Singaporean singer wins US award

Wiltay.
Wiltay.

Singaporean singer Wiltay takes his guitar with him whenever he travels for holidays. He wants to capture every bit of inspiration that strikes him.

On one such occasion two years ago while on vacation with his parents, he went off to Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain, to play his guitar and sing an original song that came to his mind.

That led a music label executive to invite him to a party organised by Oscar-winning Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, where he performed an original song. It was followed by a music contract and a career based in Spain.

Three weeks ago, the 25-year-old won Best Pop Album Of The Year at the Hollywood F.A.M.E. Awards for his debut English album, WTF, or Willie Tay Fantasy, after his real name.

"I feel fortunate and incredibly blessed that I am being recognised overseas," says Tay, who is signed to international press agent Walter Dean and Warner Music Singapore. He was talking to Life! on the phone from Los Angeles.

The awards, also known as the Los Angeles Music Awards, honours independent artists and bands. Its past winners include Gwen Stefani and will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas. The other nominees this year for the Best Pop Album Of The Year include Matthew John's Here And Now, Project Dirty's Blue Fire and We The Ghost's The Kids Can't Dance.

Tay, the youngest of three children born to a Singaporean father and Taiwanese mother, is largely a self-taught musician and composer. But he says he has been passionate about music since young.

"I started getting interested in pop and rock music when I was 13... I like artists who have personality and sound different," says the musician who grew up listening to Hoobastank and Michael Jackson.

When he was around 16 years old, he went to Taiwan to get record labels to sign him up, but they rejected him because they thought his 1.7m height was too short to have star quality, he says.

Still, he persevered. During his national service, he made it to the army's Music and Drama Company.

Later, while studying for a business degree at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, he wrote an essay to convince his professors to let him switch to music and finish his final semester at Musicians Institute, a private college for contemporary music in Los Angeles.

In LA, he attended musical writing and songwriting classes with industry professionals. The stint laid the foundation for his album, which features nine songs written by him. His brand of music is inspired by acts such as Coldplay, OneRepublic and The Beatles.

Although he is now in Los Angeles working on his next album, the singer is looking for an opportunity to come back to his home country.

"I would love to come back to share my creativity with the young people here and do something to return back to Singapore."