Honest and immensely talented, Beth Yap has been making waves in Singapore's music scene for the last six years with her distinctive melodies and beats, and witty lyrics. Formerly known as bittymacbeth, the singer-songwriter dropped her debut single 'Haters Gon' Hate' in 2015, and has since released a collection of well-loved tracks.
This year, she's starting a whole new era of her musical journey with a new name and an upcoming EP that's uniquely her.
Now known as Bitty, the singer-songwriter had always had a soft spot for music. Whether it was her mom singing lullabies or her dad's collection of CDs, music was an ever-present part of Bitty's life. Despite this and her well-rounded discography we see today, she actually had a difficult time deciding that she wanted to do music.
"It may come as a surprise given this background, but I actually fought the feeling to pursue music for a number of years. I knew I wanted to do music from the age of 12 but somehow, I thought it was wrong, like morally wrong. I think it had something to do with the adults in my life commenting on all the scantily clad women and vice-themed lyrics? Somehow I equated that music = fame = wrong," Bitty tells Bandwagon.
"I guess you could say God or to some, the universe gave me enough signs that He’d equipped me to pursue music as a career. All the things that I did well, things others have complimented me on, things that have 'sparked joy' for me, and the ways in which I was able to help people or do good – it mostly revolved around music, or at least something creative."
To kick start her new era as Bitty, the 'Trace' act is slated to release a new EP. Serving as her first step into a new era, the Bandwagon Sessions alum previewed the upcoming record with her latest single 'MAKE MY DREAMS COME TRUE' featuring fellow Singaporean act Axel Brizzy.
"Haha, it’s an honest thought that most of us have had at some point in our lives – I wish I had money," Bitty shares.
As she gears up to drop her newest record, Bandwagon caught up with Bitty to talk about her artistic restart, her creative process, and her upcoming EP.
Hi Bitty! What have you been up to lately?
Besides practising bass, experimenting with Tiktok – I’m an old-at-heart millennial, licensing my music, writing new songs, planning and executing my marketing plans for the new music, and curating library tracks and managing original compositions for clients? Not much. I’ve been running by the beach and reading old X-men comics.
What are some of your earliest memories with music?
I have this very distinct nostalgic feeling of being in my family home’s living room tinted orange by a blazing evening sun, casting very oblique shadows with albums from my dad’s CD collection playing in the background: America, Lobo, Creedence Clear Water Revival, Deep Purple, Simon and Garfunkel, and more. Now and then, he’d showed me new songs he had written on acoustic guitar, with chords and lyrics written down with pen and paper.
Meanwhile, my mom always sang children’s songs to me to sleep and to wake up to when I was still in diapers. She was also always breaking out into songs by The Tempations and Marvin Gaye – especially, “STOP! In the name of love". Generally, my family loved singing and playing together at Christmas, New Year’s, and other random family occasions.
View this post on Instagram
What motivated your decision to start anew as ‘Bitty’? In what ways does this new era differ from and/or relate to ‘bittymacbeth’?
My sound and style had changed, from the first album, Beauty For Ashes to the last EP, Better Not Bitter. I’d stopped live-looping, performing abstract improv pieces, and writing outlandish jazzy things. I felt the name change necessary to confirm this shift in artistry, and also to sound like the artist I want to be – relatable, like a girl next door, a friend, a sister. I do think people found the name 'bittymacbeth' memorable plus it was never taken up on social media, but as the new handle states: itsbittynow.
View this post on Instagram
How would you describe the music that you make now?
Back then, I focused on what I thought the world needed to hear, hence valiant messages like “Haters gon’ hate but we can do better”. Now, I’m trying to, on behalf of every ordinary or hurting person, understand and listen to their troubles which I too often share, and voice our simple truths.
The musical sound has friendlier and more mainstream music production to complement these lyrics. Where Beauty For Ashes was almost all organic and analog instruments, and Better Not Bitter was a foray into the bedroom producer world, the new EP will be a healthy mix of both.
Who are some artists that you look up to and how do you think they influence the music you make?
I look up to artists like Yuna, Anderson .Paak, Lianna La Havas, Khalil Fong, Brother Zulu, Taichi Mukai, and Kirk Franklin. There are little bits of all their sounds in mine at this point, influencing my melody-writing, how I integrate interesting samples, and the way I approach the relationship between bass and beats. At least half of them both write and produce their own stuff too. I also like how their personality is strong and consistent across their music and content.
