So Esquire Singapore's cover star alum Charlie Lim has taken flight to London, where the homegrown singer-songwriter will be developing and honing his musicality. But before he goes radio silent, Lim roped in Linying for a duet titled 'Hummingbird' (which was also featured recently on Mixtape Mondays).
An outtake from his CHECK-HOOK sessions, the single spotlights "mustering the courage to believe in something new, despite our tendencies to repeat past mistakes”, Lim conjures a catchy wistful refrain that does justice to its lyrical narrative while capitalising on the interplay between Charlie and Linying’s perspectives.
'Hummingbird' was produced by Lim and long-time collaborator Melbourne artist YEO, and was mixed and mastered by Andrei Eremin (Nick Murphy, Tones and I, Tash Sultana, Hiatus Kaiyote).
We caught up with both Lim and Linying to decipher their chemistry and discover what keeps their hopes up.
ESQ: How did the title ‘Hummingbird’ came about and relates to the intentions of the song?
Charlie Lim: I’ve always liked hummingbirds, and I was trying to work it in as a metaphor somehow. The chorus refrain “I hope my heart can keep up” is quite self-explanatory, but it can be interpreted in a few different ways. For me, it’s when you’re trying to find the courage to believe in something new, despite being overwhelmed by a particular situation.
ESQ: Linying, what made you decide to work with Charlie on ‘Hummingbird’?
Linying: Charlie and I have been friends for some time now and we’ve just never really gotten the chance to write a song together (the one time we tried, we stressed over the piano for so long that I had a headache and had to take a nap when I went home).
He brought a skeleton of this song in after having produced it a little bit with Yeo in Melbourne, and we just worked on it together from there.
ESQ: Tell us how does music help to express your emotions and why do you want to deliver the message of “trying to muster the courage to believe in something new, despite our tendencies to repeat past mistakes”?
Charlie Lim: It’s just how I function and what my subconscious is trying to excavate whenever I’m writing. I don’t consciously think about what message I want to say before I start work on something. I usually just run with a few ideas and start to draw some links between the sentiments I’m working with.
Over time, certain messages and themes start to surface and we just had to tie everything up, musically and lyrically, to bring it to a more coherent place.
ESQ: Linying, how were you inspired by the meaning of ‘Hummingbird’ and thus, writing your verses for it?
Linying: We talked a bit about feeling like slow boats in love all the time; we related to one another well about that. It’s being so sick and scared and slow all the time that even normal things feel like they’re going too fast.
ESQ: Besides music, what else do you both engage for courage and not give up?
Charlie Lim: The banality of life? (laughs)
Linying: Very little, to be honest. I do always try my best to be accessible, though, to everything around me, and to not move through life feeling like it’s worth something to be selfish.
ESQ: Is this your first recorded duet? How was it like working in the studio for ‘Hummingbird’, or was it recorded separately? And do you think it’s a must for both artists to be present together in the studio?
Charlie Lim: No, this is actually my second duet with Linying. We both featured on Vultures, which was a tune on Evanturetime’s EP. But this is the first time Lin and I worked together in a co-writing capacity.
There are so many variables to the process of writing and recording, it really depends on the situation. In this case, because it was a tune that I’d already started and asked Lin for help with, it was good to be in the studio together so I could record and produce her vocals, as well as additional ad-libs and harmonies and whatnot.
But this was also after she did her initial draft of writing her own verses, and there was a little bit of back and forth between us before we jumped in the studio for the final vocal recording.
Technology does make things easier, but being in the same space allows for more spontaneity provided that you’ve come prepared with ideas to work with and off each other.
Linying: It was actually very fast, faster than I’d imagined! All in a couple of days’ work. I don’t think being physically present is as important in the recording process as it is in the writing process.
It’s the writing process that’s really difficult to go through apart because you kind of need to share the same space and energy in order to write collaboratively.
ESQ: Charlie, s0 why London, of all places, to develop your music career?
Charlie Lim: I’ve got a window of time now so it’s just something I’ve always wanted to do. All the music I’ve loved in the past two decades is from the UK, from singer-songwriter to electronic stuff, and I really like London each time I visited the place.
ESQ: Tell us how did the song selection on the ‘Hummingbird’ playlist came about and what are the key songs on that playlist that impacted you? Describe why you choose some of those songs.
Charlie Lim: It’s just stuff that’s been on rotation for Lin[ying] and I. I think we have similar tastes and enjoy the specific quirks and subtleties in slightly more left-field pop music production. Some of the songs are friends’ as well, and they’ve definitely influenced me in the way I’ve made music over the past few years.
Yeo’s new album Recovery Channel is great, and he helped to produce Hummingbird during the process of making my last record (CHECK-HOOK). I’m also eagerly awaiting Kllo’s next album—I love Simon Lam’s production. He goes by the name Nearly Oratorio and has a hauntingly beautiful EP out called A Comforting Fact.
Linying: I really just went into it pretty impressionistically… you listen to stuff and it automatically shapes your decisions and sensibilities, so I just tried my best to remember all the music I was thinking about at the time. I have to make sure I’m not too aware of it, or else I’ll start overthinking.
Hummingbird is now available to purchase and stream on Apple Music.