#PowerSquad: Narelle Kheng

Forget that desk job - this songbird wants to encourage people to seek out more

With her smooth vocals and pin-up looks, Kheng rules a large section of the social media landscape. Her loyal 116,000-strong following on Instagram hang on to her every word and photo, whether she’s talking about working in the studio or simply sharing a picture of her lunch.

What do you feel you bring to the social media landscape as one of The Sam Willows? 

I want to be able to bring inspiration of any kind because it’s where I get my inspiration from: People who are passionate and devote their time to constantly learning and creating. I love watching a artist or a photographer grow and I learn along with them; I love falling in love with an artist and admiring his or her mind. I want my followers to see and understand too, and feel the drive to do something more.

I would love to be a gateway for kids to discover their passions, to learn the beauty of life and music and aesthetics - especially because it’s not something we focus on in Singapore but it’s so, so important. It’s sad because it’s become so temporal in a way, but it challenges artists everywhere to make something that lasts, transcends and shapes future boundaries. It’s amazing to be a part of the generation that pioneered the Internet and I hope that I can bring all this and a lot more. 

Does the attention get too much?

I feel incredibly honoured that people who don’t know me or that I have never met want to keep track of my life in some way, and that they allow me to invade their lives with work that I produce or the very interesting neighbourhood cat. Sometimes to have a hundred thousand people click “follow” is mind-blowing to me, other times the number just seems way too small. Even though followers these days are so valued and everybody loves to be able to put a number or a value to something, it really is a very very small aspect of life and work. 

When it comes to social media, there are the naysayers and there are the affirmers. Where do you stand on their reactions in general?

I used to be afraid of stepping on toes. Now I appreciate any kind of reaction. The first hater was hard to deal with, but now I wish I had more. I wish I could incite more nays (and at the same time also many more yays hopefully) because it means that I have created something that people feel strongly enough to oppose, and that’s art. It’s always subjective. I appreciate the affirmers so much though - it’s very easy to give up and it feels so comforting to be supported.

How do you feel you are changing lives, influencing decisions, sharing information to people out there? 

I hope that I’m able to promote a culture of learning and seeking out more. We’re taught music theory and art history but never why it makes you feel a certain way or how it opens your eyes to all the layers or life and society. I don’t think I’m anywhere close to what I want in terms of my influence on others. But I hope that I will get there one day. 

Why do you feel what you do is important and enriching?

Because I always wanted a role model growing up but I didn’t have one. I knew that I wasn’t satisfied, that there was more, but I had no idea how to get there, what to look out for, where I stood, what I could do. I loved art but in my mind it was "desk job". I wanted a mentor like in the movies where someone would sweep in and change your life. That didn’t happen so romantically but I was so lucky to have met many people who taught me in little ways. Some kids never have that. 

Photo: Kelvin Chia

For more Living stories, head here. Or check out Girl We Love: Angela Lee and 3 Free & Fun Ways To Work Out In Singapore

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