Mandopop singer Bii holding solo concert in Singapore and Taipei

Bii, who is from South Korea, moved to Taipei at age 17 to undergo training to become a singer.
Bii, who is from South Korea, moved to Taipei at age 17 to undergo training to become a singer.PHOTO: KKBOX

Taiwanese-Korean singer Bii was approached to audition for a top South Korean talent agency, but signed with a Taiwanese label in a twist of fate

8Q

Mandopop singer Bii, 27, had a shot at joining the entertainment company behind K-pop's biggest exports, such as Girls' Generation and EXO.

But the Taiwanese-Korean's chances were dashed when his mother tore up the name card that was passed to him by a scout from South Korean talent agency SM Entertainment.

"During my teens, the scout approached me to audition. When I passed the scout's name card to my mother, she tore it up. She was against me joining show business,'' recalls Bii, who grew up in South Korea and whose real name is Pil Seo Jin.

His father is Taiwanese and, in a curious twist of fate, it was because of him that Bii ended up fulfilling his singing dreams. His father's friend introduced him to Taiwanese label Eagle Music, which gave him a recording deal. He made his debut in 2010.

Speaking in Mandarin over the phone from Taipei last month, he says: "I signed with my Taiwanese agency before telling my mother. I later persuaded her that I would work hard and take care of myself. I also told her I would buy her loads of presents when I make it big."

Armed with a rudimentary grasp of Mandarin, the then 17-year-old moved to Taipei alone to undergo training to become a singer.

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  • WHERE: The Star Theatre, 04-01 The Star Performing Arts Centre, 1 Vista Exchange Green

    WHEN: Saturday, 8pm

    ADMISSION: Only $148 tickets from Sistic are available (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

The elder of two brothers adopted the stage name Bii - the double "i" represents his dual ethnic heritage. He went on to release four studio albums: Bii Story (2010), Come Back To Bii (2013), Action Bii (2014), and I'm Bii To The Double I (2016).

At last year's 11th KKBox Music Awards in Taiwan, he was named one of the top 10 most-listened-to artists on music-streaming site KKBox in 2015.

The rising star also sold out all 4,000 tickets to his Taipei concert within a minute last year. He will hold his first solo concert here on Saturday, before taking the show - also for the first time - to Taipei Arena, a coveted concert venue, in December.

He dreams of one day bringing his music to his home country.

He says: "It could be remixes or Korean versions of my Mandarin songs. I would feel so honoured to be able to do that."

1 People have said you bear a resemblance to Chinese singeractor Luhan, who was part of K-pop group EXO. What are your thoughts?

I've heard people saying that Luhan and I look similar. Maybe it is our face shape. I've seen him in person, but I don't think we look that alike. Still, I feel it is an honour because Luhan is good-looking. Thank you, everyone.

2 Which South Korean artists do you hope to work with one day?

I would feel so honoured to be able to work with singer IU or indie band Hyukoh. Both acts put out refreshing works and write their own songs. Their songs are loved by people of all ages.

3The guyliner has become your signature look. Why do you draw your eyes?

I do it because I feel that it makes me look more awake. I also think it makes me look more charming in photos.

I can draw my eyes while I am in the car or on the plane. If I am not moving, I can get it done in under two minutes.

4 What do you have to say to critics who say that men who wear eyeliner are effeminate?

Times have changed. It's common for men to wear make-up and take care of their looks. If wearing eyeliner can give me a unique look and boost my confidence, I don't see any issue with it. I don't care if people call me effeminate.

Since my fourth album, I've changed my look. Now, I go for a softer look by using coffee brown eyeshadow instead.

5 Last year, you revealed that you were depressed. What upset you?

I'm someone who gives myself a lot of pressure; I tend to ruminate. I've been in show business for seven years and I felt that time flew by so quickly. I was wondering if I could breathe new life into my songs and performance.

I'm feeling much better now. My boss and manager are really understanding, they gave me time off to fly to South Korea to visit my family. I'm regularly taking medication to calm myself.

6 You speak fluent Mandarin despite picking it up at only age 17. How did you manage to master the Chinese language ?

I still feel I am not eloquent. If you want to learn Mandarin, you should not be afraid to speak it. Lots of practice is essential. Do not let nerves get the better of you when trying to understand Mandarin conversations. The more you practise, the better you will get at the language.

7 How does it feel to be holding your first concert at Taipei Arena later this year?

I never imagined it would take me so long before I could hold a concert there. It has been 10 years since I arrived in Taiwan and it has been seven since I made my debut.

The journey has not been easy, but I made it to where I am today because of my Eagle Music family and my fans. I am extremely grateful for their constant support.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

I hope to be remembered as a filial son. I've always wanted to give the best to my family; I'm working towards that goal.

As a singer, I hope my songs will leave an impression on listeners, that they will be able to move people.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2017, with the headline 'From K-pop to Mandopop'. Print Edition | Subscribe