Off the beaten track

Toh is crafting her own passionate and inspiring story in visual and performing arts — Sunpix by Ashraf Shamsul
Toh is crafting her own passionate and inspiring story in visual and performing arts — Sunpix by Ashraf Shamsul
Toh is crafting her own passionate and inspiring story in visual and performing arts — Sunpix by Ashraf Shamsul

THE idiom "Jack of all trades, master of none" clearly does not apply to Melissa Toh; for she's juggling three different professions – or four, if you count her newest granola-making venture – to much success.

A photographer, a film-maker, and a singer-songwriter, the petite lass is quite the creative maestro. According to her, her free-spirited nature is inspired by her aversion towards nine-to-five desk-bound jobs.

"Since I was young, I have always been singing. In fact, being a singer was my original dream. And then I discovered in university that I love visual arts too, therefore it naturally progressed from there. I'd say that singing and visual storytelling make a good marriage because they complement each other very well," she explained.

As to how she juggles her time, Toh elaborated that "it's really a case of being a
photographer and a film-maker by day, and a singer-songwriter by night" because her band (Battle Bloom) only performs in the evening.

"I generally classify photography and film-making under the same category as they're both similar. Thus, the three main assets in my life right now are visual arts, singing, and making granola. Except for the last one, the rest are on a freelance basis.

"The lack of stable income is risky, and many people don't subscribe to this uncertainty because they're scared. Truth to be told, I'm scared as well but I want to do something that's fulfilling for the rest of my life rather than chase after the money."

What is the most exhilarating thing that you've ever done?

It has to be going to New York City by myself when I was 23 years old. I was at the peak of a quarter-life crisis where I felt really lost. There was a lot of pressure, mostly set by myself, because I didn't want to be mediocre. So I decided to go somewhere really far away. A random Google search landed me on New York Film Academy's website and three weeks later, I'm off to the Big Apple to study film-making.

Have you gotten any critique that has stayed with you until now?

Someone once told me that my voice as a singer is very mellow and that my songs are sad. I do agree that my tracks are quite melancholic, but that's just how I write. It does get to me sometimes, and it will prompt me to write happier things. However, at the end of the day, I can't please everyone so I just learn to do my best.

What is the best compliment you've ever received?

It's related to singing as well. Another person told me "I like your voice. It puts me to sleep, but in a good way!". Hence, you see, there are two sides to everything – it's all about how you view it.

If you can only pursue one interest from here on, which will you pick?
Oh, this is a tough one. I don't think I can choose because it'll destroy my soul. Maybe when I'm older, I can settle on one – since there's apparently a shelf life for a singer – but not now.

Essentially, photographs, films and songs are all storytelling mediums. As such, what stories are you trying to tell?

Song writing is more personal, because the lyrics are moulded from my personal experiences into a story format that others can relate to.

The visual stuffs, on the other hand, provide me with the platform to be creative and fictional. It's about weaving together what you captured to create something out of nothing.