Meet Vivien Yap: A Rising Star of the Local Music Scene

Music's just another language for us to express ourselves.

By Nicole Chan

June 30 2019

With the burgeoning of the local music scene, there have been many fresh, unique talents gracing our social media platforms and even stages - be it local or international. While it can be a challenge to opt for the path less travelled especially in a practical society like our own, that didn't stop Vivien Yap from establishing herself as an artist in her own right.

Meet Vivien. Translating love and heartbreak into folk-driven pop tunes is her speciality, but what truly sets her apart is the unadulterated, raw honesty of life that she brings to any listening audience. Not only has she managed to make a breakthrough in the local music scene, she has also dabbled in poetry and literature (see: Can You Hear Me Now?).

Read on to find out more about the talented singer-songwriter! 

Tell us more about yourself!

I'm Vivien Yap, or @buttlicks online. I guess I'm just your average 24 year old who happens to write songs, poetry and make music! At the risk of this becoming an exact copy of my online dating profile, I'm just going to leave it at that.

When did you first discover your passion for singing/songwriting? What inspires and motivates you every day?

My mum was a big comic book/video game/movie geek, and both my parents were always open to pop music (though no one in my family or even extended family dabbled in music). I think growing up in a household that embraced pop culture really sowed the seeds for me as a writer (of poetry and songs). The singing thing I'm not so sure of, it just sort of stuck with me since I could speak. 

If we're speaking honestly about being inspired and motivated on a daily basis, I'm going to be a 100% honest and say that recently what gets me out of bed are things like lunch and my friends at work and at the exercise studio I go to at night. Inspiration to do art and music comes in sporadic waves- like maybe randomly during a movie, or on a bus ride home.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in the (local) music industry and how did you overcome it?

I've always held on to the notion that I, Vivien Yap, am my biggest enemy. I talk myself down all the time, and I'm extra, extra harsh on myself. So the biggest challenge I've had was meeting people I barely knew who echoed these hurtful sentiments back to me - be it to my face, or behind my back. But after I put out my singles and published my book, a lot of power has returned to me in the form of a self-assured kind of confidence. The support and love I've received from my collaborators, friends and people who like my music gave me enough horsepower to ignore the part of the scene that I used to let bully me.

Credits: @lightsethmusic

How would you describe your music style?

I started off writing songs with just me and an acoustic guitar. For my upcoming Extended Play (EP), I wanted to release pop songs that were lyrically-forward without removing myself from my roots. So I guess, Folk-Pop-Singer-Songwriter would be the best way to put it. It's not really an official genre, but you get it.

Name some of your favourite artists/inspirations and tell us why they inspire you!

I love Orla Gartland, Dodie, Rusty Clanton and a whole bunch of UK-based singer-songwriters. They write with such heart, and I find that they have incredible pop sensibilities when it comes to creating catchy melodies and making your heart ache for days.

I'm also a very specific kind of movie geek. Tim Burton, Wes Anderson and Guillermo Del Toro are some of my favourite directors; I'm obsessed with how they build worlds and moods. I've let a lot of these quirky cinematic undertones guide the production of my upcoming EP 'Fables'. I worked with Bani Hidir, my producer, and we basically studied and geeked out over movie soundtracks, while weaving together narratives that would guide the production each song. It was SO fun; I would give anything to keep making music like that.

Likewise, what’s the thing you love most about the local music scene?

I love that it's so small and young. Let's be honest, the local scene is (as compared to our Western counterparts) in the stages of developmental infancy, but that's precisely why it's so empowering. Musicians and artists can be whoever they want to be; I can be @buttlicks on Instagram and record covers in my toilet. I can also be Vivien Yap and publish a book of poems about my suppressed childhood. There are no rules or heavily enforced industry standards (yet) to be an artist, and thank god because I hate being told what to do.

What was the most memorable performance you’ve had?

Definitely my debut at LEW's 'Lullacry' album launch - it was a sold out launch, and no one had ever heard me speak, let alone sing original songs live before. So I just basically went on stage, this scared newbie sang, giggled and talked my butt off. Everyone was so kind and welcoming to me, and that was incredibly inspiring. Also, I opened up about my (recently released) single 'Everything Stays' for the first time during my book launch last year, 2018, and made a bunch of people cry. That was cool. 

Credits: @iamhenzydavid

Could you tell us more about your upcoming TedxYouth Talk on Mental Health and the significance behind it?

I've had the honour to be chosen as a speaker for this year's edition of TedxYouth! The details are yet to be announced, but I'm so excited for this! I've never really had a platform beyond social media to talk about how difficult it's been for me to carry my depression over into adulthood, so this talk will be me at my funny, sarcastic best while at the same time educating young people about mental health resources in Singapore.

With such a hectic schedule, how do you manage to juggle your career and your side gigs all at once?

It's super stressful to juggle my passion projects and still make a decent living. But more so psychologically, I'm going against the narrative of "get a full time job, save up, procure husband, produce children, chase dreams" and it really sucks being so different from the rest of my peers, and it's even more tiring to explain my career choices to my parents and relatives. So to answer your question, I'm actually dying eighty percent of the time, but it's just the knowledge that I'm doing what I love at a time where it matters to me the most, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Lastly, what advice would you give aspiring singer-songwriters?

Always take your time with your music and your craft. Remember that it's your baby, and at the end of the day, it's representing who you are as an artist. So don't skimp out or rush things, it's not worth it!

Vivien's EP launches on 12 July.

(Featured Image Credits: Liyana Ibrahim)