Giant slayer Kenny Khoo's debut album tops Taiwan's chart

Kenny Khoo hopes to hold a big concert in Singapore one day. -- ST PHOTO: STEFFI KOH
Kenny Khoo hopes to hold a big concert in Singapore one day. -- ST PHOTO: STEFFI KOH

Singaporean Kenny Khoo's debut album tops Taiwan's chart, ahead of an album by Eason Chan

Hong Kong superstar Eason Chan's rice & shine was kept from the No. 1 spot last month on Taiwan's authoritative G- Music album chart by Kenny Khoo's Ten Storeys.

Kenny who? He is a 25-year-old Singapore singer-songwriter who has just made his giant-slaying debut.

Chatting with Life! on Wednesday, he says: "Very unbelievable, I really have to thank the fans. I have been there for only 1½ months and to accomplish this is really out of this world for me."

Ten Storeys was released in Taiwan on April 28 and he has been promoting it there. It has been a whirlwind of activity as he travelled, performed and went on variety shows.

It has been exciting but also "intimidating at times", he says. Even though he speaks Mandarin at home, doing so on Taiwanese programmes was a whole different ball game.

Khoo, the older of two sons of retiree parents, says: "The pace is very fast. When they cue you, you have to say something immediately. You have to be loud, attention-grabbing and interesting."

In conversation, he is soft-spoken, in part because he is nursing a cold and does not want to strain his voice. But he considers each question carefully, even returning to a previous query to make sure he has answered it fully.

He has dealt with more challenging situations. On a variety show, he had to sing Eason Chan's Brother And Sister, as though he were watching a pornographic film.

He also got to appear on 100% Entertainment, hosted by popular star Show Lo. Khoo says: "When he came on stage, I could not believe he was standing in front of me... I was quite shaken."

Khoo is signed to local outfit Funkie Monkies Productions, which is helmed by songwriters Eric Ng and Xiaohan.

Funkie Monkies has previously tried to break singer-songwriters Wu Jiahui and Ming Bridges into the Taiwanese market. Their accomplishments in Taiwan might be less eye-catching but composer-producer Ng, 38, says that making a push there helped to open doors beyond. It led to gigs for Bridges in Korea, China and Indonesia.

Funkie Monkies has built up a network of contacts in Taiwan but Ng adds: "If the artist is a 'cannot-make-it' one, even if you bring them over, they wouldn't want to take."

It helps that Khoo sings, writes and acts. He had a supporting role in Chai Yee Wei's That Girl In Pinafore (2013) as a student who is into music.

His pretty-boy-next-door looks have won him female fans. His Facebook page has more than 6,000 likes, of which 80 per cent are from Taiwan and 90 per cent are girls. About 30 to 40 hardcore fans followed him around as he traipsed from Taichung to Taipei to Tainan last month.

The album is named Ten Storeys as it is about love stories which take place in buildings; the 10 tracks progress from the first floor to 10th floor.

Khoo composed the music and wrote lyrics, often partnering Xiaohan, for all 10 tracks. He says: "Each level symbolises a different aspect of relationships and when you reach level 10, it's a little bit of contentment.

"I'm at level eight, Soulmate. The song is about giving love to your family, friends and loved ones. I've realised that sometimes we might be very selfish in love but, ultimately, you want the other party to be happy."

About half of the album tracks are based on his own experiences. He says there is someone whom he admires, but he is still single as career comes first.

Khoo does not want to be tagged as a particular type of singer-songwriter. "The important thing is to be versatile as the industry changes so rapidly. When I write a song, I want it to be limitless."

His career has taken off in a way that he could never have imagined. Just two years ago, he was learning to write songs at Funkie Monkies after he found out that Jam Hsiao's Clone, one of his favourite songs, was penned by Ng and Xiaohan.

He decided to quit his part-time degree studies in business at SIM University (UniSIM).

It was not an easy decision buthe says: "All the worries in life are gone and I'm living in the moment. I can give people happiness and I feel very happy on stage. That's why I chose this path."

Ask what his dream is and he says: "I hope one day to have my own large-scale concert in Singapore."

Ten Storeys is out in stores.