Friday, Jun 10, 2016
"It's never too late to go after your dream," they say.
And that is certainly the case for Benjamin John, a local musician who does videography and web design on the side.
At 62, Mr John made an impulsive decision to sign up for The X Factor at the start of this year to pursue his dream career in music. And now, he has become the first Singaporean to compete in the British reality television singing competition, which is watched by audiences around the world.
A huge fan of the show, Mr John has seen what past winners like Susan Boyle and One Direction have achieved with their success and believes that he too, should have a shot at pop stardom.
And now, he is one step closer to that dream.
Earlier this week on Monday (June 6), a representative from The X Factor show back in London got in touch with Mr John and confirmed that he had been shortlisted for the competition.
Aware that news would reach him in June if he had passed his primary auditions, Mr John had told himself not to expect anything. So when he heard the news, he was incredibly taken aback.
"I still can't believe it. I've just been celebrating every day with friends and family - I honestly can't believe I've made it this far," he said in an interview with AsiaOne in his HDB flat at Yishun.
In late April this year, Mr John jumped on a flight to London to attend the first round of auditions for The X Factor.
When asked to recall how his first audition went, Mr John said: "I was completely numb. Not nervous or excited, just numb. I didn't know what to expect as there were so many people lining up with me. All I knew was that I could sing, I had a passion for music, and I wanted to pursue something I loved."
Before the auditions commenced, contestants were informed that they would have to go through a series of auditions with several record producers before they even made it to the live arena in front of the celebrity judges.
When Mr John heard this piece of news, he lost a bit of hope.
"I was sure the record producers would be interested in younger talent," he explained.
But he had nothing to worry about.
Known for dressing up in random, colourful costumes for his gigs, Mr John donned a traditional African-inspired outfit and told himself to go into the auditon booth confidently, even if he was a little nervous inside.
His confidence paid off because he didn't just clear his first audition, he cleared all three primary auditions with little difficulty.
"Not even a minute into my performance and the producers said, 'Benjamin, you're through to the next round'," he said. "I couldn't believe it - I still can't!"
For the auditions, he had been practising the song A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum non-stop for two days straight but just before stepping into the audition room, Mr John made a sudden switch to the song He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother by The Hollies.
When asked why he made the change, he said: "I felt that I wanted to really remain true to myself, and sing something that represented my singing style while at the same time showed off my vocal capabilities - the second song did that more."
With his experience over the years from performing at weddings. corporate events and bars, it turned out going with his gut instinct was the right thing to do.
The record producers enjoyed what they heard and have now asked him to return between July and August to sing in front of this year's celebrity judges of The X Factor - Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne, Louis Walsh and Nicole Scherzinger.
"From time to time I still ask myself if these e-mails are all pranks. But they just asked me to submit five song choices for the competition and it has started to hit me that I'm really in the competition," said Mr John.
Two of the songs he's chosen so far are Hello by Adele and Angels by Robbie Williams. Come August, we might just be able to see him sing live in London on The X Factor.