is the best feeling on earth and eventually, I decided to pursue that connection for the rest of my life. That is, to write personal songs that would mean something to someone, to let them know that they were not alone in their pain, to be their voice when they could not find the words. To do anything else would be essentially denying myself of my purpose and merely existing for the sake of it.

Thanks to the Internet and help from countless individuals, my music has travelled further than my younger self would’ve ever imagined. I consider myself very lucky to get to do what I love on a daily basis. Life is getting harder, but I never want to stop doing this. I consider it my lifelong vocation. 

I don’t say it enough so again, thank you to everyone who has made this journey possible. I wouldn’t be where I am today without every person who has lent me their time and talent. Even if it’s only a single play on Spotify, you made a difference in my life. These songs are as much yours as they are mine. I hope they will continue to comfort and heal people in pain, even long after I’m gone.

I’m planning to write more of these blog posts to keep connecting with you in between my releases. Thank you for reading and I hope that you’ll keep checking back in.