Karaoke to Canto-pop
Canto-pop singer Jason Chan Pak-yu says he's an optimist and a sentimentalist all rolled into one.
His optimism has brought him to where he is now: back in Hong Kong (his family immigrated to Canada when he was seven), signed to a major music label and on the verge of releasing his debut album.
As a sentimentalist, he's the kind of person who was born to sing. 'I'm very passionate about singing. It's my means of self-expression,' says the 23-year-old.
'Sometimes when I sing a song, its melody reminds me of the past. When I'm fully immersed in the melody, I become flooded with emotions. I'm basically a happy person, but some melodies make me very sad.'
Chan's venture into the music industry is a fairytale come true. Two years ago, he was a college student in Toronto, studying to become a child and youth worker.
Today he is working with top-notch musicians, such as Peter Kam Pui-tat (winner of a Silver Bear award for his compositions at last year's Berlin Film Festival), and veteran music producer Mark Lui Chung-tak on his ballad-laden debut album.
'I learned a lot about singing during the recording sessions,' he says, 'more than in all those years [in Toronto].'
Life has changed so much that he felt funny when his friends sung his debut single Stubborn, a Cantonese version of Only Human by Japanese star K, during karaoke gatherings.
As a Chinese teenager growing up in Toronto, singing was his favourite pastime.
'Going to karaoke was a very important activity to us in Toronto. The city has little entertainment and most of the Chinese there enjoy singing.'
Chan took part in several singing contests. He didn't win any prizes, but his beautiful voice impressed one of his best friends, who encouraged him to join the music industry and secretly sent demos to Sony BMG in Hong Kong.
His singing captured the attention of the music label, which has high hopes for the new talent.
Chan says his family has been supportive in his decision to pursue a singing career, but they are a little concerned.
After all, showbiz - despite its glamour - is a very competitive industry.
'My mother neither approves nor opposes my decision. But she's very encouraging,' he says.
'It's the same with other members of the family - they may not agree with my choice, but they give me their full support. Perhaps I'm quite vulnerable. I trust people easily and they're afraid I will get hurt.'
Chan is enjoying every minute of his career and has no worries about the future.
His dream is to work together with his music idols, including Taiwanese singer-songwriter David Tao and Canto-pop star Andy Hui Chi-on.
'I don't see the outcome [of my music venture] as the most important thing. My emphasis is on the process.
Whether I succeed or fail, it's the experience that I treasure and [the fact that] I can do something that I'm passionate about.
'Even if something bad happens to me, I'll see it in a positive light and consider it a learning experience.'