Tabitha Nauser's music career has been marked by a patient strategy of singles, but as she asserts with every song, she's only getting started.
The 26-year-old was first introduced to Singaporean audiences as the exhilaratingly charming runner-up of Singapore Idol's Season 3.
In the interim between that azure-hued period and this promising solo trajectory, Nauser established herself as a constant in Singapore pop culture, performing the theme song for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, dabbling in theatre with a leading role on Rent, and joining 987FM as a radio DJ.
Her name's already set in stone in many places but her singing career still remains in the ether. In 2018, however, she's taking the tools to carve it out for everyone to see.
'Rules' has been her most confident statement thus far, and with its direct and piercing lyrics, she takes a glance at the journey through an entertainment industry that wasn't so rosy.
Prepping her long-awaited debut EP — teased by her striking singles 'Bulletproof', 'Body Language' (with an appearance by Yo! MTV Raps-featured rapper SonaOne) and the defiant 'Rules' — Tabitha is taking 2018 by the throat.
Here's what she has to say about her upcoming record, challenging expectations, revisiting her TV past and more.
Tell us more about 'Rules'!
Early on in my career, I wasn't wise to the industry. I was super new to it, and I was really young at the time. So for me, it was like, "all these people wanna like help me to achieve my dream." I just jumped into it blindly, like I didn't put much thought into it, you know?
You'd think, "they must really wanna help," right? When you're young, you see the whole world through rose-tinted glasses and you think everyone's nice but that's not usually that. It's just not the case sometimes.
'Rules' was about that period of time in my life, and how it wasn't as nice. But I'm definitely a lot like luckier now — the team I'm working with now is amazing, and the people that I surround myself genuinely want to help.
What did you learn then that still resonates with you to this day?
I trust my gut a little bit more when it comes to these things. My instincts, I feel, have always been spot-on.
Early on, I used to second-guess myself and be like, "Naw, let's give this person the benefit of the doubt." But now I definitely listen to my instincts, and to my gut, a little bit more, and I feel like I've been right.
Be honest: has it been tiring having to talk about your Singapore Idol past?
Every time I come into an interview, people are like, "So what about, like, Singapore Idol was like 8 years ago" and I'm like "(groans) Again?" (laughter) I laugh about it all the time.
But if I wasn't on the show, like you probably would not hear about me at all, you know what I mean? That was my first big platform. And a lot of people, they do shows like this, but then they kinda drop off and you don't hear about them anymore after that.
So I'm glad that I've managed to somehow have some kind of consistency, considering I didn't even really do music after that. I did theater. I did hosting and radio. So, but you know, I'm grateful that I had some kind of platform at that time.
'Rules' is quite pointed, and it's also really empowering.
Yeah, someone was asking me, "What does the song mean?" I had my own meaning when I wrote the song, but I initially didn't want to put that out there and put that on someone else that might react to the lyrics differently. I hope, at least, that people are able to find a way to connect with the song.
"Oh I'm driven by the pain
Even in heavy rain
Always be the same
Always do the same yeah
I ain't never needed
No man to give me no crown
No man to hold me down
I'm watching the throne yeah
Oh I'm holding my own yeah"
— Tabitha Nauser – 'Rules'
So your EP looks set to be released this year! We need to hear more about it.
My EP is quite experimental — there are a lot of different elements to the songs. So if somebody listens to 'Bulletproof', for example, and that's not really their vibe, maybe they'll listen to 'Body Language' or they'll listen to another one of the tracks in the EP, they might find something that they like.
But I knew there should always be an underlying consistency to the sound where everything's a little bit like darker or moody, but still catchy.
I have one song on the EP that's gonna be like a ballad, because I'm a sucker for ballads, man. Like I love a good, emotional, "makes you wanna cry" song. That one is the one that I'm still tweaking. I haven't really figured that one out yet.
There's another one that I really, really, really like, because it reminds me a bit of Brandy, it's like a really old-school 90s R&B song with all the harmonies and all these layers. So that's one's actually like one of my favorites. And then there's another one that's gonna be a duet, but I can't say with whom…
Singapore has witnessed your live prowess, but not the region. Any plans there?
I've already kind of planned a regional tour in my head, but it's just about putting it together — the screens, the dancers, the DJs.
The dancing, especially, it's not easy! I don't know how Beyonce does it for real! That woman is two hours pow-pow-pow, singing at the same time. Like, fuck.