Olivia Ong: Breaking out to come home

18 October 2012 / 4 years 1 week ago

Source: The New PaperShe built her singing career overseas, spending four years in Japan and the last three in Taiwan.But she is still "very much a Singaporean" who misses the local food and returns home every few months.In between rehearsals for the upcoming National Day Parade (NDP), local singer Olivia Ong, 26, told LOUD over the phone that she went overseas because she wanted to be exposed to a bigger music industry."The (best thing about building your career overseas) is when you are presented with opportunities to work with very talented people in a stimulating environment," she said.Ong, together with seven-year-old Natanya Tan, will be singing this year's NDP theme song, Love At First Light.She said this is a milestone in her career, which started when she left for Japan as a 17-year-old and sang English bossa nova covers.She became a familiar face here after she sang the theme song to Channel 8's 2008 hit drama, The Little Nyonya, and has released three Mandarin albums since 2010."It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To be part of the National Day Parade is a big deal and you gain lots of exposure at the same time," Ong maintained."Millions of people will be tuning in. It'll be fun and exciting and hopefully, I will do Singapore proud."She added that she was selected for the honour after a poll was carried out by the NDP committee on who national servicemen want to see singing the theme song.She does not know who else was in the poll.Although she is based in Taipei, Ong said she keeps track of the local music scene through Facebook.She feels there is now more awareness of what is happening because of local music festivals like Baybeats, and increased media coverage.While she feels that Singaporeans have always been accepting of home-grown musicians, Ong is hoping for more support."Singaporeans are critical. If you can make it in Singapore, you can make it anywhere else," she said."As a singer, you cannot be pampered and always want people to tell you that you are good."By facing a critical crowd, it pushes you to improve yourself."Singapore has never been far away for Ong, who returns every two months, depending on her work schedule. She stays between two days and two weeks each time.Her mother visits her in Taipei occasionally and cooks her favourite chicken rice, laksa and Nonya food.Ong has taken the Republic's linguistic quirks with her to Taiwan."I emphasise the wrong words when I speak," she said."I often say 'hao chi dao yao ming' (Mandarin for so delicious that it kills you) and I realise the Taiwanese don't talk like that."Wrong ExpectationsIt is not easy making inroads in a foreign country, and Ong said she was hit hardest in Japan because she had the wrong expectations and mindset."I was really shallow in the past because I just wanted to be famous. I waited for my then-management company to send me for dance lessons and provide me songs..."I didn't take the initiative to learn something and I felt I had wasted my time."She now strives to be like the late Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng, and successful Singaporean exports like singers Tanya Chua and Stefanie Sun.Ong said she is still building her career and feels she can say she has arrived only when she is able to do a world tour.She has had good opportunities so far though.After a supporting role in the 2011 local nostalgic movie, It's a Great Great World, Ong gave acting another shot earlier this year when she played the female lead in a romantic micro film titled Shalom Journey, a tourism initiative introducing Israel to the Taiwan market.Next month, she will hold a ticketed concert in Taipei. While this is not her first gig there, it will be her largest so far with a maximum capacity of 3,000.Her previous show catered to a smaller audience of 1,000.Said Ong: "I'm now in a phase where I'm able to hold concerts here and there. I'm also writing songs and working on my next album to be released next year."

Join in the talk