There’s a kind of stereotype that comes with age. Wisdom dawns on the adult. Naivety is the charm of Gen Z. But against this backdrop, how legitimate can these notions be?
Despite the criticism that Gen Z often earns across social media platforms—for dominating TikTok challenges, starting new trends, and taking the world by storm with their youthful traits and out-of-the-box creativity—we can all agree that there are so many things that the other generations can learn from them. As digital natives, they are adept at fast-moving technology; hence, they are more self-directed and independent.
As young as they are, many have proven to have made great use of their talents and skills to successfully navigate the challenging world of work and excel in their respective fields, just like the Singaporean singer-songwriter Haven. Here, the rising pop artist shares what it’s like to be in the industry at an early age and how she strives to improve her music to become an instrument to inspire others.
Getting to Know Haven
But fitting her name, Haven has been gaining the attention of many music lovers because of her impressive vocals and style. Born Teo Cher Win, she chose Haven as her stage name to provide a safe space for her audience through her music.
At an early age, she began writing songs, and with such an affinity for music, at 14, she finally persuaded her mother to enroll her at the Academy of Rock. Shortly after, she got scouted and signed a deal.
However, juggling her time between school and music was not easy. That’s why, after graduating, she made the biggest decision of her life: pursue what she’s very passionate about. “I didn’t want to regret feeling like I didn’t do the best that I could for this career that I wanted. After school, I just did music full time.”
Pushing Past Limitations
But we all know that the road to success is not always smooth sailing. At her age, Haven found it difficult to keep track of everything happening in her life. Time management was definitely a big issue. “It was so overwhelming. How do I budget my time with music, family, friends, and all that?”
It took time to adjust. Eventually, Haven got used to scheduling things, and now she’s able to manage more or less her time with the people dear to her. But that was just the initial struggle. What she’s dealing with right now is her life in the spotlight. “I’m growing up in the media. I can see like all my past, like when I was younger, and then just me being more grown up. You know, those times where you look at your picture, like the whole picture.”
However, instead of seeing this as an issue—though she admits to cringing most of the time—Haven feels that this phase is necessary for her to grow. Seeing herself grow in the media allows her to see her progress. “Damn, that was me! I can feel the progression that I’ve been making for myself.” This optimism springs from her mantra to not really focus on what hinders her. Instead, she looks at the silver lining: “I don’t focus on what the challenges are. I just focus on where it’s going to take me.”
Becoming an Inspiration
Maybe there’s a reality in the belief that ideas are elusive creatures that mostly come out at night. Like most artists, Haven finds a comforting sanctuary at night—when she allows herself to sit down with her thoughts, reflect, and write songs. As an insomniac, she takes refuge in the lyrics and melodies she creates and the music she produces.
“I have a bunch of instruments at home. So, I just like, pick up anything that feels like it and then just play and then I go whatever my mind is telling me, whatever I’m feeling. And then I kind of write down my feelings as it goes because I don’t have a clear visual of my feelings.” And that’s how the magic of songwriting begins for Haven—though at times she gets called out by her neighbors when she’s all drowned in her music, forgetting it’s sleeping time for others.
As a huge fan of Billie Eilish, who’s so young, talented, and unique, like her, Haven wants to give hope to the younger generation, especially to her generation, that it’s okay to be young. In a society whose heartbeat is so quick, everyone wants to catch up and fast forward time—to grow old and make mature decisions. However, Haven believes otherwise. “It’s okay that we’re young. Because we can also take this very seriously. And people should start taking us seriously because we have so many ideas and we have so many things and years ahead of us.”
The Pressure of Being in the Limelight
While Haven is living the life she has been dreaming about, there are also a lot of compromises that she has to make. Like the rest of us, she also experiences burnout. Creating content and coming up with ideas for different social media platforms every single time is obviously draining.
However, as an optimist, Haven also sees this as an opportunity to share these feelings on her platform and to be her most genuine self. “I’m being honest with myself. If I feel like today is not a good day, or I feel tired, or burnout, I’ll just take a break. But [there are also times] when I feel like I have tons of ideas.”
Through this journey, Haven feels grateful to her ever-supportive friends for the help they have rendered. “My friends are my biggest haters, my best friends. It’s like sarcasm. My friends are a huge part of my life. They’re like my siblings. I grew up with them. So, every time I tell them exciting news, they always keep me grounded, reminding me who I am. Or calling me out when I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.”
Best of all, she anchors herself on the things taught by her mom, particularly in dealing with haters. Instead of sulking in frustration, her mom reminds her to be grateful to everyone who listens to her music and watches the things that she does. “Haters make me realize that I’m getting noticed. You know, I am worth their time. I feel a lot of joy from that. I’m not saying that hate is good. Hate is not good. But knowing that you are recognizing me, it’s a good exposure.”
The Perks of Being a part of Digital Native Generation
Haven admits that easy access to social networking sites gave her an edge in pursuing what she wants in life. Unlike before, when people used to go through auditions to get gigs and perform, anyone right now can post videos and share their passion online. Talent combined with luck, a lot of influencers have smoothly transitioned to becoming the trending performing artists of today.
Nonetheless, Haven believes that, though she has been in the industry for seven years, there’s so much more that she has to learn. The longer she stayed, the more sacrifices she had to make. “You have to sacrifice a lot of things. But you don’t necessarily need to be scared. Your whole life is not going away. Don’t fear that you’re going to lose people. Because people who are worthy will always be there no matter what.” Staying true to your friends and just being honest with the people dear to you serve as a good foundation for a long-lasting relationship that will result in love and understanding—which she pointed out as the best source of inspiration.
As a music enthusiast, Haven couldn’t bear the thought of losing her interest in creating music. In this era where people are being more vocal with what they feel, there are so many emotions that could come through. The young artist admits having gone through depression—and still going through it—and thinking about death. But music saved her. “In all seriousness, music has been my purpose in life. It saved me. That’s why it’s so important to me. I can’t see a life without music.” In fact, Haven is capable of writing songs on the plane, in the toilet, anywhere and every time inspiration hits her.
What Success Looks Like to a Gen Z
According to Haven, success can mean different things to different people. This could include having loving friends, supporting her mom, or finding a caring boyfriend. But when it comes to music, she believes that there’s so much more that she has to do. Haven has always been so dedicated to her growth, as she is very curious about what else she can accomplish. “I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied if I’m going, to be honest. I can hit a lot of goals that I want, but I don’t think I’ll ever truly be like, ‘Oh, I made it!’ because I expect a lot from myself. If I can do this far, how far can I push it?” She is also open to exploring other genres, wherever the industry will lead her.
With the recent surge of her followers, Haven still finds it difficult to believe that she has reached the 300k mark. Attaining her first 100k was already very validating to her—at the same time, it was humbling because she knew that it was a cumulative effort. She couldn’t have done that alone. There are so many people supporting and helping her with her career.
Hence, Haven truly felt grateful and humbled, most particularly when fans shared their journeys with her—like that one fan who shared during her TikTok live how he was able to cope with the negative thoughts hovering around his head. It has been two years, and Haven continues to receive updates from him on how he is doing well with his life.
Haven hopes to continue inspiring more people with her music, and she hopes that her debut single, Future Somebody, which is now available on all streaming platforms, can help people recognize their emotions better.
Photographed by Em Baun
Assisted/Video by: Niccole Mendoza
Hair & Makeup by Aoi
Styling by: Joy del Rosario
Shot on location at In the Studio SG
Overall coordination by: Mary Jane Manglicmot
WILD Group, Aidil Yusof, Universal Music Singapore