RJ Kevin, singer and songwriter. Image by U Wang Studio
Before becoming a singer and songwriter, RJ Kevin worked as a pharmaceutical salesman for a year and a half.
Encouraged by his single mother, he learned how to play musical instruments through Youtube tutorials and picked up singing.
It was during this period of learning when the 25-year-old discovered that music and singing could be used as a catharsis.
“Composing helps me capture the feel-good memories and bottle them into songs I could listen to when I feel lost or sad,” he explained.
Turns out, it was music that helped the Ipoh born cope with depression earlier this year. He discovered that song writing is a powerful tool.
“It’s a healthy platform to channel emotions into melodies which people can better relate to,” he notes.
My first meeting with Kevin was when he was invited to perform at Gerakbudaya’s recently held Onde-Onde Open Mic.
He didn’t look nervous as the number of attendees grew and greeted guests with a smile. Later Kevin shared that he wasn’t as assured as he is right now while growing up, and it was music that helped him move pass anxiety and self-esteem issues stemming from body image.
The experience of performing live for people gradually assisted him in coming out from his self-imposed shell.
It didn’t happen overnight though. This one time I was a nervous wreck because I was to perform at my university talent show that I took off my glasses so that I could not see the crowd!”
What was even more hilarious was the fact that he was in an acoustic band called Virgin Boys. The bandmates would wear fake Afros as part of their outfit.
“It was embarrassing but fun!” Kevin quips.
But a memory that validated his zeal to pursue music was during a SEGi music festival called ‘Local Wave’.
“I still remember getting goosebumps when the crowd sang along with my cover of Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
A self-taught guitar, ukulele and cajón player, Kevin is now learning to use the BOSS RC30 loop pedal for voice looping and beatboxing.
He feels that aspiring musicians should be willing to experiment.
“Pick up any instrument. Practice persistently. Use music as a self-enriching tool where you grow to be a better you.
“Everybody has a different sound; that’s what makes each of us unique. Embrace your uniqueness and move forward.”
Speaking of uniqueness, Kevin’s process of creating music typically begins with an image of certain emotions he feels and then visualising the melodies in the form of colours.
Jokingly, I asked if he has synaesthesia, a question that he laughed in return and said no. “It’s just the way I write melodies based on colours, images and sensations.”
Once he has gotten these details down, he would quickly record some chords that fits the melody because if he didn’t, it would not sound the same again.
“If I wake up the next day with the same melody playing in my mind, I will then proceed to fill in the lyrics,” he explains.
Kevin believes that there is no perfect way of saying or expressing an emotion.
“So I’ll just write whatever that comes to my mind and which speaks the most to me.”
His songs can be described as a cross between Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars. Other than looking up to musicians such as these two, Kevin also takes inspiration from Bon Iver, Coldplay and Twenty One Pilots.
“But most of the time, my inspiration comes from my own experiences such as falling in love on Penang Hill and making sand angels on Feringghi Beach with my loved one.”
RJ Kevin’s first project is the release of his latest EP next week called ‘Bittersweet’ which consist of four songs such as Thirsty, Please Don’t Go, Penang Hill and Ferringhi. Have a listen on Spotify. He is also in the process of composing new singles for 2018. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube to find out more!