Source: The New PaperIt has been an extraordinary year for local singer-songwriter Inch Chua.The 22-year-old played at one of music's biggest festivals, South By Southwest (SXSW), in March for the second time, made her debut at Canadian Music Week, and signed on with American talent management agency Mighty Fresh, which represents YouTube stars like David Choi and Michelle Phan.Last month, she acted in her first-ever musical, the critically-acclaimed restaging of Lao Jiu: The Musical, directed by Kuo Jian Hong, daughter of the late playwright Kuo Pao Kun.She shuttled between Singapore and Los Angeles last year to play gigs and explore opportunities offered to her by Mr Richard Frias, her manager and founder of Mighty Fresh, including participating in IdeaJam, a creative lab incubated by American actor Ashton Kutcher and tech company Intel.Earlier this year, Chua moved to California and is now based there."By the time I was ready to move to the US, I already had lot of friends and 'family' there," she told LOUD, referring to the eclectic mix of creative types in her LA network.Being signed by Mighty Fresh has allowed her to get an artiste's visa, which lets her stay and work in the country for three years."The official term (for the visa) is 'Alien of extraordinary ability'," she said with a laugh.Chua has been hobnobbing with folks like Kutcher - she also met kooky US singer Macy Gray at the launch of Phan's media network Fawn in April - and seeing friends from her circle grow, like getting to know American Idol 11 runner-up Jessica Sanchez, whom Chua knew and hung out with last year before the Filipino-Mexican teen joined the show."My most awesome moments are meeting struggling artistes just like me," Chua said."There's so much to explore musically, and in terms of meeting people."By no means does she think she has made it, though, despite living the dream of relocating to a city full of opportunities and connections."People think the grass is always greener on the other side," she said. "That's not always true. For every nice, talented person you want to meet, you have to sieve through a thousand a**holes."Dying to rock outAnd it is hard work."Being in the industry is about perpetually popping up on people's radar and letting them know that you're in it for the long haul," she maintained.To support herself, Chua writes jingles and does voice-overs for advertisements, something she is "not proud of". But it allows her to be financially independent.To cap the year, she is hoping to complete the skeleton of her sophomore album Bumfuzzle here before returning to the US.Having got "really, really bored" of the acoustic songs she recorded for her EP, The Bedroom, and debut album Wallflower, she has put together a grittier, angrier sound."The rock side of me wants to really rock on stage," she said. "I've been trying to write new music that fulfils that side of me. I played my first gig in LA with my new material and the crowd really liked it."As did the fans at the Baybeats (June 29-July 1), where Chua played a set that was filled mostly with her newer songs, demos of which can be found at her website (www.inchchua.com).About a year ago, Chua was in the centre of a mini-firestorm after ranting in a Facebook post - which went viral - about the lack of support for local musicians.She said: "When you look at someone like (Malaysian singer-songwriter) Yuna, who is in LA now, she has a whole country backing her."I feel very proud of her, albeit with a tinge of jealousy. It's almost impossible for someone here to get that kind of support."Lest one assumes Chua moved to the US to escape the scene here, she made it clear she is definitely coming home at some point."In the long run, I do want to come back here. All this experience that I'm collecting, I want to come back and do something with it. Our ecosystem here is unique, and you can't just adapt a model from elsewhere."