Ex-American Idol judge Randy Jackson backs Singapore-born Wiltay

US television and music veteran Randy Jackson calls Wiltay (both above) his spiritual sibling.
US television and music veteran Randy Jackson calls Wiltay (both above) his spiritual sibling.PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Former American Idol judge Randy Jackson has big dreams for home-grown pop singer Wiltay

There has not been an Asian singer who has made it big in the United States, but former American Idol judge Randy Jackson aims to change that.

And he hopes to do so with homegrown pop singer Wiltay.

He met Wiltay, whose full name is Willie Tay, by chance in Los Angeles, at music studio Soundstages.

Jackson, 59, recalls: "So I walk outside, I'm talking on the phone, a guy that I've known for a minute walks up and says 'I'm shooting a video with this amazing guy called Wiltay, you gotta check him out'."

After listening to Tay's music, Jackson liked it so much that he took him on as a protege and became his manager.

He says: "One of the things that intrigued me about Will when I met him - that has always intrigued me is East meets West. There's no music star I can recall from an Asian country that's been big in America. I think it's a bit of a challenge, but it's also something that needs to happen, and I feel that now is the time. Hopefully we can help change that."

The music producer was here for Tay's performance at last Friday's Sing50 concert, during which the latter performed his English pop single Hola (2013), which also features Mandarin and Spanish lyrics.

Tay, 25, released his debut album WTF (Wiltay Fantasy) last year. In November, it won him Best Pop Album Of The Year at the Hollywood F.A.M.E awards, which celebrates film, art, music and entertainment.

Past recipients of the award include pop singers Gwen Stefani and Paula Abdul.

Tay, whom Randy refers to as his "spiritual sibling", describes the latter as an "all-round" mentor. "He guides me not only mentally, but also spiritually, in terms of knowledge in life and learning how to share with others."

Asked to describe their working relationship, Los Angeles-based Tay says: "I feel like a kid, always picking up a toy and asking, 'Randy, what do you think about this toy?'"

Jackson left American Idol last year after having sat on its judging panel for 13 seasons.

He has continued to work in the television and music industry through his entertainment company 1963 Entertainment and its subsidiary record label Dream Merchant 21.

He is also executive producer of America's Next Best Dance Crew, a competitive reality TV show on MTV. The show is now in its eighth season.

Tay, who is single, is one of four musical acts under Jackson's management. The other artists being mentored by Jackson include London-based singer-songwriter Sonna Rele and American musical quintuplet 4th of May.

On his partnership with Tay, Randy, who is divorced, says: "I think we both meet on the same plane."

Tay, who will give a talk at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts on the topic, Be The Special, Unique You, on Wednesday, adds: "Randy has taught me a lot about what music is in the West. He has shown me what the music culture is like over there.

"Having been born in Singapore, my musical influences are from the East. Randy guides me in the direction of how we can meet in the middle."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2015, with the headline 'Wiltay's star support'. Print Edition | Subscribe