When she is not busy doing pull-ups or lifting weights, Talitha Tan is working hard towards her dream as an established recording artist. At a fresh young age of 21 (going on 22), she has already done more things than her peers ever had. So we recently sat down with her to dig deeper into her greatest passions and where she finds the time to do what she does. We had a small clue when she asked to meet at 8 o’clock in the morning.
The Stronger Side
Talitha didn’t get into sports until she was 15 years old when she had just moved to an international school. She picked up football, a sport she wasn’t allowed to play when she was in a public school because, well, she is a girl.
When she had the opportunity to play sports, it was like she finally had a drink of water after thirsting for days. She was so engrossed in it that she would play football and futsal for up to six hours a day, every single day! After finishing secondary school, she then moved on to flag football, dodgeball, rock climbing and regular gym sessions in college.
Talitha ran her first half marathon non-stop with an injured toe, that's 21km!
One day, she discovered parkour while working part-time at a trampoline park. She wanted to do the same stunts she did on the trampoline, but on ground instead. So she met a group of parkour athletes who taught her to do all kinds of tricks with the sheer strength of her own body, and this opened her eyes to a whole new world.
“I like the whole idea of getting from one point to another. You start to see the world differently. You see obstacles that you can overcome. It makes you think that you can get through life because it’s just like an obstacle course,” she said.
For the next two years, she continued to jump over dividers and climb buildings without fear. Till today, she would look back at old videos of herself doing parkour and wonder where she found the courage to perform all those stunts. Her mother wondered the same. As she grew older, she started to become more reasonable and the fear eventually grew. So she moved on to another sport – powerlifting.
She started training at her gym and the next thing you know, she signed up for her first competition within six months and brought home her first gold medal after lifting 115kg in the deadlift category. This was, by the way, 10kg heavier than the heaviest weight she had lifted during her training.
Sports is important to Talitha because it keeps her going and exposes her to new things.
Then, she found motocross, something she never thought that she would pick up. After testing the waters with a friend for the first time, she was told that she's a natural because she learned how to jump even on the first day, and she had only ridden a motorbike once five years ago. So when she heard the compliment, she couldn’t resist.
Her ability to not panic when she faces a scary situation while riding impressed her coach. “After a fall, most people would freak out and don’t want to do it anymore. But when I fall, I still want to do it,” she said. Until she finds a new favourite sport, motocross is her current love.
So, in case you couldn’t tell by now, all the sports that she has picked up have one thing in common – they’re not sports that girls would typically go for. She has always wanted to prove to people that girls can do it too.
“...the term 'tomboy' is just a thing that people use against girls who want to do a guy’s sport, which is annoying”
“If you really want it, go get it. Telling yourself ‘I’m not strong enough’ is just an excuse. I say I’m not strong enough but I would train to get stronger.”
On the other hand, she also has another side to her that is the opposite of sports, but it is just as strong.
The Softer Side
Talitha has always known that she wanted to sing from a young age. Following the footsteps of her favourite YouTube musicians like Kina Grannis, Tyler Ward and Tori Kelly, she picked up the guitar and uploaded her first song cover on YouTube when she was barely 14 years old.
“I once wrote ‘I want to be a superstar’ on a piece of paper and stuck it to my bedroom door,” she said.
You can form a sentence with all of Talitha's singles releases so far - "Sigh...
Okay. Please Stay".
She is lucky she knew what she wanted to do from a young age and music has been her aim since then. But unlike her younger self, she doesn't want to become a superstar. She wants to be known for her singing instead.
However, she didn’t exactly get the nicest feedback online when she first started, particularly from keyboard warriors who would shoot lasers while hiding behind their computer or mobile phone. Nevertheless, she didn’t let the negativity stop her from writing and pursuing music.
“I don’t expect everybody to like my music because I know that there are people that actually do, so that’s all that matters to me,” she said.
“...pleasing everybody is not my biggest aim anymore”
Music is important to her because it has helped her through a lot of things. People who know ‘Talitha Tan the Singer-Songwriter’ would be more familiar with her softer side, which is not surprising because she sings with a soothing voice that can put people to sleep, in a good way, of course.
The first song she wrote called ‘Sigh’ was inspired by a breakup. She tends to write better when she is feeling sad or emotional. Then, her first big break as an artist came when she took a gap year after completing her foundation studies in college. She released her first official single ‘Okay’, and the gap year never ended until now.
Since then, she released another single titled ‘Please Stay’ and held her first showcase on her 21st birthday last year. She is currently working on her next single with SonaOne, which will ideally be released in the next couple of months.
It means a lot to Talitha when people tell her that they can relate to her music.
Now, ask any musician and they would be lying if they said they didn’t love performing in front of a crowd. Talitha is no different.
“I love performing more than anything, especially when people come specifically for your music. It feels amazing to see people appreciating your music and singing together with you. I think that’s the best feeling I’ve ever had.”
“...performing is my happy pill”
She has since performed on numerous stages both big and small, including Good Vibes Festival and the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games Closing Ceremony, the most unbelievable performance yet for the 21-year-old. It was such a surreal moment for her because she was the youngest and newest among the other artists who were present.
But she had missed a word for a split second while singing ‘Kau Ilhamku’ next to the original singer Man Bai, and people weren’t kind to her about it.
“I had people coming up to me and said I didn’t deserve it because I was too young to have that kind of exposure. I didn’t know what to say. I don’t think being young has anything to do whether I should be doing things or not. The opportunity is now,” she said.
This is just one of the few negative comments that would come her way as somebody who puts herself in the limelight, especially on social media. But with a strong mind, she doesn’t let anything or anyone stop her from making the best of the present.
Who is @talithabe?
Talitha never liked being known as a social media influencer, she would rather be recognised as a singer or adrenaline junkie. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t appreciate the platform she has now because she is able to build a following that admires her for who she is.
In every sport that she picks up and every song she writes, she wants to show the world that girls are just as strong. And first and foremost, your strength should come from your mindset. To her, being strong means wanting something and going out to do it without being affected by others.
“If you really want it, go get it. If you don’t, then maybe you don’t want it enough. ‘I’m not strong enough’ is just an excuse. I say I’m not strong enough but I would train and practise to get stronger. So don’t care about what other people think, just do it.”
Nonetheless, this is easier said than done because we’re all human after all and these things do affect us, especially for Talitha who has a life that is somewhat out in the open on social media. So she tries to keep herself grounded with sports because it takes her away from that lifestyle and mindset.
When we asked her to choose between music and sports, she said without a doubt that music is her priority, but asking her this question was like asking her to choose between two children.
“I want to say music and only music, but I also need my sports,” she said.
As a foodie, Talitha started another Instagram page that is all about grub, @talimakan.
Ultimately, Talitha is on a personal mission to be as productive as possible and do as many things as she can. “I’m like a jack of all trades but master of none. I want to do everything and I’m constantly learning something new.”
Yet, music is the longest thing she has ever stuck to and we trust that we'll continue to see her for a very long time, either on stage with a microphone and guitar, or picking up another new sport at the gym or on a field somewhere.
Listen to Talitha's music on Spotify or iTunes.