While most local singers find it hard to break into the English-language music market, Mandopop singer Derrick Hoh is taking a stab at it with his first English EP All I Want.
Speaking to Life! over the telephone from Taipei where he is promoting his EP, the Singaporean says: "Now, with the click of the button, even people all the way in Alaska can get my song. It makes sense to broaden my audience by using the international language of English."
The EP All I Want was released on May 14 and has sold close to 300 copies collectively in physical CDs and digital sales. The EP debuted on the Singapore iTunes album chart on May 15 at No. 5 and held on to the spot for two days.
The boyish singer, 27, got his big break singing Mandarin pop tunes on reality TV singing contest Project Superstar in 2005. He released two Mandarin albums, Unclassified (2008) and Change (2010), before striking gold with an iTunes chart-topping English single, Forever, last year.
Forever has sold more than 1,300 physical copies and in digital downloads since its release in January last year.
Crossing over into English has paid off. Hoh won two awards on the same day last year, on Nov 22. He garnered the Best Asian Artiste Award- Singapore at the K-pop music award ceremony Mnet Asian Music Awards held in Hong Kong. At the Singapore Hit Awards 2013 at Suntec City Convention Centre, he accepted the Breakthrough Artiste Award in person.
He says: "It feels good to receive an award and get the recognition at home. But to be honest, it was a little unexpected hearing that I won an award at the Mnet Asian Music Awards."
"When I found out who were the winners from the other region, one of them was Aaron Kwok, I was really on cloud nine. It was so shiok."
Hong Kong singer-actor Kwok, one of Hoh's idols, won Best Asian Artist for China at the awards. And the Singaporean singer hopes to work on choreography with the Heavenly King, known for his high-octane dance moves.
While Hoh's English ventures have borne fruit, the bilingual singer says his heart is still with Mandopop.
Calling All I Want, which also includes Forever, "a nice experiment", he adds that he is starting work on his Mandarin album this month. That disc is slated for release at the end of the year.
"I think Mandarin will still be my main focus," he says of his career. "I still want to promote Chinese music as much as I can. I'll stick true to who I am."
Even though he admires American singers Brian McKnight and the late Michael Jackson, he says "it was the Mandopop singers that really made me want to perform and feel like I had a chance to be a singer".
He singles out Stefanie Sun as a great inspiration for proving that Singaporeans can be original stars.
After nearly a decade in show business, Hoh admits thinking at times that it is time to walk down the aisle.
His EP's title track has lyrics about a boy wanting a girl. One line goes "All I really want is all of you, girl" , and Hoh says he has felt that desire too.
The bachelor, who says he is not dating anyone now, laments that he has not been able find someone to settle down with as he is always travelling for work.
"I just don't have the chance to meet someone that I can stay with for a long time in one place," says the singer, who splits his time between Taipei and Singapore. "I personally think that a long- distance relationship will take a toll on both parties."
His 65-year-old mother, a housewife, is concerned over whether she will get a daughter-in- law, he reveals.
The younger of two children, whose father is a 72-year-old retired contractor, reassures her via the media: "Marriage is definitely on my bucket list. Don't worry."
All I Want is out in shops and can be downloaded from iTunes.