You can make it anywhere as a musician if you can make it in Singapore. That was the advice local singer Nathan Hartono gave to hundreds of fans at a meet-and-greet session yesterday at Bugis+ shopping mall.
The crooner, who came in second in the latest season of reality singing competition Sing! China in Beijing on Oct 7, was there to mingle with fans.
"I've been performing in shopping malls like this for a long time," he told the crowd, as he reminisced about his first performance on stage at Bishan's Junction 8 mall in 2005 when he was just 14 years old.
"The music performer I am today is moulded from being in Singapore. If you can make it in Singapore as a musician, you can make it anywhere. It's a tough crowd here."
Hartono was also at Bugis+ to fulfil a Milo promise in person.
In an earlier interview with The Straits Times, Hartono had said that if he won the contest, he would "rent a fleet of Milo vans and treat everybody to Milo peng (iced Milo)".
He may not have won, but Nestle Singapore, which manufactures the chocolate malt beverage, went ahead to deploy the green vans thrice to give out free iced Milo drinks - once at Plaza Singapura on Oct 7, a few hours before the competition final; another time at Bedok Mall on Friday; and once more at Bugis+ yesterday.
Hartono, who returned to Singapore from China last Sunday, was his jovial self yesterday as he went on stage to answer questions in front of screaming fans.
"The last few months were very rewarding, but Singapore is still home," the 25-year-old said, adding that he is glad to be back here. "The weather is a welcome warmth. I miss the humidity."
Referring to his Milo promise, Hartono confessed it began as a joke. He said: "I didn't think this was gonna be a thing. The Straits Times asked me what I would do if I won. I made a joke because I didn't want to be boring."
And he was anything but boring to his swooning supporters who showed up with cameras and gifts.
Some, like Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Zhang Yue, 20, were there from as early as 10am, even though Hartono was due to appear only at 3pm. The Beijing native, who was there with three other schoolmates, said: "We came early because we were too excited. We were afraid we couldn't get close to him."
But get close to him she did. Ms Zhang was one of 100 fans who got to take photos with Hartono on stage. "My heart kept racing. He sings well and he's very handsome," said Ms Zhang, giggling.
For nearly two hours, Hartono crooned, signed autographs, handed out cups of Milo to the crowd and played stage games with fans.
The performer almost won a game of musical chairs, but lost the final chair to a woman from Beijing.
"Second place again," he said as the crowd roared with laughter.
Singaporean Charmaine Yeo, 14, a School of the Arts Singapore student, was there with her sister and father. She was also at Plaza Singapura on Oct 7 for Milo drinks.
"I've been a very big fan since he joined the competition. He has this charisma, a very nice voice and very good stage presence."
Fans both at home and abroad can expect to hear more of his music soon, as Hartono said he feels a self-imposed pressure to ride on the wave of his success at the Sing! China competition. "The pressure right now is all my own pressure on myself. I want to go forward and not waste this opportunity. I want to keep making music in Singapore and outside Singapore."