Local singer became F1 Grid Girl to promote her band

24 June 2013 / 3 years 4 months ago

Photos: Esther Lowless

In the pursuit of fame for her former band, local singer Esther Lowless did something at the time that is inconceivable to her now.

The petite 25-year-old ‘“ whose real name is Esther Low ‘“ decided in 2008 to don sexy threads as a contestant on a reality TV show on Channel 5 to be one of SingTel’s Grid Girls for the Formula One race.

Four years earlier, she had seen how Daphne Khoo, lead singer of indie-rock band West Grand Boulevard, got attention for her band when she took part in the inaugural Singapore Idol competition, finishing as third runner-up.

She thought she could do the same for her band Indus Gendi by being a SingTel Grid Girl, even if she did not enjoy it.

She told The Straits Times: “I think it was the whole general model culture I didn’t really like. I’m not judging the way it is, but it wasn’t for me.

I felt I had to be prim and proper, smiling and posing all the time.

And I hated the outfits.‘It did not quite work the way she hoped it would ‘“ the band broke up a year after her Grid Girl stint because some of the band members went overseas to study. But Low, who made it to the top 12 finalists, says it was a “good learning experience‘ as she gained confidence by “putting yourself on a pedestal for everyone to criticise or admire... and you had, to catwalk‘.

Low, who now performs as a solo artist and has received warm reviews in local media for her debut EP, Strange Place To Meet (2013), says: “I think we weren’t doing very well in marketing ourselves as a band, so I thought, hey, let me try that, maybe our band will become more popular. I hated it, but it taught me to be confident of who I am as a person, and sell that image of yourself.‘

She adds: “If you’re not a mainstream person, you don’t have to be to try to sell yourself. Just be honest and sincere.‘Honesty is a trait that runs through her new debut EP, which she launched yesterday at the Esplanade.

The self-funded EP, which she took two years to write and produce, is inspired by her harrowing experience of suffering a mental breakdown in 2009 and her journey to recovery. Low said a “series of events‘, coupled with being “in a stressful environment‘ led to her meltdown in 2009, and she sought professional help to get through it.

While she declined to provide details about her ordeal, she says: “I have a feeling that working on the EP helped me recover because I was focusing on this, therefore preventing me from obsessing about something that wasn’t real.‘

The experience translated into a six-song EP, representing six chapters of her emotional journey.

Low, who, studied music and audio technology at Singapore Polytechnic and later graduated from the Singapore Institute of Management with a degree in communications, says she was introduced to “the alternative world of music‘ during her polytechnic days.

Before going solo, the fan of Japanese post-rockers Mouse On Keys and home-grown progressive rockers Anechois had performed in other bands such as the now-defunct Indus Gendi and indie-rock group Monster Cat. She says she decided to go solo “just because‘ she felt like doing it, and came up with her stage name after an argument with her dad a few years ago.

She says: “Me and my group of girlfriends used our dads’ names as our middle names on Facebook for fun.

One day I had an argument with my father, so I dropped the middle name and changed it to Esther Lowless. “We patched up, but people started calling me Lowless anyway, so I used it as a stage name.

‘There is an enigmatic quality to her piano-driven songs ‘“ part lullaby and part rock ‘“ with an underpinning layer of melancholia that reminds one of post-rock bands such as American chamber music group Rachel’s and ambient indie electronic act Goldmund.

Although inspired by a personal experience, Low says her music is equivocal by nature, and listeners can interpret it however they want to., She says: “I think the purpose of music is just to express or to tell a story in any kind of art form, and I think that’s why a lot of artists want to do it in the first place, because they want to express themselves.‘

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