Disruptor TALITHA. beats her own records in life and in music

TALITHA. continues to do what she does best 13 years into her career — write comforting music for herself and her fans. This year, she joins the LSA100 Class of 2023 and shares all about her new album, biggest lessons and more.

“I rather die knowing I’ve lived than not”. These words still ring vividly in my mind. It’s something you hear often but many, including myself, don’t always follow. There are times when we feel defeated, like there’s no other way out… or when our comfort zones are too difficult to break out from. But, hearing them from TALITHA. herself hits differently — especially knowing what happened this year. The youthful and bubbly musician, never one to shy away from expressing herself online and off, might only be 27 but her 13-year career has fortified ample strength and wisdom in her. In her own words, she’s a “big girl” now!

TALITHA. describes her year as a rollercoaster, one filled with confusion. She spent the earlier parts of 2023 writing and recording music for the latest album, ‘Hello, Talitha!’, and was scheduled to perform at Good Vibes Festival before the eventual cancellation. The latter was meant to be a comeback performance of sorts — dedicated to her mum. “I would, honestly, thank my mum for all the opportunities that I got for the remaining half of this year. She’s like a little angel watching over me,” she expresses, further showcasing her resilience despite what happened.

The KL-born star, with her yellow dress slightly drenched, enters the studio bubbly yet composed. No drizzle can stop her as she makes her presence felt — joyfully greeting everyone she meets, including myself. You see, I’ve been a fan of TALITHA. for as long as I can remember and have met her on various occasions. But, this is my first time ever getting to speak to her (yes, she knows who I am!).

Whether it’s ‘Okay’ or ‘ineedsomeone’, TALITHA.’s way with words and melody sure has its magical properties. In 2023, she unveiled a seven-track record with numbers such as ‘APPLE PIE’, ‘feelin’ cute’ and ‘midnight rendezvous’. True to her nature, the album highlights her experimental spirit and her willingness to try, try and try. During our little conversation, she shares all about her expectations for the future, the ups and downs of 2023, the inspiration and sound behind her latest album and more.

TALITHA. looks stunning in a La Senza piece

What is one word you’d use to describe this year and what have been the biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?

This year was a rollercoaster. I learned to appreciate what you have before it’s too late. Although many of my recent releases were recorded earlier in the year, what I’ve experienced will affect what I write in the future. I’m a very vocal person in general and I put out all my feelings. For me, there’s nothing to hide. When I found out about the cancellation of Good Vibes Festival, I started messaging people because it’s not just for me, it’s also about the other performers who were scheduled to perform. Noh Salleh from Hujan then reached out to invite me to perform at a show they were performing at.

I would, honestly, thank my mum for all the opportunities that I got for the remaining half of this year. She’s like a little angel watching over me. It’s a flight or fright, right? It’s either you just do nothing and sob or live. What this year has taught me is to live because life is so short. The best thing you can do is give everything you have and explore. I rather die knowing that I’ve lived rather than not.

Congratulations on the release of ‘Hello, Talitha’! What’s the inspiration behind the album and how different is this album from your previous releases?

This album is definitely really different from my previous releases. I never believed in actually finding myself. The idea of finding yourself is not true because we as humans are always evolving and always changing. So, yes — you find a self but you are constantly finding new ‘self’s. The idea of it is validating being lost. Like it’s okay to go out and do whatever you want. The album started when I was travelling last year, when I felt lost and had the urge to explore. Not only myself but also new sounds.

People always ask me what kind of music I sing. I always say music that’s good for going to sleep. But, this one has everything from electro-pop to dream-pop to indie-pop. There’s also just pop such as ‘feelin’ cute’. It’s all for me to try out and I can gratefully say that my mum has heard all these songs before I released them. I wrote them in February and March this year. So, the pressure of releasing the album was the expectation that I was going to write a whole album for my mum. But it doesn’t work that way! You write music a year before and release it later. I did a remaster of ‘Mummy’, which was initially called ‘Please Stay’.

Releasing an album this year was confusing. There are times when I felt like: “Am I allowed to be happy?”. I don’t want to portray moving on or like I’ve forgotten my mum. There was a lot of “should I continue?” and “should I hold back?”. People have been very supportive. I’m a very vocal person but I sometimes feel bad to reach out to friends because I don’t want to be a burden when I’m feeling down. Like if I cry, I’ll post it so anyone who wants to can reach out. It has always been like that and it’s interesting to see people who are supportive of the journey. It’s also very sad to see that there are many people who have also lost their loved ones. But it’s nice when others share and be vulnerable with me. It’s been a rollercoaster.

