Berklee-bound songwriter Lee Fengheng shares about his recent win at NEA’s Eco Music Challenge 2011.
Contributed By Theresa Tan
Not many 21-year-olds can boast about having a self-penned song playing on the national airwaves but for Lee Fengheng’s heartfelt ode about saving Mother Nature, he was crowned winner of The National Environment Agency’s Eco Music Challenge 2011 in August. “World Without Fences” is the Clean and Green Singapore 2012 campaign’s official theme song and has been played on Mediacorp’s 98.7 and 93.3 radio stations. The song also appears on the Eco Music Challenge Season 2 album launched in October, with sales proceeds going toward an environmental non-governmental organization.
While Lee has competed during his secondary school- and university-going days, this is his biggest break yet. Impressively enough, Lee is a self-taught musician who has never had any formal music training, save for some early guitar lessons from his church ministry leader.
However, his foray into song-writing only came in 2010, when he joined the People’s Association Song-writing Competition. In the recent singer-songwriter competition organized by 987FM’s called The Next Big Thing, he emerged among the top five in the final round together with his vocalist, Robert Sunga, who was also the vocalist for “World Without Fences.”
Lee, a City Harvest Church member who once volunteered in the JAMs (Jesus For All Minds) Church as a guitarist is now serving in his cell group in the same capacity. He will be pursuing his studies at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in United States next year.
City News catches up with the passionate musician for a chat about his main takeaway from the Eco Music Challenge 2011 as well as his plans for Berklee.
What do you think is the average Singaporean’s awareness about green issues?
Singaporeans probably already know it. Many times, it’s about whether they choose to embrace it, or close one eye and ignore it. I think the NEA has done a great job in educating the public about going green. It’s evident in the posters we see around in toilets, shopping malls, and parks.
How did it feel to see and hear your song on national television?
I was thrilled! It wasn’t just about being able to see it on TV, it was the immense satisfaction I got seeing the fruits of my labor; I had random people telling me they heard my song and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was also surprising when the song was played in the movie theaters while I went to the cinema one day. It was something money couldn’t buy, and I thank God for it.
How has taking part in this competition altered your awareness about the message of Clean And Green?
It made me more aware of the environment and our surroundings. Going green is more than a campaign, it’s a lifestyle. I’ve come to realize that we all have a part to play and it takes unity for anything significant to happen. I have grown to embrace this lifestyle and educate others when I can.
What are three things Singaporeans can do today to make this world greener?
It begins with the little things: they can make the effort to clear their food trays after consuming their meals, turn off any electrical appliances that are not in use, and use environmentally friendly bags when going grocery shopping.
What are you currently doing as you wait to enter Berklee?
Currently, I perform four to five nights a week at various places such as Timbre @ The Arts House, Timbre @ Substation, One Altitude, Oriole @ 313, One Twenty-Six)with my band, Afterhours. I also teach at SOMA (School Of Music And The Arts) and Medley Music School during the day. I continue to write and produce songs in my free time. I am also applying for various local scholarships and grants to fund my music education.
What will you be studying at Berklee and what are your plans upon graduation?
I plan to study Composition and Production at Berklee. I would like to be a session guitarist, composer, as well as a producer. Having knowledge of many musical instruments gives me the ability to arrange music in different styles and helps me with composing as well. I am also interested in film-scoring and writing jingles.
What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?
Don’t give up. Be sure of what you want to do. I think many young musicians have a misconception of a music career. They think that they have to be the solo artiste singing original songs, selling CDs and performing at concerts. There are actually many options in the music industry—be it a recording engineer, session musician, songwriter, producer, gigging musician in pubs/clubs or a music teacher. Young musicians should be prepared to spend hours in practice and sacrifice time out with friends. It takes a lot of dedication and commitment to be successful. They also need to always return to their roots and remember why they wanted to do music in the first place. That is very important for longevity in the career as well.
Log on to Lee Fengheng’s Facebook page at “Feng Music” for more updates and information.