Malaysian-Australian Singer-Songwriter CHE’NELLE Discusses Her Latest Music and More!
Meet Japan’s 2x Platinum Artist, Album of the Year and Artist of the Year, Che’Nelle!
This Malaysian talent, who grew up in Australia, is a true unique blend of culture and artistry, and has a unique sound that incorporates traditional pop sounds with elements of soul, R&B, and rock. Che’Nelle, who rose quickly up the charts and on radio stations’ playlists, is not only a musician, but also an incredible songwriter. With hits in the U.S., Australia, and Asian markets, she is showing audiences why she has earned her accolades.
On January 10th, Che’Nelle released her new single, “Hand it Over.” It was produced by Grammy Award-winning group the Stereotypes and written by Che’Nelle with her writing partner. “Hand it Over” is going to show the world why she has been so successful and different in the music industry, nationally and internationally, throughout the years. The new single is a unique but upbeat and trendy sound that will make your head bop to the beat, make you put it on repeat, and want to turn the volume up when you are driving.
Che, born in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, to a Chinese father and a mother of mixed Indian and Dutch heritage, moved to Perth, Australia, as a little girl. Her parents discovered she had talent at the age of 10 years old while she sang at her father’s karaoke lounge. From there, Che’Nelle started to write and sing her own material in her home studio. She uploaded her songs on digital platforms, not thinking anything of it. Soon after, a music executive saw her talent and immediately flew her out to New York to meet the heads of music labels. She wasn’t on the market for too long — Virgin America Music signed her to a worldwide deal. She was soon catapulted as a star in Asia, Australia, and international markets. The process happened so quickly that she was told to move to New York after she was signed. She then started to perform, sing and write. Virgin America soon turned into Capitol Records, and then she was signed with EMI in Japan. Che’Nelle made the decision to leave Capitol and took her talents to Universal/Universal Asia.
She was soon a household name, especially in Asia. Hit songs like “Baby I Love You,” “Believe,” and “Happiness” earned her multi-platinum awards and accolades, as well as the #2 International Artist. She opened for rap superstar Kanye West on the Australian leg of his tour. She is now 10 albums deep into the international market.
On top of all of her musical talent, Che started to write/co-write for many different artists and projects. She has written for Leona Lewis, and has song placements in TV shows like FOX’s EMPIRE and the TBS TV shows Reverse and Dear Sister. She wrote the theme song to the Warner Brothers films Romance Theater, Brave Hearts and many TV competition shows in Asia, just to name a few. Che’Nelle has also landed product campaigns with Coca-Cola, Nivea and Proativ.
Learn more about Che’Nelle in the following All Access interview-
Happy New Year! When it comes to your music, what are you most excited about for 2020?
Happy new year! I’m most excited for new music and new shows! I just have a real passion for performing, and I’m really hoping to bring more of that to my fans this year.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be a musician? What do you think motivated you day in and day out?
I believe it was around the time I heard my song on radio in Perth. I was producing a lot of my own music and I did my own vocal production at the time. It was around then when I thought, “Hey, I might really be able to do this.” What motivated me was getting out of Australia and creating a life as an artist. I wasn’t specifically thinking America. I was happy to be really anywhere outside of my comfort zone.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the kind of music that you make? If not, why is that?
Well, I kind of have two hometowns. Malaysia was the days when ballads molded me, and Australia was where R&B, pop and soul music molded and influenced me. I’ve always loved music that touched me and made me feel something, and that honestly could be any genre, but I so happened to lean more towards pop and R&B/soul a lot. I want people to feel that same feeling I did.
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Was your family and friends supportive of this career choice? If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing?
Growing up, music was all I cared about. Music was my life. I wasn’t an academically smart student or someone interested in sport. All I wanted to do was music. My family, fortunately, has always supported me in what I wanted to do musically, even if it may not have been music they liked listening to.
If I wasn’t a musician … jeez … well, it’s only been in the last couple years that I’ve found some new things I love. If I wasn’t a musician, I probably would either be a food critic (I think food is seriously an art. I would travel the world to try the best foods and meet the best chefs who made them — seriously), or maybe something in fitness and nutrition. Encouraging people to find things, or introducing them to ways they can take their health more seriously, and how they don’t have to be some obsessed bodybuilder to stay fit. This is the first time I’ve thought about this. It’s pretty interesting.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all? What has been the best part about it all?