Would you say your musical style has changed since the start of your career?

I think my musical style has always been vulnerable because that’s when I feel like I write best. I feel like that’s the same for most people. For me, writing music has always been a way to journal. Many write on paper, I write into music. Every time I write, I feel like a burden lifted off my shoulders. I feel free and I feel like I’ve spoken to somebody. I usually will feel okay. So, I would say that vulnerability has always been in my writing. I’d say my musical style has been a little more revolving, with bigger sounds. A little more “big girl” because I started 13 years ago.

What are your thoughts on the music industry in Malaysia?

We need to work on working together. We always forget that working together grows the industry. I feel like we should not forget that we are a small community — and what’s the point of stepping on each other if we can work together to get bigger. What’s the point of being the best if you can’t share it as well? So, that’s one thing that needs to be worked on.

It’s definitely nice to see that there’s social media now so it’s easier to put your music out there. Realistically, it’s not an easy industry to be in. Art in general here in Malaysia. The lack of appreciation for it — but I’m grateful to still be doing it today.

Is there an artist you’d love to collaborate with? Who are your role models when it comes to music?

I love how much local talent we have! I’ll try to work with all the local artists like Claudia Tan, Lunadira, Zamaera, Resort, Lost Spaces, NYK and more. For my role models in music, I grew up listening to Kina Grannis, Tori Kelly, Tyler Ward, Boyce Avenue. It was because of them that I thought: “If they can do it, so can I”. So, I picked up a camera and a guitar — and started performing on YouTube. That’s where I started.

When was the moment you realised you’ve made it?

That’s the thing — I never feel like I’ve made it. You should always be grateful but also be hungry. That’s when you want more. It’s good to want more but also remember to appreciate. Because if nothing is ever enough then it just eats you up. I feel like I have so much more to work on. I’m not even close to feeling like I’ve actually made it.

Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians, especially here in Malaysia?

You never try, you never know. There’s no harm trying. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about having so many eyes on you is that you can’t please everybody. There are so many that won’t like my music but there will also be people who love them. A lot of people also constantly write for the audience but forget to write for themselves. So, be you and do you. Someone out there will love you.

Tell us your expectations for the future.

I’ve never known how to answer this. I am definitely not going to stop writing. That’s something I still look forward to doing. But, my boyfriend’s Indonesian and he wants me to move to Indonesia. I’m thinking it’s not far so I can float between Malaysia and Indonesia. My whole life has been built here so it’s a little hard for me to move anywhere else as well. I also hope to start working with more producers and learn something for myself. When I release music, the one thing that I love is when people actually reach out to me.

It’s the least expected because people will tell me that my music got them through difficult times. Here’s little me thinking something like this would never happen. Who knew that a small voice could have made such a big difference in someone else’s? For me, I write music to remind people that they are not alone. I’ve always hated it when people tell me “My problems are smaller than yours”. I don’t believe in that because whatever you are going through is valid. So, never let anyone belittle your problems.

People interpret music so differently. I can write a song for one reason but someone else sees it differently. I think that’s the beauty of art. The same way a painter could paint something but it means something else to others. I would like to continue to hold people’s hands and give them a little hug. The future is so scary!

How do you want to be remembered?

As someone who brightens the room. I want to be remembered as someone who brings comfort. I like to mummy people and feel like a caretaker. My PA, Nicole, calls me mummy and it gives me great joy. I feel like: “Yay, I know I can take care of you”. I like making people happy.

LSA100: 100 Malaysians, 100 Milestones

Lifestyle Asia KL introduces LSA 100, an annual list that recognises Malaysia’s most influential names and celebrates their talents, contributions, successes and milestones. As the bellwether of style, travel, design, entertainment, business, sports, and more, these 100 Malaysians represent the next generation of go-getters who are paving the way for sharing their know-hows with the world through the power of digital media. LSA100 comprises five categories namely The Rising Aces, The Trailblazers, The Disruptors, The Tastemakers and The Navigators. Find out more about LSA100 Class of 2023, HERE.

editor-in-chief & creative direction MARTIN TEO | words RONN TAN | assisted by PUTERI YASMIN SURAYA & MALLIE MARAN | photography HERRY CHIA | videography SIMON TAN | video editing JACKIE MAH | makeup SHIYO JOO using YSL BEAUTY | hair CODY CHUA | stylist AZZA ARIF | wardrobe LA SENZA

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