A young girl takes a piano lesson, decides she doesn’t like it and quits immediately. She starts playing by ear, and at 12 years old she’s composing songs, writing lyrics, and uploading her performances like mad onto youtube.
So, when 18-year-old Beverly Rachel Matujal came to Eyes and Ears to record one of her original songs because her friend said to send it to hitz.fm, Chris Pereira got on the phone to Tonedeaf Stephen [I know right? And he’s a sound engineer – aka Stephen Lim] and said something like, “OMG, get over here Tonedeaf! We have to do something with this!”
Tonedeaf concurred. “All this is very spontaneous. We heard Beverly’s song ‘Honeydew’, and it captured the attention of the both of us. We wanted to do something with her, and since Valentine’s is around the corner, we want to get ‘Honeydew’ on the air fast. This song has to be out somewhere.
“We don’t really have an actual game plan on what’s gonna happen next. We just want to launch her first. Because the song’s too good to be not known. It’s actually on youtube – that’s her own demo.”
Beverly said. “There’s one line in the song, which says “How I need you”, and it sounds like honeydew, so I called the song ‘Honeydew’! I didn’t have any other ideas for a title!
“It’s written for my boyfriend,” she added. “I just wrote it from my heart. It’s one of the few songs where I really wrote what I felt, so the lyrics are important in this song.” No wonder the boys are rushing it for Valentine’s Day.
I asked her to talk me through how she wrote ‘Honeydew’. “What key is it in?” I asked.
She laughed. “I don’t know!”
I forgot! She plays by ear and is self-taught! Wow. So, how does this work?
“I just press what keys sound good,” she said and laughed some more!
Hmm. You start with your left hand or your right hand?
“I start with my right hand. I actually work on the chorus first. Sometimes I work out the music first then the lyrics, but not always. It depends on the song.”
So… while she’s working out the melody, she’s got harmonies going in her head, but she doesn’t write it down?
“I don’t write it down, I memorise it. Then with my left hand I try and find what sounds good.”
Beverly’s compositions have an adult contemporary feel. Sometimes the piano holds on to something which stands out due to its poetic simplicity. Other times there’s dissonance and the notes jar to create very cool tension in the music.
Beverly’s voice is pure and clear, and she likes to fold a ‘break’ into it, like an Irish folk singer might.
Beverly came to see me tonight at Bella restaurant in the Jesselton Hotel, along with her parents Andrew and Brenda Matujal, Chris and Tonedeaf. She played and sang three songs on the piano.
The first was ‘Honeydew’. [“You know, she did something different with it, different from the recording!” Tonedeaf was quite effervescent. I asked Beverly, so you don’t memorise and play the song the same way every time? “No, I improvise,” she said.]
Her second song was Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’, which really fit well with her own songs.
Third was another own composition “Love” which was bold and with adventurous phrasing, and yet was still very accessible music! It got you first time round, no need for 10 listens to warm up to it. I have to say, I really like this gal’s music.
“So the songs are all in my head, but the lyrics I sometimes forget!” Beverly admitted.
Tonedeaf couldn’t hold himself back. “It’s really exciting to find somebody like that! She knows music, obviously. Even if she doesn’t know the key her song is in, if you ask her to do it a few tones lower, she’ll just do it.
“Beverly was sick on the night of the recording, and I only had one chance to do this, so we did three takes of her singing and playing at the same time. Which is amazing, because not a lot of singers can actually do that – play and sing at the same time, and record it and in tempo too!”
Really? I didn’t know that. So what do other people do?
“They play their instrument separately and then sing over it.”
Not Beverley. She sings, and plays, and improvises. The piano is very much an extension of her now. “Yea, I feel awkward without the keyboard to work with,” she said.
Well, it looks like she’s got a couple of keen sound engineers to work with too. Chris heard Beverly, and immediately called Tonedeaf to come and listen to this promising young artist. That’s generosity of heart, working for the musician’s best interest and not keeping the best stuff for yourself. It’s got to win out in the long run.
All the best to Beverly Rachel, Chris P and Tonedeaf.