It is these two local songbirds who have made our scene that much brighter with their mesmerising talent. Miss Mic (Michaela Therese) and Van Detta (Vanessa Fernandez) will come together as collaborators and friends for a special performance on Midnight Shift's 2nd Anniversary this Saturday.
How long have you been singing for?
Van Detta: We used to have sing-a-long sessions at birthday parties in my family so I grew up very comfortable with singing. I joined the church choir at 12, and Kel (Miss Mic) and I were in a talent competition on TV called Rollin' Good Times. So, I've been singing for over a decade now.
Miss Mic: I've been singing for as long as I can remember; I wrote my first song when I was 4, we have it on tape. Vanessa will remember it well. And same as Vanessa, my sisters and I used to put on all sorts of shows for our family at gatherings. It never took much to drag a performance out of me.
Claim to fame?
Van Detta: Probably Urban Xchange, which was the hip-hop group we were both in that fronted a Coca-Cola campaign and got nominated at the MTV Asia Awards.
Miss Mic: Also Urban Xchange.
When did you first realise singing was something you wanted to do?
Van Detta: After watching Disney's The Little Mermaid!
Miss Mic: I remember when I started singing solos in the choir that Vanessa and I were both in, and thinking, wow, this is potentially something I can do! Then it became a reality and to this day I am still thankful I got so lucky.
Has it been challenging so far, how?
Van Detta: It's always a challenge doing music in Singapore. We're too small to make the numbers to sell or tour original content, which is why most labels don't have A&R departments because it's not lucrative. People here prefer covers or support formulas, so the media follows suit. Musicians then end up working within a framework that fuels a system that is more about survival in a city where the cost of living is high than an environment where they can feel comfortable creating original content. If you've got the fight and guts to struggle, hopefully someday it will pay off. The upside of this struggle is that the people who fight and make it work within these boundaries comprise individuals and collectives of musicians who are very media and business savvy. My hope is that the climate will change to incorporate more support and space for the musician to grow in order to stay competitive in the global music community.
Miss Mic: I think the challenges doing music in Singapore are different from the challenges in other parts of the world in that, while there is less competition because we're so small, there are also fewer people to learn from and a propensity to lack drive now and again. I totally agree with Vanessa that when the struggle for money is driving your career, chances are you're going to end up chasing that instead of really working on your craft and hence, getting other people to look up and pay attention to what you're doing. People like me are doing what we can to straddle both worlds but it doesn't get easier really, you just get used to it, which, like contentment or comfort, can be dangerous.
What are you guys thankful for, but what do you wish more support for?
Van Detta: I'm grateful for all the people I know in the scene working hard and being open. Most of us know and support each other, and I hope this camaraderie endures. I wish people would look deeper into the scene; that media would follow and report on its activities. Not understanding the importance of music in culture and history is short-sighted. Not supporting it is arrogant and ignorant.
Miss Mic: I'm thankful for my talent, for my amazing family and friends and my support system and of course for my peers within the industry who inspire me everyday. Like Vanessa, I also hope for our "underground" culture to get more media exposure, and for the Singaporean listeners to be open to original music. That's really an area in which we are in dire need of support.
What are some high points of your career?
Van Detta: Probably performing on the opening day of the Gilles Peterson Worldwide Festival in Sete with Syndicate in July of this year. Also the debut of Octover (my side project with Jason Tan) at the Singapore leg of the festival at Velvet Underground last month.
Miss Mic: Dueting with Brian McKnight at his concert here in Singapore in 2009 and opening for José James in TAB this March.
Where are you guys currently performing?
Van Detta: I don't perform anywhere regularly as I'm involved in a new online radio station, Sonar.sg, and am working on original material.
Miss Mic: I'm playing at Timbre @ The Substation on Mondays, fabrika at Klapsons Hotel on Wednesdays and Quarubar on Fridays.
What projects are you guys are currently involved in?
Van Detta: I'm finishing up an album with Jason Tan - we go by Octover. That will get released on the soon-to-be-launched Syndicate label. I will be writing and producing material for a solo project while I am away in L.A. starting December of this year. I'm putting a lot of heart and soul into Sonar.sg which was started by a few radio veterans. It's a new online/mobile radio station that provides an alternative music experience to the one you hear on mainstream media. The idea is to have musicians/producers/selectors of multiple genres share their tastes and activities as peeps who are involved in the existing Singapore/international music scene.
SYNDICATE RADIO LIVE COVERS BY VAN DETTA & IZAAK STERN | JAMES BLAKE - LIMIT TO YOUR LOVE by SyndicateSG
Miss Mic: I'm working on the Miss Mic EP with Kaye & Dean Chew of Cosa Nostra, due to be out in the beginning of next year which will be released under the Darker Than Wax label. After that I'll start work on a full-length album for Michaela Therese, which will still be soulful but more organic.
We hear that this is not the first time you guys are collaborating…?
Van Detta: Kel and I have collaborated together so many times I can't count really. We're extremely good friends because we've known each other since we were singing Boys II Men tunes in McDonald's bathrooms.
Miss Mic: Haha. Vanessa and I have been singing together from the time we were still children, really. Yes, all our bathroom singing led to Rollin' Good Times, Urban Xchange, many more shows and recordings since and now this.
Can each of you give a quip about the other?
Van Detta: I think Michaela has the most amazing voice. Her lyrics are thoughtful and poetic. She's my sister and an inspiration and I respect and love her dearly.
Miss Mic: Vanessa is highly intelligent, sensitive, ridiculously talented and dedicated and someone I admire and love with all my heart. I couldn't have asked for a better partner to have grown up with emotionally, physically and musically. She is my family.
Breathe by vandetta
Who are some artists you admire?
Van Detta: Radiohead is definitely one because they are the only group that I've loved from teenagehood that I still respect today - most others sold out or I outgrew. I also admire Cherry Chan because she is a thoughtful artist who makes dope beats and is a nurturing, intelligent woman. For sure Kevin Lester and the whole Sixx crew. Also Shigga Shay who is a young, hungry yet humble talent. Amon Tobin and Bjork who just take music to another level. More recently, Strangeloop and Thundercat who are part of the Brainfeeder crew that is dope without a doubt.
Miss Mic: Figures like Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis Jr., who really had to fight back then as people of colour to be heard. And heard they were. Michael Jackson. Radiohead, for always being ahead of everyone else. The Roots, for keeping things so tight: it's one of my dreams to do a recording with them someday. José James, for being one of the artistes today who is not concerned with pigeon-holing music but with letting every influence have a place in his art. My brothers of Cosa Nostra, Kaye & Dean Chew, who have been my educators for a few years now. They've opened my eyes to so many things and are so talented and nurturing. Can't thank them enough. Our local DJs like Ramesh K, Godwin P, Anand Nair, Joshua P, KFC, for inspiring me with their mixes and selections all the time. The Bedsty family; Kevin Lester and SIXX, I am so in awe of their work and drive.
What can we expect to hear from you guys on Nov 5th?
Van Detta + Miss Mic: We're gonna be singing over tracks from Basic Soul Unit, Jerome Sydenham and Eddie Niguel. It's gonna be a kind of jazz-soul electronic yumminess!