“I would pick them up and observe. And I liked it when you can see the tiny little legs popping out of the side of their bodies.”
Vivid and a bit macabre, this dialogue sounds like a talking head cutting through a science documentary. But this line actually sits at the start of Nadine Lustre’s home video-esque vlog, an introduction to her recently launched YouTube channel. She giggles while recounting her innocent story about analyzing tadpoles in the pond as a young girl. “When you’re a kid, you’re just curious about everything.”
Having curiosity morphs into an Olympic sport when you get older, I thought. With all the personal issues that haunt you, serious responsibilities that daunt you, feeling even a little speck of wonder can come off as an afterthought—and who even has the time for that when you’re a full-time adult?
But even though the 29-year-old Nadine spoke about these childlike adventures like they were only present in memories, her personal history exudes otherwise: This artist has given multi-hyphenate a new meaning, which seems to be her feeding every ounce of her curiosity.
She’s a versatile actress—and a recent two-time FAMAS best actress awardee at that—an endorser, an environmentalist, a businesswoman, a flower arranger, and a music artist. The last one is her frontmost persona in our recent video call.
Funny enough, Nadine was also wearing the same hat the last time I talked to her virtually. It was a time when face shields were still a thing, and she had just released her debut album “Wildest Dreams.” Two years later, she’d open up a new chapter in her music career with “Overgrown.”
A new leaf
Comeback track “Overgrown” combines synths, alternative-pop tunes, ethereal sounds plucked out of nature, fast pacing, and even a rapping Nadine. Aside from being her first music release in two years, it’s also her first brainchild under international label WILD Entertainment, which manages other Asian acts like Seungyeon and Sorn. This new collaboration paved the way for Nadine to work on her new single with Singaporean artists Josh Wei (producer) and Linying (co-writer).
“Actually last year, when I parted ways with my previous label, I kind of wanted to put my music career on hold, just because I was working on a lot of other things,” Nadine tells me as I asked about the canon events surrounding the birth of the track. “With music kasi, if I wanna make an album or if I wanna keep making music, I understand that I would need all of my time, all of my effort, and all of my focus.”
While music was parked, Nadine became knee-deep with film projects and business ventures. But her good friend Curtismith a.k.a. Mito Fabie just happened to convince her about restarting that engine. (Fun fact: Conversely, Nadine approached Mito years ago for her idea on “Wildest Dreams.”)
“[He] told me that there’s a label (WILD Entertainment) that wanted to do a collab song with me. So sabi ko, ‘yeah, okay, I’m g,’” she says. “I took that opportunity, kasi I kind of wanna start working with other people as well, and it’s interesting that an international label is [game] to work with me. And it’s not like I’m gonna quit music anyway. I always wanted to make music.”
Making magic in Siargao
Nadine is the internet-proclaimed “president” for many reasons. But I think the most obvious one is her apparent awareness of what she wants. “I know that you put a premium on your creative vision when it comes to your work,” I tell her while we talk about the song’s process.
The meet-cute between her and WILD was a step into a new territory. Nadine admitted to being nervous since she wasn’t going to work with a Filipino team.
“A couple of days when we started, parang nangangapa pa kami ‘cause of course it’s the first time I’m meeting the both of them (Josh and Linying). So hindi pa namin ganun kakilala ‘yung isa’t isa. But eventually, they all understood what I really wanted to do. And I was really happy with where we were going with the project,” Nadine describes her “memorable” working experience.
“It was really cool that WILD was gracious enough to adjust to—” she pauses, “I guess not naman [to] my terms, pero the stuff that I’m comfortable with. When we had our second meeting and talking about the production side of the collaboration, they really wanted us to work [in a] place where I’m comfortable and I’m most free and creative. And obviously, that’s in Siargao.”
Their team flew to the island and stayed there for five days, balancing work and play. But while it was the “perfect environment” to create music, the singer admits to having doubts with the track itself.
Growing with “Overgrown”
“Parang [in] in the first few months of working on the drafts, I really was unsure of the track. Kasi it’s so far from ‘Wildest Dreams,’” she confesses, explaining their soundscapes. “Parang, ‘Do I really wanna do this? Is this my sound? Is this my style? Are people gonna like it?’ I would ask my team if the song was nice, and I would keep playing and playing it.”
“‘Do I really wanna do this? Is this my sound? Is this my style? Are people gonna like it?’ I would ask my team if the song was nice, and I would keep playing and playing it.”
But it soon became pretty meta. The song about growth eventually grew on her, describing it as a “good type of uncomfortable.”
“It’s those kinds of things that make you explore eh, that make you try new things, that make you want to go out there and not box yourself pretty much. So yeah, [I’m] definitely gonna be trying different stuff next time,” she lets out a soft laugh.
View this post on Instagram
“Overgrown” chronicles a person’s detailed evolution, which feels like a mix of confusion, pain, nostalgia, self-criticism, and acceptance. Some lyrics are reminiscent of Nadine’s life growing up in the spotlight, with strangers as spectators: “I was raised by camera flash / Wasn’t in it for the trend. Lots of scars, can’t you tell / I learned to think before I talk.”
