Famed Hong Kong music manager Paco Wong took a shine to Singapore singer Alex Chia

"I was still in bed when his secretary called. And I was thinking to myself: Am I dreaming?" - Singer ALEX CHIA (above) on his breakthrough
"I was still in bed when his secretary called. And I was thinking to myself: Am I dreaming?" - Singer ALEX CHIA (above) on his breakthroughPHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Singapore singer Alex Chia tops radio chart there with Cantopop theme song

Home-grown singer Alex Chia has broken out in Hong Kong by topping the Metro Radio Pop Chart with a Cantonese song.

The title of the triumphant track? Breakthrough.

Making the milestone sweeter is the fact that it is the theme song for the hit action thriller SPL2: A Time For Consequences.

He also sang the Mandarin version, titled Sha Po Lang, the music video of which has chalked up more than 800,000 views on YouTube.

It is thanks to heralded manager Paco Wong that he managed to land such a high-profile gig.

Speaking to Life when he was in town recently for the premiere of SPL2, Chia says: "During award presentations, the first thing a lot of singers say is 'Thank you, Paco.' Now I know why."

With his long locks, leather bracelet and chunky belt, the 36-year-old certainly dresses the part of the cool rocker.

Since signing on with Wong's Sun Entertainment Culture in 2013, good things have been happening for him. Wong's portfolio of clients reads like a who's who of the Chinese pop music world and have included the likes of Beyond, Sally Yeh, Andy Lau and Jacky Cheung.

Thanks to his connections, ex-Beyond guitarist Paul Wong wrote, recorded and produced Honour Among Thieves (2014) for Chia, who learnt a lesson or two from the member of the legendary Hong Kong rock band that he had long idolised.

Chia recalls completing the recording in one day instead of two, which is the norm.

Paul Wong apparently told him: "I didn't want you to repeat the same thing again. That's mimicking and not natural at all."

This was Chia's epiphany: "When recording a track, the feel is more important than timing, pitching, everything." An album is "definitely" in the works, he says.

It seems as though success has come from nowhere but he has paid his dues.

He grew up listening to rock acts such as Guns N' Roses and Metallica and began performing in bands, including Hysteria Band and V's, from his Ngee Ann Polytechnic days in the late 1990s.

Subsequently, he played at venues such as Lunar Asian Fusion Bar while running his interior design company, Tomohiro Concept Arts, which he set up in 2005.

When V's vocalist Toy Yan died in a car crash in 2011, the band's guitarist Francis Cheng roped in Chia for a tribute album.

It was a record that Chia spared no effort in making.

"I did an EP with Hysteria and I regretted it because I did not do it well. I didn't want to make the same mistake twice."

When it was completed, he shopped it around, knocking on the doors of 50 to 60 record companies in Asia to get distribution.

In the end, Paco Wong came calling. Wong, 63, tells Life separately in Cantonese why he picked Chia: "I thought that musically, he had a unique sound and that he had his own style. It's as simple as that."

He proposed signing Chia on first and, when he was a viable solo act, to sign the band on. After discussing things with Cheng from V's, Chia went for it.

Even now, the bachelor shakes his head while recalling his breakthrough, as though still in disbelief.

"I was still in bed when his secretary called. And I was thinking to myself: Am I dreaming?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2015, with the headline 'Breakthrough in Hong Kong'. Print Edition | Subscribe