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An Insider’s Guide To Singapore With Tabitha Nauser

Tabitha Nauser is a multi-hyphenate for the record books. The 27-year-old Singaporean pop and R&B artist has lived many lives: first charming audiences on Singapore Idol, tackling theatre – including a leading role in RENT, and cementing her name in the Singapore cultural scene during her time as a radio presenter.

Now, narrowing her focus onto her music career, the singer has been busy: opening for the likes of international artists like Khalid and steadily releasing impressively crafted singles in the build-up to a much-anticipated album release. Her latest single, “Don’t Let Me Drown, is available now on Spotify.

Recently performing in a series of events which saw two of Singapore’s best bars, Operation Dagger and Native, bring their signature drinks to Australia, even an injured ankle couldn’t stop her. Sat gently atop a stool, the artist gracefully delivered her rich vocals and told a charmed audience some of her favourite things about her home city.

AWOL caught up with Tabitha to chat about the Singapore cultural scene from her view as one of its vanguards, as well as getting the low-down on her favourite places to eat, play and shop in The Lion City.

Do you think there are misconceptions people have about Singapore?

I think they assume Singaporeans are very uptight and very sterile – I mean the first thing you think of when you think of Singapore is that: “Oh my gosh you can’t chew gum! Ahh, what’s gonna happen?” And a lot of people get freaked out about that, but from a local’s perspective, that actually doesn’t really affect much of our day at all. We hardly ever think about these things, there are so many different things to do in Singapore.

Yes, we can be a bit more cautious, but we still know how to have fun!

 

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What’s unique about Singapore’s cultural scene?

The art scene in Singapore is my absolute favourite. I mean, Singapore is a small country, so a lot of our industries are very small, but we have so many unique people that are trying to push the Singapore story and trying to add a little more culture to their different art scenes.

One of the great things about Singapore is that we have so many different races and cultures here, and as Singaporeans, we try and bring that in – I’ve seen plays where we have three languages happening at the same time.

The music scene is always exciting because you have so many new artists and new bands popping up, and people don’t really just stick to English anymore. Different cultural aspects are incorporated: there might be a bit of Malay or Chinese, for example.

Where would you start on the Singapore music scene?

I would suggest Kilo Lounge. If you want to get a taste of Singapore music as well as regional music then I would say that’s the place to go to.

Also, the Esplanade, the outdoor theatres. That is a great place for live music, as well as skits and plays. It’s very Singaporean led, every month they have something new and fresh from the local arts and music scene, and most of the time they stage it for free.

 

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Do you have an ideal night out in Singapore?

We’d go bar hopping, and check out a couple of bars, for example, Native, where a lot of the drinks are Singapore inspired. I like that they’re eco-friendly. The vibe at the bar is very chill and the bartenders are super experienced.

After there, I’d maybe go to Atlas, an amazing gin bar in a building that kind of reminds me of Gotham City, like Batman! It looks crazy on the outside, and as soon as you step in it has kind of a 1920s and 1930s vibe.

Are you a big gin fan?

 

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I love gin! So that’d be my go to. There’s also like fun stuff like Level Up, where you can drink but you can also play a tonne of arcade games. Everyone’s like a child when you go in there, you’re playing basketball, you’re playing beer pong and there’s live music.

And then I would definitely go and eat, because as Singaporeans do after you drink you have food! Even though it’s like 2am… I think the cool thing about Singapore, no matter what day it is, there will be something open until like 5am or 6am, so you can just go to a random coffee shop and it’d be packed out.

Do you have a favourite hawker centre or favourite local food establishment?

Oh my god that’s tough, there are so many different things. Okay, chicken rice is my favourite, Hainanese chicken rice and there’s a place that’s tucked away in Katong Mall.

It’s a pretty old shopping mall and not a lot of people really go to the mall anymore because there’s not really anything in there, but in the basement, there’s like a little food court, and in that food court they have a chicken rice stall which is amazing.

 

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I know you’re also a big sneaker fanatic, where would you tell people to shop in Singapore?

A lot of places that I go to are street-style inspired. Surrender Store is one of my go-tos. It’s in a mall where Off-White is and also Christian Dada, so it’s like a trifecta of street-style. I go to Dover Street Market in Dempsey, which is also a great eating area. There’s also Death Threads, they bring in a lot of vintage stuff and you can get cool pieces there.

And if you were going somewhere to treat yourself where would you go? Either for fashion or for food?

Marina Bay Sands would be the place where you can get both at the same time. CUT by Wolfgang Puck is there, you’ve got all your high fashion labels and fashion houses there. And up top, you have CÉ LA VI and LAVO.

You shot your music video for “Rules” at the Park Royal, is there a dream hotel in Singapore you’d want to stay at?

 

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I like the Andaz Hotel. They’ve got a really dope rooftop bar where you kind of get a 180° view of Singapore, and it’s super chill.

It’s a younger crowd, so it’s hip – but if you just want to get away it’s the perfect place. The spa is great, the rooms are big, I love it. It’s also located near Bugis, so it’s walking distance from a lot of shopping areas, super well connected.

What’s the first thing you do when you come back after being away?

There’s a very typical breakfast thing you can get in Singapore, where it’s just soft boiled eggs, you get a couple of toasts with kaya jam on it, and you get like a tea or coffee. That, for some reason, always makes me feel like I’m home, so I always get that too.

Do you like lots of butter on your kaya toast?

 

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Oh, so much butter! If there’s no butter is it even kaya toast? I don’t know.

Do you have a favourite kaya toast spot?

I can go anywhere and have kaya toast and I’ll be happy, it doesn’t matter where I get it from. But for some reason, I cannot do it the same, it doesn’t taste the same when I do it at home. Does that make sense?

Yeah! It’s weird right, it’s softboiled eggs and bread and kaya jam – I should be able to make this!

Exactly, I can do this myself – why am I going out to buy it! But it just tastes so different when other people make it. So yeah, I would say those two things are my go-to for when I get in, I just need some local food and then I feel like I’m home.

I feel like that’s probably similar to a lot of people when they travel and come back home.

Yeah, because you just want something familiar right? You just want something that makes you feel warm inside.

Tabitha’s responses were edited for clarity and brevity.