“Some say it isn’t linear, or doing something scary. Others define it as cutting off people or habits that don’t work anymore,” I tell Nadine as I ask her about her current definition of growth.
“For me, it’s everything you mentioned. It’s kind of like a butterfly’s metamorphosis. You change into someone else, and that is the case with me. I’ve cut [off] people, I’ve changed some of my habits, I’ve pushed myself onto the edge just to face my fears,” she recounts. “I’ve gone through these challenges that I’ve always thought that I couldn’t handle, but then in the end, I was able to go through it with flying colors.”
View this post on Instagram
Although “uncomfortable,” growth is necessary for Nadine. That dreadful feeling might even indicate that she’s in the “right direction.”
“I’ve gone through these challenges that I’ve always thought that I couldn’t handle, but then in the end, I was able to go through it with flying colors.”
“I’m really grateful for all the stuff that I went through, honestly. And all of the people that have come and [gone] as well, because I don’t think I would end up in this headspace, I [wouldn’t] be the person I am now if it weren’t for all of that,” she says. “If you’ve never experienced a failure in your life, how are you gonna know [what] it feels like? You’ll never know the things you need to improve on if that never happens to you.”
“If you’ve never experienced a failure in your life, how are you gonna know [what] it feels like? You’ll never know the things you need to improve on if that never happens to you.”
Growth (Nadine’s ver.)
Speaking of her personal evolution, a slice of her past has found its way to resurface in the 2020s: The bubblegum pop era Nadine.
“Surprisingly!” the artist instantly laughs once I mention everyone’s attachment to her earliest music, plus the “Paligoy-ligoy” dance challenge on TikTok (which she hopped in, too). “I’m very happy, though.”
If that past version and present versions of her are juxtaposed to each other, what could be their common denominator?
“We both have this immense love for music. I know that I really wanna perform. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do even when I was a kid. [But their] lyricism is really different,” she says. “It feels like a different person. But one thing is for sure: We both love music. And it’s still the same—how I love performing and how I wanna perform, and I don’t think that’s ever gonna change.”
View this post on Instagram
Reconnecting with her “roots”
“When you say bubblegum pop era, I still think about the Pop Girls era eh. It’s way back,” Nadine emphasizes the last sentence. Despite it being more than a decade ago, the artist thanks how that early chapter has influenced her discipline and dedication as an artist. “When we were training for Pop Girls kasi, it was really strict. You know, we were being trained by Geleen Eugenio and she’s a dance legend. So, she likes everything to be perfect.”
“I remember then when we were training before we were even launched, ‘pag isa nagkamali, or isa iba ‘yung taas ’nung hand,” she tries to demonstrate through the screen. “We all have to do it again from the top.”
“I don’t like…” She looks at me intently, trying to find the right words. “Alam mo ‘yung, going into war without knowing how to win it?”
That training also taught Nadine to give every performance “a 110%,” and connect with people and perform the way that she does now.
I express appreciation to Nadine for walking down that timeline, and she tells me, “That’s where I started kasi eh, that’s the very beginning of this music career. I think it’s good to share that so people know.”
In the visuals of “Overgrown”—as well as Nadine’s social media sphere—it’s quite evident that she has an extraordinary relationship with nature.
She reminisces about her recent France trip. “I feel super at home when I see mountains. When I see fields of flowers, a river, it feels really different and I feel most at home. I live in the center of the city, here in Makati. So all I see [are] buildings; it’s a concrete jungle. I feel suffocated in a way. I’m not really speaking for everyone. [But] for me, it feels [like] everything is moving too fast when I’m here. Parang it’s devoid of emotions.”
“Before, I used to party a lot. And now looking back to it, yeah, it’s short-lived,” she confesses that it wouldn’t compare to her bliss when embraced with nature. “Parang when we were out of town or when we were hiking, it’s more genuine, kasi I guess, if you go out kasi, there’s alcohol involved, there [are] other people involved as well that you don’t really know.”
Nadine explains, “It was cool and fun to me also, but I guess now I’m just in a different place. I don’t really go out as much, I don’t really drink anymore. If I do go out, it has to be something very, very special. I don’t know, I think partying isn’t for me anymore. I think I’ve outgrown it.”
View this post on Instagram
“I love seeing textures of nature. I love photos of the ripples in water, the shape of the branches of trees, I love seeing the patterns of flowers,” she describes. “Although [it’s] not my first time seeing all of these things… It sort of enchants me as well. Every time I see bumblebees doing their work, [harvesting] pollen out of a flower, it amazes me. I really watch it for some reason. Sometimes, even [with] my plants here at home, when I see a new leaf coming out, I feel like it’s magic. It feels like how nature works is magic.”
“Sometimes, even [with] my plants here at home, when I see a new leaf coming out, I feel like it’s magic. It feels like how nature works is magic.”
“I’m a part of it na,” Nadine convinces me, in all smiles, on an early Saturday morning. This is probably why my favorite “Overgrown” line is “Stop to smell the flowers.” Things don’t stop for this superstar, but she takes some time to pause. Although she’s matured, she still has the same childlike wonder of her tadpole-curious version.
“Overgrown” press photos by Cenon at Mav, courtesy of Vani Altomonte