The 22-year-old musician who writes for ‘self-serving’ purposes

Unlike most musicians, Benny's doesn't write songs for an audience.

Maisy Phua

Self-proclaimed fashion icon, pomeranian mom and Paris Hilton fan.

Published: 19 May 2023, 11:59 AM

Up a flight of creaky shophouse stairs, dimly-lit surroundings create shadows on old, peeling walls. A musty smell of dampness mixed with the acrid scent of stale smoke hangs thick in the air.

At first glance, the unassuming place appears to be nothing more than an eerie space, seemingly abandoned and forgotten. Upon closer inspection, it is actually home to a thriving community of underground local musicians.

Behind the heavy door of the small, cluttered studio lies a cosy scene. The air is filled with the soft strains of an acoustic guitar, and the warm glow of a dim lamp casts a soft light over the room. 

Perched atop a grey sofa is 22-year-old Bernice Lee, lost in her music as she strums away at the strings of an acoustic guitar.

More commonly known by her stage name Benny’s, she had felt her actual name was too formal and unfit for the free-spirited musician she longed to become. When people called her “Ben” casually, she liked it and decided to adopt it as her stage name. 

Benny’s first and, till date, only song on Spotify – Gingerbread – has garnered 21,000 plays since it was released in June 2020. But unless one is very much into the local underground music scene, the first time you would have heard of Benny’s would be from the incident at Esplanade a couple of months back. 

However, Benny’s deserves to be known as more than just the musician caught in the unfortunate situation. She has her goals and dreams, and she has worked hard to get to where she is today. 

Having discovered her passion for music at a young age, Benny’s first began her artistic journey performing covers on her YouTube channel.


Benny’s first began playing the acoustic guitar in secondary school. Through borrowing her brother’s guitar to create covers, she eventually discovered her love for the instrument. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN


Similar to most musicians, Benny’s ”always liked music” from a young age. Catching onto her budding interest in the arts, her mother promptly signed her up for classical piano lessons.

When it came to pursuing her post-secondary education, Benny’s first choice was Singapore Polytechnic’s Diploma in Music & Audio Technology (DMAT). Yet, despite the initial support shown to her musical interests, Benny’s parents had their reservations against her pursuing music as more than just a hobby.

Fearing that she would struggle to succeed as an artiste in Singapore, they showed much disapproval towards her admission into DMAT.

“When I got the acceptance email, I woke my mom up and then she said, ‘huh, you can appeal to JC or not?’

“She didn’t want me to go, which definitely upset me – I really wanted to prove her wrong. My dad mostly kept quiet, but I understand that they just wanted what was best for me.”

The artiste’s admission into the course was her first step in becoming a professional musician. While pursuing DMAT, she was inspired by one of her songwriting lecturers, as she felt as if he “unlocked something” inside of her, fueling her love for songwriting.

Benny’s songwriting is heavily inspired by her surroundings, thoughts and feelings. One of her upcoming singles, titled Shut Up Song, was inspired by a falling out between her and a close friend. 

Gingerbread was also written during a time of hardship in the singer’s years in polytechnic. 

“If you listen to Gingerbread, it sounds like I’m comforting the listener, but actually that song was just to comfort myself. I feel like most of my songs are very self-serving. I just wrote it for myself. But if you like it, then thank you for liking it.”

Prior to signing with her current record label, PK Records, Benny’s primarily produced music from her own bedroom, inspired by bedroom pop artistes like Clairo, Starry Cat and Beabadobee. These tracks were uploaded to her SoundCloud page. 

However, taking the road less travelled as an artiste in Singapore has not been an easy feat – with difficulties like financial strains and lack of opportunities proving as big obstacles for the alternative folk artist.

Predictably, most of the artiste’s obstacles were financial in nature – producing music can be expensive. According to Benny’s, the average cost to produce a single song is approximately around $1,000.

In order to support her part-time music career, the young artiste resorted to taking up a variety of jobs. This included a nine-to-six corporate job that left her feeling trapped and alienated among her older colleagues with different mindsets. She also felt uninspired by her menial day-to-day tasks and it affected her so much that she chose to resign. 

Even then, she felt she had “lost all creativity”. 

“I couldn’t stand how rigid it was. I couldn’t even sit for like 20 minutes straight. I did it for three months. I couldn’t write a single song for a full year after I quit. I just lost my touch.”

Furthermore, opportunities for small artistes to get paid are few and far between. According to Benny’s, small local artistes can expect a payout as low as $100 each for performing two to three sets of songs.

On scoring more gigs and opportunities, Benny’s shares that the key is having connections in the local music industry.

In order to succeed as an artiste in Singapore, one would have to possess good communication skills and know how to market themselves.

The young artiste made her debut performing at Bay Beats, a festival organised by the Esplanade with an intention to promote alternative small local artistes – an opportunity she owes to a recommendation from a fellow artiste.


In addition to working as a waitress at a bar in Clarke Quay, Benny’s has also interned at Snakeweed Studios, a large record company boasting over 500 domestic releases over the last 20 years. PHOTO CREDIT: LYNN WEN WEN


Typically, one would assume a passionate artiste would enjoy sharing their craft and performing for others, but Benny’s is a unique, down-to-earth exception.

The artiste is often wracked with anxiety while performing, only being able to relax around the last song in each of her sets. 

However, under the guidance of her close friend, mentor and producer, Ian Lee, Benny’s stage fright has improved significantly.

The producer often goes out of his way to help Benny’s, taking time out of his busy schedule to give the artiste feedback on her demos at “ungodly hours”.

Inspired by his motivation, drive and creative process, Benny’s strives to achieve a similar level of dedication to her craft.

“I’ve grown a lot since performing with him – he gives me advice on (how to be) a better performer while still being entirely me. 

“He inspires me to be a better musician.”


The pair first met through a mutual friend in the music industry. As they grew closer to each other, Benny’s eventually signed with Ian’s record label, PK Records. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN


Benny’s first began performing in 2018 in a cover band named Dogface during her DMAT years. From then on, she branched out and became a solo artiste.

While supporting local creatives is nothing new, Benny’s encourages Singaporeans to look beyond the conventional pop genre. 

She adds that to expand their music library, they can start by attending various local music gigs and performances like Bay Beats by Esplanade.

Additionally, they can find a local artiste that they like and through that artiste’s Spotify, find other similar musicians.

Looking back at the many challenges she has faced in her journey of self-discovery as a musician, the young artiste has no regrets. To Benny’s, the age-old phrase, “trust the process”, always rings true.

“Don’t limit yourself to a certain genre. Just don’t be afraid of trying and exploring and failing as long as you (figure it out).

“There’s always a takeaway from anything. Trying is free. You can never go wrong trying new things.”

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