Danish pop star Christopher Nissen has made inroads all the way in China.
"I remember getting a call from a guy from (my label) Warner Music saying that my song CPH Girls is No. 1 on QQ Music," Nissen, who goes by just his first name professionally, tells The Straits Times while on a promotional trip here earlier this month. Singapore was among a series of Asian stops that included Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Shanghai and Taiwan.
"I was like, 'great'. But what's that?" the 25-year-old quips, at that point unaware that he was topping the chart on the Chinese music streaming service, which has 800 million users.
The song is about girls from the city of Copenhagen in Denmark and how they compare to girls from other parts of Europe and the United States, making it all the more unexpected that it took off in China.
It turns out that the decision to focus his energy on Asia, including making five trips to China, is paying off .
"That was the turning point where I felt like, 'wow, I can really do this' and my music has potential to grow outside of Denmark," says the singer, who released his first album, Colours, in 2012.
The 29-track deluxe version of his third album, Closer... And More Hits, was released recently and its singles such as Heartbeat have been receiving airplay here and around Asia.
Nissen, who is dating Danish model Cecilie Haugaard, is already working on new material for his fourth album. He says: "It's not that difficult to write a good song, but it's difficult to write a really great one. And that's what you want to do - write the best song that people have ever heard."
1 Why did you decide to go with just "Christopher" as your stage name?
I just feel like it made no sense to be anything other than Christopher. My last name is Nissen and it made no sense for me to be Christopher Nissen as an artist. Christopher is pure. It's clean.
2 Don't you think "Christopher" is such a common name that it is not very Google-friendly for you?
At some point, it's going to be Google-friendly because I will peak as an artist and I'll be big enough. But I remember the transition from being "Christopher who?" in Denmark to becoming, "oh, Christopher". Hopefully I can make that transition elsewhere as well.
3 Considering how much headway you've made in Asia, where do you plan to focus your efforts next?
I still want to focus on Asia right now because there's momentum here. Denmark, my home country, is also a huge priority. I would love to go to the US and Britain and all these markets, but it has to feel like an organic move.
Right now, it feels like people here love the music. I want to go where people love the music and not try to force it down their throats.
4 As Nordic countries go, Sweden is better known for producing pop music gold. How do you think Denmark fits in the global music scene?
I feel we have a pretty strong music scene in Denmark right now. It's stronger than ever and I'm not just saying that because I'm a part of it. We have M0 (whose vocals feature on Major Lazer and DJ Shake's hit song Lean On) and Lukas Graham (whose song 7 Years was one of the biggest hits last year).
Denmark and Norway are starting to pick up with the American pop and commercial scene.
5 You have three albums to your name now. Do you find that it gets easier with each album?
It never gets easier to write songs because you get more and more ambitious and you have to raise the bar every time.
I'm in the middle of making my fourth album and I want it to be the best work I've done. There are some big expectations and I'm usually good under pressure, but it's a lot.
6 Do you plan to stick to radio- friendly pop music?
I think so. It's so hard to say but I can't imagine doing anything other than pop music. I'll keep experimenting and looking for that edge, that sound that makes it stand out. But every melody that comes out of my mouth sounds pop and I can't help it.
7 What is your favourite part of being a pop star?
The biggest privilege of making music is that you can influence someone else's life and be a part of their life. We all have the soundtrack of our life and if I can make someone smile and laugh, or be with them when they cry, then I can't ask for more.
8 How would you like to be remembered?
I hope that when I die and people talk about me, they say, "What a loving, caring person he was and how happy and positive he was, even with his naive way of looking at the world." I get that all the time, that I'm probably naive for always thinking the best and always seeing the best in people. But I think that's a huge strength as a person and I feel blessed and grateful.
I hope to maintain that hunger and that love for life. If I can keep doing that, I hope that's going to be inspiring to some people.