S’pore singer Corey Koh, 20, launches music career with debut single
Singaporean Corey Koh was known in the local classical music scene as a child prodigy singer who performed in esteemed venues such as Victoria Concert Hall, Tokyo’s Suntory Hall and even New York’s Carnegie Hall.
But he is now branching out into pop music, having released his debut single, Only Love, on Monday.
The English-language ballad focuses on the loss of a relationship with a loved one. A Mandarin version of the song is slated to be released in May, and a dance remix and music video are also in the works.
Its English lyrics were co-written by Koh and Singaporean singer-songwriter Lewis Loh, while its Chinese lyrics will be penned by Malaysian lyricist Xu Yuanting and songwriter Keon Chia.
The single is produced by award-winning music producer George Leong, who has worked with Mandopop superstars Jolin Tsai and A-mei.
The former Nanyang Primary School and Raffles Institution student has completed his national service, and intends to pursue his studies in classical voice and history at an American university later in 2023.
In an interview with The Straits Times on Tuesday, the 20-year-old said his love of music transcends genres and he is prepared to work hard to stand out in the crowded field of home-grown performers.
He added: “I love all kinds of music, so part of me thinks that genre barriers are quite artificial in nature. I am still on my journey of exploration and want to try new things.”
Growing up, he was exposed to myriad genres. His father played classical music at home, while his mother listened to Mandopop and rock songs during car rides.
Apart from opera and pop, he is also a fan of jazz and rock. Among his favourite artistes are Il Divo, Ella Fitzgerald and Edith Piaf, as well as Queen, Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses.
He owns 34 electric guitars, two of which were autographed by Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist Slash. Koh’s mother had bought these two guitars for one of his birthdays.
On Only Love, Koh also performs an electric guitar solo on a special guitar handmade by his mother.
In addition, he plays the saxophone and oboe, and sings in six languages – English, Mandarin, Latin, Italian, German and French.
Koh said: “Although my release is a pop work, I am still pursuing classical music at the same time. As I grow as a musician, I would like to be able to transcend these barriers and use my classical training to create non-classical music.”
An only child, Koh started classical vocal training at age six, and sang with multinational classical crossover vocal group Il Divo at their concert in Singapore in 2014 when he was 11.
The performance sparked his passion for classical music and opera singing, and he has trained with famed New York-based operatic singer Neil Rosenshein, as well as locally with renowned classical teacher Jonathan Charles Tay.
He performed in ChildAid – an annual charity talent show organised by The Straits Times and The Business Times – in 2013, 2014 and 2020. He also sang at charity concerts and music festivals worldwide, and in October 2022 with the Philharmonic Wind Orchestra at Esplanade Concert Hall.
He hopes to stage his first solo charity concert, which will benefit various charities like The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, sometime in 2023.
While the show is still in the planning phase, he is looking to perform songs from his upcoming EP.
Looking ahead, Koh is fully committed to singing as a lifelong career.
But he adds: “I do not have any specific targets and am taking things as they come. At this point, I just hope more people will listen to my music.”
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