Growing the soul family with Dru Chen

Dru Chen is a solo artist hailing from Melbourne (via Singapore), who is taking on the world with his infectious good times funk and soul. After a massive 2014, including shows at Johnny Depp's Viper Room and sharing the stage with some of his heroes at SoulFest, Chen is already gearing up for 2015. We caught up with him during one of his few free hours to chat about the visual side of music, touring and how choices can change your life and path. Harry Upton writes. 


Thanks for your time Dru, what have you been up to?


In and out of writing sessions! Gym! Getting ready for a few months on the road (Singapore and United States)!


For those that don't know your music, how would you describe it in 5 words?


Fresh, soulful, funky, sexy, authentic.


I read that you turned down a Berklee Scholarship, how do you think would your life be different now if you took it?


As a teenager, I went and auditioned for Berklee on voice and production. I got the scholarship, but I hadn’t yet discovered “my sound”. I wanted to take my time exploring music on my terms before going there. To be honest, I can’t even imagine how my life would be if I took the scholarship. I just try to live each day as it comes and work hard on being in the present.


The video for your single ‘Turnaround’ is quite unique with its dual screen story telling and effects, tell us the story behind that?


That was my director Edwin Tejoz’ idea. It was inspired by the chorus lyric “It’s up to you what you do”. Each side of the screen depicts a different version of reality. Every decision and turn the character makes leads to a different outcome. Ultimately it ends in life or death. It’s our version of “choose your own ending” - a cause and effect thing. I thought it was fascinating!


Do you think with the rise of video platforms such as YouTube, its become more important for recording artists to create visual content?


Absolutely. Back in the days of MTV and Channel V, videos were important, but you’d still go out to buy the CD to play on your disc man or CD player. Nowadays, with most people searching for new music by streaming or viewing on YouTube, almost everyone is going to want to see the video when they check out the tune. That’s how I feel anyway, so I definitely pride myself in creating interesting visual content. We’ve already begun work on the next single and it’s accompanying music video, which I am very excited about!


You've had a huge year of touring, what are some of your highlights?


Opening for D’Angelo, Maxwell, Anthony Hamilton and Common at SoulFest 2014 at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl! Also, going to America for the first time was a thrill, as well as playing bigger and bigger shows in Singapore and Australia. I did a concert with Dr Fink from Prince & The Revolution which was surreal. 


Yeah, you were lucky enough to be selected to play the recent SoulFest music festival, what was that like? What do you think a festival like that does for soul music in Australia?


SoulFest was deep. To be recognised by your heroes and their band mates was very encouraging and I made some real connections there. A festival like that brings awareness to a genre of music that is very much still a niche in Australia. It brings the soul community together and encourages us to connect and make things happen for ourselves. I can’t wait to put on more shows with our amazing and growing soul family.  


What's next for Dru Chen?


I will be performing on National TV in Singapore for the New Years Eve Countdown, then heading over to the States to record, tour and perform at showcases. The new songs are deep, sensual, still funky and deliciously sloppy. It’ll be good to your earhole - keep an ear to the ground! 


What stimulates your soul?


People greeting each other with hugs and fist bumps and back slaps and warmth. Human emotion. Hearty laughter. Embracing each other’s differences. Passion combined with hard work.