Do You Know - The Sam Willows Were Ex-Athletes?

By Chelza Chong


Jennifer Lopez’s and Pitbull’s “ We are One”, Sarah Brightman’s and Liu Huan’s “You and I”, Muse’s “Survival”. Well, what is my reason for picking these 3 songs? What do they have in common? Is it because they are widely- recognized songs? Or, is it because they are songs that have been showered with compliments? No. In fact, they are songs that are performed at international sports events, be it during the opening or closing ceremonies. If you didn’t already know, for every international sports events, be it SEA Games, Asian Games, FIFA World Cup and so on, the hosting countries will usually perform a series of songs that are either composed by their own composers, sang by their own singers or written by their own songwriters.

The same goes for this year’s SEA Games in Singapore. Named as the Song of the Games, this repertoire of pumped-up and melodious songs is not only produced by local veteran music director - Dr Sydney Tan, but also, written by various songwriters like Amir Masoh. Most importantly, these mellifluous songs will be performed by both budding and renowned local artistes like The Sam Willows, Tabitha Nauser, Daphne Khoo and so on. One must then wonder, how do they feel about being chosen to represent Singapore in singing these songs? Do they have any personal experiences with the past SEA games? Well, stop cracking your brains out and let me fill you in with the juicy details! SportSanity had the honour to interview Benjamin and Narelle Kheng from The Sam Willows, so follow me through as I answer each and every of your questions!


1) Knowing that both of you used to be competitive swimmers, how does it feel like then as an ex-competitive swimmer, to be chosen to not only be part of Song of The Games, but also, to sing one of the 3 main official theme songs for SEA Games 2015?

Narelle: Well, the SEA Games is definitely not foreign to either of us.  We have dreamt of competing in it before so it's really cool to be able to be a part of it. This is especially so because we are at the "ripe" competing age now, meaning a lot of our friends and athletes that we grew up or trained with are competing this year. It's really exciting to be able to root for them. I'm also reminded of how much respect I have for these athletes because they really do lead a very tough life. You have to give up a lot and also, have to have a lot of determination and discipline.

Ben: The year that I left the pool for good was also the first year that people of my age could finally qualify for the SEA Games. I quit due to a variety of reasons, but I do look back often and regret not giving it a go. Still, I'm living vicariously through all my friends representing the red and white and I'm eternally grateful that I've been given a "second chance" at being a part of the SEA games. To me, it makes me feel like I am still a part of Team Singapore, just that it is in a different manner.  


2) What do you wish to convey to others through your songs- Ordinary, Flag up, Champion and A Love Song? How do they relate to the Games’ theme of ‘Celebrate the Extraordinary’?

Ben: Back when I was competing, I'd always have a "pump-me-up-playlist" to get me psyched and inspired before a big competition. I guess the goal is to recreate those songs for a new generation of local sportsmen and sportswomen. It is also to highlight to the masses on the wonderful humanity of sports and these remarkable human beings.


3) Your song – Ordinary, is inspired by Singapore’s favourite sports icon- Fandi Ahmad. How did you guys relate to this song and to Fandi Ahmad, himself?

Ben: Fandi's story is one of love and undying passion in the face of incredible odds, that eventually, ends with him giving back to the world that has given him so much. It's a call to be more than ordinary and that’s a pretty universal theme.


4) How was it like working with Fandi Ahmad since he was there for the screening of the MV?

Narelle: We sat in front of his family and I smiled at him, and he smiled back! That was pretty cool already.


5) Your 2nd song - Flags Up is not only performed but also, written by you guys! What inspired you in penning down the lyrics of this song?

Narelle: Basically, we started with the idea of how we wanted people to feel a sense of community. When we were having our competitions (both Jon and Sandra used to be young athletes too), the excitement of cheering for your friends and for your school was so great. There was such a strong bond and we wanted to embody that bond in this song. Hence, the chorus says " We are one". While writing the verses, we reached back into our training days, remembering the despair and realized that what really got us through was knowing that all your teammates were "dying" with you. Your teammates are with you all the way.


6) Scrolling through the Song of the Games, you guys are probably one of those that have performed the most number of songs. How do you guys feel about your rising popularity nowadays?

Narelle: Well it's hard to judge "popularity" these days. We just hope to keep working to improve our crafts and hopefully, within that fleeting span or our 15 minutes of fame, we will be able to make a difference - whether it is to inspire someone out there or being able to create a new path for future musicians.


7) Name your favourite local sportsmen/sportswomen.

Ben: My ex-coaches Ang Peng Siong and David Lim. Both of whom are ex-national swimmers and are responsible for the avalanche of amazing swimmers that are coming forth these days.

Narelle: I can't really say that I have one. Yet, my best friend of now 16 years will be competing this time - Sasha Christian is my favourite athlete ever!


9) Knowing that most of you (The Sam Willows) are pretty sporty, what do you think of the sports scene now as compared to the previous years?

Ben: The opportunities, platforms and talent has grown exponentially and this has been happening since I was a kid. Now, more grants and funds are made available. In fact, social media has lifted the awareness for the star qualities of these athletes. It's a good time to be a sportsman now!


10) A final shout out to our athletes out there.

Narelle: I know the SEA Games hasn't started, but congratulations, because you already deserve it.

Ben: Go out there and give it your best, and let that be enough.


Well, tempted to listen to the Song of Games right now? Head over here ( to listen to a series of 14 songs that are written and sang by our very own songwriters and singers! Get yourself familiarized with the lyrics of the songs by downloading them onto your mobile devices or laptops so that you can sing along with our fellow artistes during the SEA Games 2015 itself! 

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