18-year-old music producer Nigel Quah on making electronic music professionally
Polytechnic student Nigel Quah, known as Foxela in the music world, tells us how he fell in love with EDM and what it’s like to be a young music producer.
To say that Singaporean electronic dance music (EDM) producer Foxela is pretty successful would be quite an understatement.
Not only does he have around 150,000 active listeners on Spotify, he was also nominated for Artist of the Year (Electronic) at Bandwagon Asia’s Youth Music Awards 2021, alongside popular artists Jasmine Sokko and MYRNE.
And he’s not even 20 yet.
“As a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut, but I guess music took over my life gradually,” said the music and audio technology student.
Youthopia spoke to Nigel Quah, the passionate 18-year-old music producer, to find out more about what it’s like pursuing electronic music in Singapore.
Falling in love with EDM
Nigel first encountered EDM at just nine years old, when a friend introduced him to independent record label Monstercat.
“I was shocked that you didn’t need any instruments or acoustics to make music. It was very experimental and different, and I just fell in love with it,” he said.
He started using free online websites to make his own music initially, then transitioned to using GarageBand on his sister’s Macbook.
A year later, he started posting original music on his SoundCloud page. While he now finds his old tracks embarrassing, he said he wouldn’t delete his old account as it showed growth.
“It’s a reminder of the start of my journey, and you cannot forget these things.”
Electronic music gradually took over his life, and at 15, Nigel realised that he genuinely wanted to try making music as a career.
He started investing in some equipment to produce better music, beginning with a DJ controller set and a pair of professional speakers. With time and experience, he established his own routine for producing music.
When making music, he’s not a perfectionist by any means – in fact, he doesn’t like to spend too much time on a single song as he finds it restrictive. Instead, he just likes to go with the flow, making and finding sounds that he resonates with.
He even enjoys leaving little imperfections in his songs, as “imperfections make things unique and special”.
Above all, Nigel simply enjoys being in his studio and making music.
He said: “Once you’re in the zone and you start making stuff, you forget everything else, and you’re just focused on what you’re doing. It’s a good feeling.”
Pursuing electronic music in Singapore
At the start of his music producing career, people didn’t take Nigel as seriously – which he thought was fair in hindsight as he “didn’t have much to show yet”.
Now that he has spent some time making music, he believes that age does not matter as much anymore.
“After all, age is just a number. The music speaks for itself,” he said.
While he still finds it scary to be around other musicians he respects, he doesn’t shy away from them anymore.
In fact, if he’s a fan of a musician, he contacts them via social media and builds a relationship with them. If they get along, they sometimes end up collaborating on a song together.
He said: “That’s the fun thing about doing music. You can just meet anyone from anywhere in the world and drop them a DM.
“If you hit it off, magic is made.”
Nigel also had to earn the approval of his parents, who doubted that he could pursue a sustainable career as a music producer.
When he first started making music, his parents found his tracks “very noisy”, something he has grown to agree with in retrospect.
He said: “I just wanted to show my parents how serious I was about making music, since actions speak louder than words.”
Nigel aimed to get better with each new music release – and he did slowly show signs of improvement with every new song. After proving that he was doing decently in the music industry, his parents gradually started to understand how serious he was about being a music producer.
Now, he lets his parents listen to his tracks before they are released, even bringing his mother to his studio to ask what she thinks.
Now that he’s gained the support of his parents as well as other music producers, Nigel’s next goal is to perform at a big music festival.
“People from all around the world are just there listening to music. They don’t care if they don’t know each other, they’re all friends. It’s so pretty!” he said.
Advice for youth pursuing music
“The Singaporean audience just doesn’t resonate with electronic music, which is very fair. But if possible, I really urge people to check these guys out,” he said.
As for other youths who wish to pursue music in Singapore, he acknowledges that the route to a music career is neither conventional nor easy. In fact, he understands why others would be afraid to go after something so unheard of in the country.
He mused: “It takes a lot of heart to give your all into a very odd passion.”
However, Nigel didn’t go all-in with following his passion for making music right away.
Instead, he took his friend RIIDEM’s advice and carefully considered what he wanted to achieve – which included making a sustainable income out of what he loves to give his family a sustainable life.
After crafting a long-term road map of his goals, he decided he could go ahead with pursuing music. He suggested that other youth who wish to pursue music could make similar plans.
He said: “Plan your life, and if things fall into place, don’t be scared and just do it.
“Sometimes you need to take the big risks to get the big rewards.”