Biggest surprise? How fast everything can happen and move, but also how everything can be taken from you all of a sudden and you have to figure out how to continue to stay strong. What has been an unexpected challenge? Probably staying motivated. I didn’t think that would ever be a challenge for me, especially doing what you love, but it happens sometimes. A welcome challenge to making music a career is learning about the business side of it all. The best part about it all is the fact that I was able to make a living doing what I love. I feel blessed in that sense.
I’d love to know more about what it has been like writing for other artists. How do you go about doing that?
Writing for other artists has never been a goal of mine. However, when the opportunity came about, it was definitely a different experience and I learned a lot from it. Writing for others, for me, is a different approach, depending on what they are looking for. There’s not as much freedom as when I write for myself. Those sessions are a lot of fun, and especially when I’m writing songs I don’t typically sing myself, it’s interesting and a good way to stretch my creative skills.
Let’s talk about your newest music. What was the inspiration for your latest single, “Hand It Over”?
The inspiration came when The Stereotypes were creating the instrumental. Once my writing partner CJ, and I heard the beat, we began humming melodies and coming up with lines. “Hand it over” just slipped out my mouth and we ran with it. I remember saying, “Where can we go with that sentence?” We naturally ended up making the song playful by focusing on flirty, funny words that we felt people can sing along to in the club or parties or driving in the car. It was a session I’d never forget.
Do you have plans to release more new music soon and a full of collection of new songs?
Of course. I can’t wait for the world to hear more. I’m in the studio as we speak.
How do you think you have grown as a musician since you first started making music? What if anything has stayed the same about your music-making process?
I have grown as a writer, for sure. Just years of being in different sessions and working with different producers have allowed me to learn the kind of environment and atmosphere I work best in. I understand what creative people say now when it comes to the importance of energies. The thing that has stayed the same is how much I still enjoy recording. There’s such a great feeling after completing a song and listening to it after, and critiquing it or jamming to it. I don’t question or judge myself as much these days about the work I do. I’m grateful that I’m still doing what I love. There’s forever something new to learn and always room to grow.
How do you feel about social media? What do you think social media has done for your career so far?
Social media has just become a part of life. There are a lot of pros and cons, just like anything in life, really. I’m not on it as heavily as a lot of other artists are. But I appreciate it a lot and it’s incredible to see the impact and power it has in what people can do with it. Social media is the reason I am here today. One of the earliest platforms I was on before Facebook was Myspace. That’s where I was discovered. Myspace made it possible for me to reach my dreams. Social media such as Instagram has allowed for my fans to feel closer to the artist. I love knowing that people from all over the world can like and comment on pictures and videos instantly. The fact that I can reach out that easily to a wider audience globally in just one click is phenomenal.
What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
6Lack, Bruno Mars, Sam Smith, HER, Childish Gambino, Miguel.
If you could design your dream music video right now, what would it look like?
Oooh, wow. It’s interesting, because I’m such an extremist that I either want to go super simple or all out there. Not for any particular song I have thought about, but shooting a video that looks like a scene in a movie, with a short plot and twist, something like I was escaping from some type of prison and I McGyvered my way out. I see explosions, fast cars, sick cinematography, maybe escaping from one country to get back to America or something. My mind can go wild like that. Something simple could be going to Iceland and shooting the whole video in that lagoon with synchronized swimmers around me. Let me stop; my imagination can get out of hand sometimes.
Where would you love to hear a song of yours played?
Dude. EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD.
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
I write music that speaks from a true place, whether it’s a fun song or a song with a deep-filled message. I believe every human being experiences similar emotions, feelings, moments, and thoughts. I’m no different. The only difference is I sing them out through songs. Artists, to me, are vessels for people, to help inspire, encourage, empower, connect, and confirm that we all experience the same kinds of emotions and thoughts and feelings and even dreams. With that said, I hope people feel a sense of connection with my songs. As long as they feel a part of the song, like it speaks to them in their own way, that pretty much is my purpose.