In 2021, Cologne-resident singer-songwriter Ant Utama went viral through a collaboration with My Parade the band of fellow Germany-based Kiwi Graham Candy. At the time of writing their single Traveller clocks in at 1.8M streams on Spotify alone. Ant Utama is back on his own with brand new single Biding My Time, and NZM is lucky enough to exclusively premiere the music video that accompanies the track. We invited Ant to talk about the NZ On Air-funded song.
Biding My Time was written during lockdown in the pandemic. Being an artist is hard at the best of times and this moment, in addition to the rejections and doubts I put on myself, it put me in a dark place. But hey, the silver lining is you can always make art from a bad situation.
I just started putting some chords together that fit my feeling, so of course, it was a minor key. My genre is pop, generally, my tracks are happy and inspiring, however for this one, I wanted to bring across a darker, grittier vibe, albeit still a pop song.
After being granted funding from NZ On Air for the demo (a huge validation), I worked with producer, Julian David on the track and the mental image I gave to him was this feeling that you’ve gone underground, to train, to improve yourself, to hustle and to prepare for the moment you’ll resurface and show the world what you can do. All with a bit of a groove of course! I think we succeeded in that.
Largely it was my producer and myself, but we did hire a couple of session musicians who played the synth bass and lead guitar to add some flavour. All in all it was a team effort and I love the collaboration that goes into a project like this.
There’s a main electric guitar riff that loops throughout the song. When I recorded my first rough demo, I used an acoustic guitar and slapped on the first preset effect I could find – just to record the vocals so I wouldn’t forget the melodies. In the studio we re-recorded this loop on an electric guitar and Julian had a play with effects. After hours of experimentation we concluded that nothing could capture the vibe or character better than my original demo recording in my non-treated living room! So that’s what we went with for the track’s very prominent riff. It’s funny how the creative process can end up that way!
There are some key lyrics in the song that really resonate with me that take place in the bridge:
Bruised and burnt, I’ve tasted dirt, it’s time to flirt with my destiny
Gonna end this curse, quench my thirst, biding my time oh it’s my recipe
This captures the feeling of rejection, failure and doubts that I had at the time. The struggle of persevering and maintaining self-belief, it’s a battle many of us go through in life. A lot of songs (including my back catalogue) are hopeful cheerful and inspiring, but sometimes that’s not how we feel. Sometimes it’s ugly. It’s a grind and a real hustle to work towards our goals, that’s what I wanted to capture.
Since my background is in singing (musical theatre specifically), I’m used to belting ballads. That’s the style I normally write and thrive in. However, I wanted to do something different this time. I learnt to write a melody that’s much lower in my range and to not focus so much on singing perfect notes, but to deliver character in the voice without pushing too hard. This singing style is very different in the studio to singing live. At first, it felt a little unnatural, but once I got the hang of it, I was really happy with the result!
I’m super stoked with how Biding My Time has come out, and hugely grateful to NZ On Air for supporting me on this one! Thanks everyone for reading and feel free to reach out to let me know what you think of it.