Reality TV contest Project Superstar may be a platform for aspiring singers, but finalist Abigail Yeo already has an EP which has earned her a nomination for the Most Popular New Artist at the upcoming Singapore Hit Awards.
The 18-year-old says she does not see her nomination for the awards, organised by local radio station Yes 93.3, as having an edge over the 11 other competitors in the finals.
"Many of them have experience performing and taking part in contests.
"This competition is going to be tough. Everybody is working hard to win," says the Temasek Polytechnic student, who found time to chat with Life! yesterday after finishing her exams.
Some contestants on the show's third season have impressive resumes. There are 26-year-old professional singer Jayden Chew, who has serenaded audiences at music cafes, pubs and at getai shows, and athletics coach Alfred Sim, 32, who sang the theme song of MediaCorp's 2013 period drama The Journey: A Voyage.
Organiser MediaCorp said this season's Project Superstar is open to everyone regardless of experience. In previous seasons, those with singing or management contracts were not allowed to take part.
Though Yeo may be the youngest contestant, she is no stranger to competitions. Project Superstar is her 10th and she has taken part in others such as Kovan Superstar and contests organised by local Chinese radio station UFM 100.3 and Yes 93.3.
She says: "I'm too young to stop competing. I feel I learn most about music and singing when I am performing onstage under pressure, not when I'm in a classroom learning theory and techniques."
Discovering her passion for singing at the age of 12, she signed on a year later for singing lessons at Lee Wei Song School of Music, which has uncovered singers such as Stefanie Sun and Kelly Poon.
Yeo says sheepishly in front of her mother, Madam Ang Cheng Mui, 45, who was present at the interview: "I was so obsessed with singing and taking part in competitions that I became rebellious and did not want to study during my early secondary years. But I came to my senses in the crucial year and studied hard for the O levels."
The animal lover, who has three cats, is now a second-year student pursuing a diploma in veterinary technology. She plans to further her studies in the same field and get a degree.
"I'm still a student, my first calling is to complete my studies. I believe if there's a will, there will always be a way. Even if I'm studying, I can still pursue my passion for singing," says the middle child of parents who run a business selling aquarium fish.
Though her mother agrees that it is best for her to get a degree, it is clear that she is very supportive of his daughter's singing ambitions.
She and her husband forked out $100,000 for Yeo's first EP, If I'm Not That Kind Of Girl, that was released in March. The sum covered the costs of production, a showcase and promotional campaign.
Total album sales, for both physical and online copies, have yet to be collated but all 2,000 copies of the three-track EP stocked at record store HMV in Marina Square have been snapped up.
Madam Ang says: "It's worthwhile for us to help Abigail fulfil her dreams. As her dad says, as long as she's happy, that's all that matters.
"I'm very moved every time she takes to the stage to perform. Whenever she is taking part in a contest, our extended family will be there to support her. For the Project Superstar contest, we had to get 100 tickets for our family and friends."
Yeo's fans are not just limited to her family and friends. She says: "I have people waiting for me after the Project Superstar recording sessions. They come armed with fan boards emblazoned with my name and photo. They will hand me bottles of water and lozenges."
She already has plans to promote her EP overseas and record a new song penned by acclaimed Singaporean singer-songwriter Lee Wei Song.
She says: "Things just fell into place this year. First, it was the EP, then it was my song getting onto the local radio charts, then Project Superstar and now the Singapore Hit Awards. It has been such a fruitful year.
"My goal is to become like Stefanie Sun. She made it big beyond the local market. She makes me proud to be a Singaporean. "
Project Superstar airs on Channel U on Monday at 8pm.