ST Sessions: Watch Singapore's Kenny Khoo and how he made a Mandarin music giant-slaying debut in Taiwan

Singer Kenny Khoo.
Singer Kenny Khoo. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM ST VIDEO

In May 2014, Hong Kong superstar Eason Chan’s rice & shine was kept from the No. 1 spot on Taiwan’s authoritative G- Music album chart by Kenny Khoo’s Ten Storeys.

Kenny who? It had music observes wondering who is this 26-year-old Singapore singer-songwriter who made his giant-slaying debut.

His pretty-boy-next-door looks have won him many female fans but Khoo does not want to be tagged as a particular type of singer-songwriter.

He told Life!: “The important thing is to be versatile as the industry changes so rapidly. When I write a song, I want it to be limitless.”

On his Taiwanese highlight last year, he said: “Very unbelievable, I really have to thank the fans. I had been there for only 1½ months and to accomplish this was really out of this world for me.”

Ten Storeys was released in Taiwan on April 28, 2014 and he promoted it there. It was a whirlwind of activity as he travelled, performed and went on variety shows.

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 songwriter Xiaohan, for all 10 tracks. He said: “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.”

Even though he speaks Mandarin at home, doing so on Taiwanese programmes was a whole different ball game.

Khoo said: “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 to a certain extent and considers each question carefully, even returning to a previous query to make sure he has answered it fully.

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, said 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 added: “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 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 but he said: “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 said: “I hope one day to have my own large-scale concert in Singapore.”

bchan@sph.com.sg

Ten Storeys is out in stores.

Watch more and connect with Kenny Khoo

Website: http://www.kennykhoofz.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KennyKhoo.QiuFengZe/timeline
Twitter: @KennyKhooFZ
YouTube: www.youtube.com/KennyKhoo1031

ST Sessions official backline equipment provider: Ebenex

Full list of ST Sessions acts in Season One

List of ST Sessions acts in ongoing Season Two