AT only 24 years of age, Thomas Chong is steadily cementing himself as a singer, musician and producer in Malaysia’s ripe music scene, away from the mainstream.
Currently in his third year of studying music at Sunway University and interning as a music composer, Thomas told theSun that he has only been making music professionally for the past two years, which comes as a shock, given the quality of his music output.
Through his “Thom” project, Thomas has been releasing music that was created from scratch all by himself.
“Writing, recording, producing, mixing and mastering,” he said.
“I want to do something that is different and challenges the local market”.
Thomas explained that he knows there is a market for different music locally, but he goes on to also say that musicians need to be a little bit more creative in making music that is not similar to what is on the radio.
What kind of music do you play, and what kind of music does Thom put out?
I would say I lean more towards R&B, specifically Neo-Soul or Alternative R&B. In the past, I’ve also done indie stuff. But lately, I’m going more towards the R&B side. I can see our scene and the local acts consists of a lot of trap, Hip Hop, indie and pop. But I feel like there is not enough of this type of representation, where the music is more rhythmic, technical and musical. I want to explore that.
I’m also looking for people to surround myself with who work in that direction as well.
Like for Lockdown Lagi, it was interesting to collaborate with others, as it gave me impact on how different people compose and think about music, because I’m so used to working on everything myself. You know, like if it’s a one-man show, you get locked into your own process.
When writing the music and lyrics for this project, where do you draw the inspiration from?
For the lockdown song, what I did was come up with something that sounded good in my head and then I put the words to it. I came up with the melody, then I figured out how many syllables I had to fit in and I had to make sure the words fit the theme of the song.
In general, I would flesh out the song first. I’ll record everything through the production, and I would feel out the “vibe” of the song and come up with the general theme, keywords and hook that captures the essence of the song.
I’m definitely more of a music-first kind of person before the lyrics, because music inspires more than the words.
You have released one EP and several singles. What’s next?
I actually released my first single in 2019, when I was in my first year of doing my degree. Until now, I’ve just been recording everything in my bedroom.
Everything has been barebones production with basic equipment on a budget. Most of it comes down to really whether someone has the motivation to do it and whether you can put aside time for it.
Everything that I have done on Thom has been me alone but it’s not really a bragging thing. I just could not find anyone who wanted to work with me, has the same kind of vision or was chasing the same sound.
This is all still a passion project for me, because I love making music but in terms of whether it can be a long-term, viable financial thing is another topic entirely.
Do you have plans to take Thom live once the pandemic is done and dusted?
For sure, but I think I want to come up with more material first. I also need to prepare for live shows. There is an entire process behind it, and I do not even have a band. It depends on how the pandemic works out.
What role has your family played in your career as a musician?
My mum used to be a piano teacher. I would not say I was born musical, I was actually the most unmusical out of all my siblings. But my mom gave me the passion for music, and there was always music playing in the house. My parents have always been supportive with my education.
Initially, I did not want to pursue music because while I loved it, I questioned how it would pay the bills. It didn’t make sense, especially in Malaysia. But they told me to go for it if I really love it, and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. They’re my foundation.
But I’m planning to do maybe a few more singles and I want to do an EP for sure. I’m also focusing on building my online presence.