Jean Goh is an award-winning singer and actress, who recently composed ‘We’ll Be Okay’, a new song released under the 20/20: The Temasek Short Film Project. Her song is used in the four music videos directed by student filmmakers from Canberra Secondary School, Dunman High School, Jurong West Secondary School and Nan Hua High School.
We speak with Jean about her early start in the performing arts and to gain insights into the sometimes difficult journey of achieving our dreams.
You pursued the performing arts at a very young age. How did this come about? Did you have a mentor?
My parents were singers back in the 70s; they dabbled in acting as well. When I was very young, I would always talk to the camcorder when my dad pointed it at me. Seeing that, my parents enrolled me in drama school together with my two elder brothers when I was 5. That eventually brought me into the performing arts scene, where I landed my first acting role in The Price of Peace at the age of 6.
My mother has always been mentoring me in both singing and acting, while my father taught me how to draw. My mother put me in a choir. When I started showing more interest in contemporary mandarin pop music, she taught me how to sing. She also read scripts with me and would tell me stories that would develop my empathy towards my character. She followed me when I went on set as emotional support (because I was very young) and stepped in discreetly to help me with the scenes when necessary.
While pursuing Mass Communications at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, I took on an acting workshop with (actor) Lim Yu-Beng, who further mentored me. I still approach him for help when I have questions on acting.
Your lyrics for We’ll Be Okay talk about the patience needed to achieve your dreams. Are these reflected in your personal experiences?
Yes. I found that it is common to feel discouraged in the process of achieving more in our lives. It’s easy to begin comparing ourselves to others in this day and age when social media is such an integral part of our lives. I’ve compared myself to people who have done so much so soon. In a way, it made me believe that lagging behind meant I wasn’t good enough.
These thoughts can feel very real and suffocating, especially if you happen to be around people who say negative things about you at the same time. I had a teacher back in Primary School who was mean to me because I liked the arts more than academics, and my academic results weren’t great. She instructed the entire class to not talk to me. I was affected emotionally, I didn’t know how to express the helplessness. I was stuck in this unpleasant situation with nobody to turn to. It took a journey for me to understand that everybody is different; time and numbers are not always the best indicators of success. It took another journey for me to be able to focus on that when my mind gets messy.
I think it’s important to have a fundamental understanding of these things because it helps to battle with thoughts of inadequacy that come by now and then.
There are four different music videos for your song. What was it like seeing so many interpretations of your music?
It is exciting! My interpretation of this song is only one out of many possible. I like that what speaks to me can speak to people with different experiences, too, and in different ways. Sometimes I find myself seeing things differently or learning things based on other people’s interpretation. It’s very humbling; it encourages me to keep my heart open, to learn more.
How involved were you in the direction of your music videos produced for this season of Temasek 20/20?
I am not involved at all; the groups get to interpret the song any way they want.
What are some of the Singaporean stories that struck you while working on this song?
Memories of time spent with friends have inspired me. I personally struggle with self-belief and trying to survive in a competitive and unforgiving environment. When spending time with my friends, I realise that we can relate to this struggle even though we are fundamentally different people. They have so much talent and potential but are not able to see it clearly because of how they see themselves. Knowing that we have this in common makes me less alone when I go through difficult times. And knowing that perhaps one day I can use my own struggles to empathise with people helps motivate me to overcome my challenges.
Do you see yourself touching on more social issues with your music in the future?
Yes. There are things that I am passionate about; I hope to make a difference by putting my work out there.