Calum Scott—British multiplatinum singer-songwriter—recently debuted a collaboration with Southeast Asian artists for his new single “Heaven”. Acclaimed pop artists such as Darren Espanto from the Philippines, Diana Danielle from Malaysia, Hoàng Duyên from Vietnam and Lyodra from Indonesia were given the opportunity to duet with the singer and include their own twist to the song.
“The concept of “Heaven” is the love between two people being so powerful that it is far superior to anything else, any other form of paradise that could be offered. I loved the idea of putting the power into the relationship,” said Calum. The ballad transcends beyond boundaries as it captures that feeling of falling in love as equivalent to being in paradise.
1. How did the idea for this huge collaboration with Southeast Asian artists came about?
Calum Scott: “I feel incredibly lucky that my music seems to have resonated so well across Asia. It’s a territory I’ve not really spent a lot of time in before and yet my music seems to have done so well, specifically “You Are The Reason” that seems to be a song that has done really well over there. I’d mentioned to the label that I wanted to give back to my Asian fans. I think Asia has been such a massive support of mine over the years. So I wanted to do something special.
We knew that “Heaven” was coming up and “Heaven” sort of provides that space for a duet, and we shortlisted some people down, and these four incredible artists were my picks for “Heaven”, and each of them have brought such an amazing uniqueness to the song. It’s just been such a pleasure to work [with them]. It’s such a shame I couldn’t be in the studio with these guys to do the work. It’s been such a pleasure to work with all four of these guys.”
2. How excited were you for this project?
Calum Scott: “I feel so lucky that music has given me this opportunity to be able to do something like this. With the power of the internet and zoom and being able to work remotely, it’s just given me the opportunity to work with four amazing artists that I may never have had the opportunity to work with before. All four of them bring a real uniqueness to this song. For me, collaborations are one of the most interesting things to do with music because you’re colliding two worlds together and you’re creating this magic, almost like chefs in a kitchen just adding their own ingredients and coming up with something delicious. So I’m very lucky and feel very honored to work with these guys.”
3. Could you tell us more about the song, “Heaven”?
Calum Scott: “”Heaven” is a song that I wrote after the album was finished. We thought the album was done. We had 13 tracks or something for the album. So the label said, right now you can just write for the pleasure of writing music. And so I ended up writing “Heaven” and another song called “Cross Your Mind”. When the label had the songs, they were like, “it’s got to be on the album”. So then we had to put up the album again, and include the songs but I’m so glad I did because these songs for me, feel like they deserve a place on the album. For me, it really rounds the album off.
“Heaven” is one of those songs that just really poetically describes love, but not only love between two people, but in the present moment. You know, for me, what I take away from “Heaven” is loving somebody so much at that moment in time that it’s more powerful than anything else they’d be promised elsewhere and I think that kind of puts the power back into the relationship.”
4. What inspired you for [to write] these beautiful and poetic lyrics?
Calum Scott: “My inspiration just comes from the love of wanting to deliver a song that’s going to speak to people across the world, you know, as a songwriter, you’re trying to constantly find new ways of telling somebody how much you love them. And for me, “You Are The Reason” was very literal, you know, I would climb every mountain and I would swim every ocean. I just think that when I wrote “Heaven”, it was kind of trying to reinvent a new way of being able to say that you love somebody so much.
The thing that I love about “Heaven” is that it reminds us to love in the present moment. The last two years have been awful. You know, we’ve all been stripped of being close to one another and being able to be with our friends and family. So, I think “Heaven” was inspired by love right now, right in the present moment. To appreciate those moments because, like we just saw with the last two years, they can be quickly removed from us. So, “Heaven” was a sort of born from just wanting to appreciate the time that you have with that person in front of you.”
5. To the talented collaborators, can you all share how you feel about collaborating with Calum?
Lyodra: “I was actually nervous and excited at the same time. Actually, this is a sudden project. So not long after the news, we immediately went into recording. I did it in Indonesia, and this is my first time doing a long distance collaboration, but it was so fun.”
Darren Espanto: “Right when I heard “Heaven”, I immediately wanted to do the project. I feel like it’s such a beautiful song and being able to be part of this project of Calums’ is such an honor. I can’t believe that we’re finally here. It’s about to be released, and everyone can hear the different versions that we’ve prepared. I hope that everyone can listen to all five versions, because all of us have a different approach. All of us did something different with the song. So I hope that everyone enjoys it.”
Diana Danielle: “I feel very lucky especially because I have been such a big fan of Calum since he first started. So I’m such a big ‘girl’ fan right now. I’ve been fangirling since yesterday. Of course, I feel like if you say it in Malay, we say ‘bagai bulan jatuh ke riba’, which is like, the moon falls onto your lap. Yeah, it’s a complete surprise. I never thought this was ever going to happen and you know, the universe sort of knows what it’s gonna do. It has its own plans and I just feel so lucky to be part of this interesting project where we get to hear different voices from the same region. It just shows how rich Southeast Asia is as a region where we’re so close together yet, we have our own individual identities that we can just share with the world. Again, thank you, Calum, for this platform. So we each can also show our culture and our love for you especially.”
6. What is heaven on earth like for each and every one of you?
Darren Espanto: “For me, I feel like heaven would be, you know, after a long day, you just get to unwind, kind of lay in your bed, in your pajamas, doing your last minute things through social media. I feel like that’s heaven because at the end of the day, we just want to feel relaxed and at peace. So I mean, for me, that’s what Heaven would be like, aside from you know, being with my loved ones and stuff like that.”
