Jean Tan: Finding Inspiration as a Songwriter

jean-tan--guitar-

by Jean Tan


Everything can be inspiration.

I remember turning my head to see the world upside down as a kid; staring at my fingers & wondering how my invisible will could control their tiny movements.

Today, I wonder at crazy movie plots, the interesting people I meet & the mind-boggling beauty of nature. Many things speak deeply about life & its fullness: its beauty, as well as its pain.

Once I met a taxi uncle & spoke with him at length, starting with the usual questions of how long he’d driven for & what he thought about the country. Then we arrived at the topic of his family. He hardly saw or talked to his family, seemed evasive when I asked about his children, & through the rear view mirror I saw a deep longing & loneliness in his eyes. That spoke volumes to me about humanity – & how we, like this particular uncle, drift in search for connection despite the seeming busy-ness of everyday business —

Circle round in a taxi
In a one-man space of a one-man car

(‘Taxi’, from the album Dance, 2010)

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Then there was an insane time of my life when auto-immune kidney disease jolted me out of normalcy & confined me at home months at a go across a span of 5 years. At one point I was 20kg heavier with water, puked 5 times a day for a month, & was so bloated it would take 4-5 tries each time to draw blood or inject medications. My vision was blurry, & walking was difficult.  At that point, the only thing you could do to survive was to focus your mind on what was good & give thanks. I gave thanks for a bed to lie on, for being able to stand for 20 minutes, for being able to sing, even in gasps. For still having the ability to see colour, & all its splendid arrays —

Even when it’s lonely,
even when it hurts sometimes
There is so much more to see
The little things so beautiful

(‘Colours’, written for the 28th SEA Games, 2015)

I’m currently working on my third album, & in the collection are songs inspired by biblical text, poets, pictures of dandelions, & a song cover by Tommy Emmanuel. Anything can be inspiration when we open our eyes to the world & our ears to hear its whispers. Peel your eyes for inspiration & get ready to receive.

Let to, let in
Something is waiting
And where my heart is beating
I have love to keep me going

(‘Walls’, to be released in 2017)


Jean is a part-time songwriting mentor at Awaken Generation. She has released two full-length albums (Dance, 2010; Passage, 2012) with a third to be released in the following year. She is a great educator, worship leader & wonderful woman of faith who has inspired many with her story & simple love for Jesus. 

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Jean Tan

Jean Tan

Mentor / Songwriting at Awaken Generation
A prolific songwriter, poet & literature major, Jean is a word-smith & story-teller who is fascinated with stories & what it means for singer-songwriters to discover their own. Jean’s songs are written with influences from jazz, pop & folk, with lyrics often speaking of the beauty & grace of God. Her testimony itself has been an encouragement to many, having gone through 7 operations since 3 months’ old & being told that she was not going to speak or be heard clearly. Jean now sings as a testimony that hardships are turned into something beautiful when God steps into the picture. Jean has released two albums Dance in 2010 & Passage in 2012. Look out for her next EP coming up in 2016 & follow her at @jeantanmusic
Jean Tan

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