Stewart Sellan is from a small town called Telok Panglima Garang located in a city called Kuala Langat within Malaysia. At 8 years old, he realized his passion for music in a church with his parents. At that time, making a career in music was a dream. Now, Sellan that dream is a reality. He lives in New York City. He is a founding member of the successful band. He is an award-winning musician. That passion for music that was realized at a young age changed his life.
Sellan is the lead guitarist of the band Beat The System. He has no formal training in any musical background, but his determination caused him to take lessons from friends in church, and use his spare time to watch videos. His perseverance paid off. His band recently won Song of The Year in Asian Voice Independent Music Awards for the single ‘Shine’.
“My interest in music grew even stronger during my college years when I found out that there are courses available for music. After being exposed to bands like Metallica, Nirvana, Megadeth, Iron Maiden I knew that I can make a career in music as well,” he said. “But due to limited opportunities in Malaysia I had to pursue my education in engineering while doing music as a hobby. During my job as an engineer I always looked out for opportunities to pursue my career in music as it was my passion to make a living as a full time musician.”
Sellan did not want to be stuck in the 9-5 job routine that he was in. He wanted to be on a stage, travel the world, and live his passion.
“My initial instrument that I chose was drums,” he described. “I played drums for 5 years in church. During that time there was an absence of bass guitarist in the church so I decided to learn how to play the bass guitar. I went to seek lessons from my music pastor and he gave me a piece of advice that I should learn to play the electric guitar first, because it will help me to learn both the electric guitar and the bass guitar simultaneously. I took his advice and learned the basics under him. As years went by I discovered the sound of distortion and overdrive, and I fell in love with it instantaneously. Since then, electric guitar has my main instrument that I wanted to focus on.”
Sellan took the lessons he learned and became involved in a Youth Alive band in hs church called JC Radix for 4 years. He was also involved in the Worship Team as a Music Director for 3 years, and eventually was performing on stage. He still remembers his first solo musical performance, which was at his uncle’s wedding in a rock club in Malaysia.
“It was a terrifying experience performing in a different crowd besides my home church. In that performance I did play some wrong notes a couple of times. I did experience stage fright, but now I have managed to overcome it,” he recalled.
Besides electric guitar, Sellan can play the acoustic guitar, bass guitar and drums on an amateur level. His innate talent is recognized by all that work with him.
“Stewart has the ability to create guitar riffs that supports the melody of the songs and this creates a very powerful composition,” said Ahmad Mokhtaza, head of A&R of Warner Music Malaysia.
“Other than the fact that he is a very gifted guitarist, there’s just something about Stewart’s choice of chords and notes in the music he creates that is magical. It’s a good blend of modern sound and catchy melody that do not take away the attention from the vocalist,” said Hermond Cheng, the General Manager of Sony Music Malaysia.
Sellan also says that Marc McClusky, who is known for his work with Weezer, Everclear and many more, helped guide him during guitar recording process on tone setting and recording techniques in order to get a good guitar tone. He was also given the opportunity to meet with Mark Tremonti of Creed and Alter Bridge and learn from him. Being given these opportunities are part of why he decided to make the move from Malaysia to New York City.
“In Malaysia most event organizers would prefer a solo artist rather than a band in order for them to save cost on backline equipment and minimize production crews. This has slowly showed decline in bands being able to make a living in music,” he described. “Music in the United States is solely judged on the quality of the songs, and an artist’s talent and opportunities are given for those deserving without prejudice which is opposite in Malaysia.”
The move has turned out well for Sellan. He is recognized as a talented guitar player on an international level, and has many plans for the future.
“I would love to have a signature series guitar under my name,” he said. “But I want to continue writing chart topping songs.”