Hoàng Duyên: “For me, heaven is Vietnam because I love my country.”
Lyodra: “I feel like “Heaven” is such a beautiful song and this song tells us about love. So I would like to love all of the parts of my life.”
Diana Danielle: “I was listening to “Heaven” again and again, and it was always on repeat anyway. I was looking at my daughter and realized I was tearing up because the lyrics just sort of radiated. And I feel like that’s the answer. My daughter is the answer. She’s my heaven. Whenever I play the song, the memory of that song and my daughter just sticks out.”
Calum Scott: “Eating chocolate and never gaining weight would be bliss because I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate over the lockdown. It shows that I ate a lot of chocolate. But for me, I think I feel like I’m already living in heaven because look at this situation, guys. I get to collaborate with four incredible artists across Southeast Asia. I never would have dreamt in my wildest dreams that I would have these kinds of opportunities to release music not only in Asia, but to collaborate with artists in Asia. I’m already living in heaven, guys. I’m already living it.”
7. What kind of feelings or emotions were you guys trying to evoke in the music video(s)?
Calum Scott: I’ve done a video with each of these guys and I was messaging Diana just yesterday, I think, and now I just watched the video again and it looks beautiful. We’ve tried to capture the places that we both live and for all the artists, and in terms of what I want to evoke with these collaborations is the same feeling that I get when I write these songs of just wanting to create something that people will listen to again and again, and connect with the song. You know, when I write the songs, it feels personal to me, but then when they’re released, they feel personal to other people. And I think that’s the magic of music, it is an international language. And I think to share it across Southeast Asia is just going to be so magical, just to connect more people together.”
Diana Danielle: “When I saw Calum’s version, there’s a lot of sky images. And anywhere you stand, you know, you look at the sky, it’s almost the same sky… So with that, I feel that wherever you are, how far you may be, you still share the same sky, and it makes you feel like you’re closer to one another.
I feel that the music video itself has this sort of, like, the feeling of in the moment, as Calum said, and at the same time, the feeling that you are in heaven on earth. So it’s that sort of atmosphere that we were trying to kind of create. From my inexperienced brain, to kind of piece it together and make it look like you know, really nice and then yesterday, Calum shared a snippet of it and I was just like, Thank God, it all blends so well. And I’m really really looking forward to having all of you watch each and every one of our versions to see how it all turns out.”
8. Did you make any adjustments vocally so that your voices can mix well together?
Calum Scott: “For me, I mean, writing the song and performing the song are two very different things. For some reason, I am writing music that is a challenge to sing live. But I think the thing that I love about writing music and performing, is that you can lock emotion into the song and the performance showcases that. So for my version with Darren, I didn’t want to change too much from what I’ve done originally. And sort of give Darren the room that he needed to be able to create that compliment. I think what Darren has done is so gorgeous. He has this beautiful tone in his voice that just sits so beautifully with mine as well and two male vocals on a track together, we don’t get that very often. So it was a real pleasure to share in the song with Darren.”
Darren Espanto: “With this song, something that my producer really wanted me to do was to just let go. It’s okay if your voice has a little raspiness to it or a bit of huskiness to it because that’s where the emotions come from, and so that’s something that I did when I was recording. I really just use mostly tones from my chest and my throat to really get that emotion. I’d say it really worked well with “Heaven” and our voices really complemented each other pretty well. So I’m really happy with how it turned out.”
9. Which part of the process [participating in talent competitions] would you say has the most impact in helping you shape who you are today as an artist in the music industry?
Calum Scott: “I think what I would say from my experience – and I was actually talking with Darren about this – in those kinds of competitions, everything happens so fast. You go from an audition and all of a sudden, things change very, very quickly. It’s important to enjoy those moments whilst they’re there.
I think for me, the real development as an artist came after the show and when I’d started releasing my own music and started working and talking to people who have supported that journey, I think that for me, that’s where the real development happened. I don’t think anything can prepare you for this industry. Even if you go on shows, it gives you an amazing platform but I don’t think it prepares you for what happens next. What I would say is that if you genuinely have a passion and a dream, please go and chase them because dreams do come true.”
Lyodra: “I got a lot of positive experience from “Indonesian Idol” and I gained more fans along the way. I gained new experiences from releasing new singles and albums which many people listened to.”
10. Are you guys planning to promote the single by performing together live on the stage?
Hoàng Duyên: “It would be a pleasure for me to stand with Calum on the same stage. So I think if there is a chance to sing with him, I would love that.”
11. How is “Bridges” different from your debut album “Only Human”?
Calum Scott: “I think for me, this second album feels like it’s the best work that I’ve done. I say that because this feels like a real growth from the first album. I feel like I have become an artist. With the first album, it was just a dream come true to write an album, but the second album has given me the opportunity to really own that and to become the artist that everybody sees me to be.
That really made me grow and develop and it made my songs more confident. It made my songwriting more confident, my singing more confident. And so I’ve just been able to write more confidently and feel more confident about my music. So I feel that “Bridges” is an elevation from the first album, and hopefully the third album will be an elevation from “Bridges” because I hope to continue to develop and to grow as an artist over the years.”
Images and transcript from Universal Music Group. Checkout the full interview here:
Neetashini Kanendran contributed to this article