Your songs always take on complex themes, whether it’s a fear of the future or beauty standards. Walk us through your songwriting process and how you translate important issues into an enjoyable track.
I think it starts with honesty and vulnerability. It’s not hard for me to pour that into my music because I find it hard to do that in conversation. Charlie Lim also gave me some advice years back to be more specific when it came to songwriting.
Other than that, the process is quite fluid for me, I usually have a hook – melody and lyric, that pops into my head. I try to build the song around specific experiences, feelings, and thoughts about the situation. Often I try to do a micro and macro view of it too. Like in 'fly.', the first verse is about the situation of the rising cost of living in general, and the second verse specifies my fears. Chorus is my response and I guess you can say the hook “fly” is my call to action.
‘Trace (Comfortable Symphony)’ is one of your most popular tracks. Tell us more about the track and why you think it has resonated with your listeners.
I didn’t expect 'Trace' to be that popular! The subject matter is kinda depressing, well most of my songs are but usually I turn them into happy-sad songs at least. It’s about wanting to be numb to the pain in and around you because you feel helpless to change things – I guess people relate to this, sadly. There’s a lot of pain in this world, especially now with COVID – besides the direct impact of the virus, domestic abuse cases (the very thing that inspired this song), unemployment, separated families. I’m grateful if my song makes them feel less alone about their situation.
I also want to give credit to Willy Tan who helped promote this song and put in a good word for me with the streaming platforms. Thank you to all who listened to and discovered me through Trace. Your streaming and saving of the song to your playlists helped get the song onto the Singapore Viral 50 charts at #4 for a good week and encouraged the curators to add the songs to other playlists like Women of Singapore.
Tell us about your latest track ‘MAKE MY DREAMS COME TRUE’. What story does it tell?
For me personally, it’s my story about growing up working class and navigating this career having started further back from the 'finish line' than a lot of peers. But of course, this is going to resonate differently with different people.
I think it’s a narrative a lot of us in the creative industry, entrepreneurship, or other non-STEM careers are wondering, if it makes sense to chase our dreams, given the amount of moolah it takes without guaranteed returns. And then add the Asian perspective: how are gonna provide a comfortable quality of life for our family too? Having a safety net definitely helps assuage these fears. And then, what if we had the means to, but we fail – are we just not meant to pursue our passion? Back at it again with the happy-sad songs.
Can you tell us more about your upcoming EP? What stories can we expect from the record?
The EP is probably the most me out of all my records. You’ll hear a lot of pop, soul, and R&B in equal measures. The EP, as I like to put it, is about the 'us-ness of life'; they’re my intimate, personal confessions about universal things every human being goes through - love, loss, and all the painful bits about growing up.
The next single from the EP is 'Keep Me Hoping', which I wrote after my grandfather passed away due to stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
What do you think is your greatest strength when it comes to music?
I think this is question best answered by others but from what people tell me, it’s my songwriting. Lots of people can play bass and sing better than I can – I was confronted with this fact every day at Berklee but only I can write the way I write in terms of melody, lyrics, harmony, basslines, and beats.
I think I’ve been #blessed with the ability to be able to make songs that are both singable, but not musically and sonically boring? Playing bass, piano, and guitar and learning to harmonise from a young age helps with writing and arranging.
Where do you hope to see yourself in the next few years, in regards to your music career?
I hope to be producing more for myself and others, publishing and licensing more of my tunes, definitely playing more shows in Singapore and the region. So I really hope COVID ends ASAP.
I’d also like for Bitty to be a more established brand and that I can use my knowledge and influence, however much or little that may be, to help and mentor others. And now that I’ve put these in writing, I hope I didn’t jinx it.
Beyond the EP, what else can we expect to see from Bitty this 2021?
I’ll be part of Esplanade’s Mosaic Music Series in a couple of month’s time. Also, I’ll be moving into my new place, where I’ll be able to make more Youtube and Tiktok videos efficiently. For everything else, you’ll have to find out by following @itsbittynow.
Watch the music video for Bitty's 'MAKE MY DREAMS COME TRUE' here.