You might know her best as a cheerful, wide-eyed contestant in the first season of Singapore Idol but talented vocalist, Daphne Khoo, has come a long way since then.
Her fresh-faced days during her audition for the national singing competition were only the beginning of a long musical journey ahead. Her debut album, Desperate, scored the Best Breakout Solo Artist at Power 98’s Singapore Music Awards in 2008 when she was just 20.
Since then, she’s performed at various festivals, sold out concert halls and events, including Singapore’s local indie music festival, Baybeats. To date, she boasts a compilation of original works including her latest EP, Wonderland. One of the songs on the EP, “Carry On”, clinched the fourth spot on 987FM’s International Charts.
Owning her Sound
Behind the musical success is Daphne’s dedication to her songwriting craft, which she draws inspiration from real life experiences. Whenever inspiration strikes, she makes sure to type it into her notes on her phone.
“I think when you can tie back a song to real life, it magnifies the situation and makes it more identifiable for everyone. That’s the aim when I sit down and try to write my songs,” she explained with a smile.
Besides injecting her personality into her songwriting, performing and pouring her heart out on stage reveals a whole new side of Daphne that often catches others off-guard.
“When I’m on stage singing, there’s an element of vulnerability that is inevitable when you’re playing your own songs.”
Daphne elaborates, “I think when it comes to singing my experiences on stage, I like to believe that I open a window for people to see me on deeper level behind all my jokes and usual quirky self.”
A Blessing in Disguise
However, her budding music career was put on hold when Daphne was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer while studying songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2012. She was previously pursuing a degree in communications in Melbourne, and a diploma in mass communication in Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
Daphne couldn’t do much except to recuperate while in the United States.
Since returning to Singapore, Daphne has been keeping herself busy as a full-time singer-songwriter and Power 98 DJ. The 28-year-old even composed Electronic Dance Music (EDM) mixes to expand her musical exposure.
“I wasn’t looking to break into the EDM scene like, ever, because I was in love with pop music and only did pop music. I had no idea this could happen,” Daphne confessed as she ruffles her soft beachy curls.
However, as fate would have it, her producer at that time was really into EDM and managed to get Daphne on board. Writing the topline, which includes the melodies and lyrics for various EDM tracks, Daphne has been making waves in the EDM scene with a string of hit singles including “Higher” and “Crime”.
Her latest EDM masterpiece even had her working with German EDM DJ/producer, Paul Van Dyk, resulting in “Louder” earlier this year.
Her Biggest Fans
There’s no doubt that the quirky and cheerful young lady has rallied a sizeable number of fans throughout the years. However, there are 2 particular fans who stood by her with the utmost support. Without hesitation, Daphne credits her devoted parents as her “most fervent supporters” of everything that she does.
Despite their undying support towards her love for music, Daphne admits that her parents were initially disapproving when she brought up joining the Singapore Idol auditions. To them, she was only a young girl in the midst of completing her studies and pursuing a music career at such a young age just wasn’t the best move. However, the 16-year-old begged to differ.
The night before the Singapore Idol auditions, Daphne took a leap of faith and sneakily told her mom that she was staying over at a friend’s house. Instead, she camped overnight to queue up and audition. To her horror, it poured heavily, leaving Daphne completely drenched.
Without any options left, Daphne called her mom and came clean about her actual whereabouts. In a surprise twist, Daphne’s mom rushed down with a set of extra clothes and a brand new reprinted application form instead of calling her out on her misbehavior. Coming in third place on the show marked the start of her career and Daphne never looked back since.
“Sometimes, I do things that my parents may not understand but I do it because I think it’s what’s best for my career. I won’t do something if there’s too much of a risk factor but I just have to believe in myself,” admits Daphne.
In fact, Daphne’s parents have been to almost every one of her shows, which “means the world to her”.
With good family support, and a foot in the music industry, Daphne continues to strive without letting her illness get in her way.
She recalls one particular incident, about 10 years ago, where she was singing at Methodist Girls’ School. Performing on a newly waxed stage and decked out in high heels, she evidently slipped and fell.
“I was singing a pretty upbeat song and I guess I got a little carried away running across the stage while trying to be charismatic. Before you knew it, I was completely flat on the stage! But I just picked myself up and continued singing,” shares Daphne proudly, whose expression doesn’t show the slightest hint of disappointment.
“It’s like what Dory from Finding Nemo says, ‘You just keep going, or swimming.”
Check out our quick fire questions with the quirky Daphne!
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Photos Courtesy of Klix Photography