Singaporean songwriter and producer Edson Charntor turns life into music

The rising star tells us how a stint in the Singaporean army inspired his biggest hit

Chris Gillett |

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Despite his success so far, Charntor is still nervous to perform live.

June 19 was a special day for Singaporean songwriter and producer Edson Charntor. Not only was it his 22nd birthday, but it also marked the release of his debut EP Youth Function, a seven-track record featuring his previous singles Freedom, You and Labels, as well as new, unheard material.

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“I am past the first phase of my life – the first 20 years,” says the singer, whose music sounds like a mix of Charlie XCX and Dean, with a hint of Billie Eilish’s dryness. Youth Function “sums up the problems, the angst, and the joys of being a teenager,” he adds.

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Charntor started making music while serving in the Singaporean army from 2016 to 2018.

“We had a lot of free time back then,” he explains. “I decided to just Google the phrase ‘how to make a hit song’ and I kind of fell into this rabbit hole of writing and recording.”

One of the earliest tunes to come to Edson also became one of his most popular singles, Freedom, which was inspired by his experiences.

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“I wrote it when I was still serving the army. It talks about the feeling of liberation, because back then, I couldn’t do anything I wanted without facing harsh punishment; I couldn’t leave the camp on weekdays; I couldn’t see my friends or parents very often; I was always in camp … The fact that I was starting to become devoid of interactions like these made me appreciate the moments where I had some form of freedom.”

In the midst of creating this cathartic track, Charntor saw another theme emerging.

“I realised that when I get older, the responsibilities will increase, so I must fully embrace my younger self before these adult responsibilities come for me, and take my drive and curiosity.”

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The track clearly resonated with others. It quickly gained traction on Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist, and now has more than 700,000 streams. As Charntor explains, the song created “this spark that really ignited the whole thing”.

Freedom wasn’t the only song to strike a chord with listeners. A few days before his EP dropped, Charntor released the trippy, DIY music video for Labels, a very personal track for him.

“This song speaks to me because I was called a lot of different labels when I was younger, like ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’ or ‘annoying’. So it’s about being yourself and dismissing any insults or labels others have [given you], because individualism is precious and you don’t need validation from others.”

Charntor kept the concept for the video simple. “I make my music videos by myself, and logistics are hard, so I leaned towards the idea of being labelled and posted labels on my face, mostly messing around with a camera and lots of effects,” he laughs.

Most upcoming artists have to play countless shows before getting close to recording their music, but Charntor hasn’t yet performed in front of an audience.

“I just need to get over my performance anxiety,” he admits. “I don’t do well when there’s no hype. I want to build a solid fan base online first that will translate into physical people following me and helping me out, before I do anything live. I have this anxiety

of there being no one there.”

But Charntor is optimistic: “I suppose I could perform sometime this year, hopefully.”

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge