At the age of 14, local songwriter-producer Amir Masoh had big dreams.
Not only did he want to bag a prestigious Grammy, he wanted to break into the Mandopop market as a producer and "do the Taiwan thing".
Many laughed at him, with someone pointing out that he was not even Chinese to begin with.
Over the past decade, Mr Amir, 36, proved naysayers wrong by going on to arrange songs for notable names like Taiwanese singers Rainie Yang and Roger Yang, Hong Kong crooner Jacky Cheung and Hebe of Taiwanese girl group S.H.E., thanks to various opportunities in the market and connections he had made.
Closer to home, he has enjoyed an illustrious career and wrote or produced songs and arranged music for popular artists like Singapore Idol winner Taufik Batisah, Malaysian pop diva Ziana Zain and local singer Imran Ajmain.
Most recently, he penned three songs - Unbreakable, Ordinary and You're Wonderful - for Songs of the Games, the official album for the upcoming 28th SEA Games, which is available at www.songsofthegames.com
Mr Amir, who now divides his time between London and Singapore, recalled his experience with Cheung, widely regarded as one of the four Heavenly Kings of Cantopop and nicknamed God of Songs.
As a teenager, he had always wanted to work with the 53-year-old veteran.
Over the years, he composed several tracks and sent them to Cheung's management in the hope one will be picked.
The rejections came, perhaps because, Mr Amir speculated, the songs were not in line with Cheung's balladeer style.
"Someone told me, 'Why don't you just give him what he wants?' But I said (my songs) are what he needed," Mr Amir, who admitted to pushing the envelope, told The New Paper yesterday.
Eventually, Vain Ease, which he described as "Adele meets electronic music", ended up on Cheung's 2014 album Wake Up Dreaming.
As for Roger Yang, who is dubbed Iron Lung Prince by the Taiwanese media, Mr Amir was chosen to arrange two songs, The Appearance and The Cocoon of Life, for the 43-year-old powerhouse rocker's 2014 album Beast In The Dark.
He recalled: "When I first met him in the studio, I thought he was a studio assistant. He was wearing a T-shirt and jeans and was very laid-back.
"When we finished, he wrote me a lovely note and made sure his producer told me how appreciative he was. It's not often that you get this from a star."
Mr Amir's memory of his teen dream of breaking into the Mandopop industry was also what led to the motivational chorus in the SEA Games song Ordinary, performed by local quartet The Sam Willows.
It contains the lyrics "Never meant to be easy/When you're trying to be more than ordinary" and "And now I tell my little boy from this little town/The road ahead is hard but you'll find your way around" - something he could easily relate to.
Unbreakable was sung by Tabitha Nauser and You're Wonderful by Nauser, Tay Kewei and Gayle Nerva.
Asked about his involvement in the SEA Games album, he said that he originally intended to write only one song.
"I'm the sort of person to give you five songs if you ask for one. This time I submitted three and by some fluke, they liked all three so I suppose I was lucky," he said, adding that the songs came from a "personal space".
He even added his own K-pop twist to Unbreakable, but made sure it didn't sound like the other K-pop tunes that were already out there.
It's the same reason why he refused to write a song for Cheung based on a formula that was already tried and tested.
"I like being in the minority and going against the grain. The music of tomorrow will come from the minority. If we go with the flow, we won't come up with anything different," reasoned the bachelor, who studied Film, Sound and Video at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
His upcoming project is a "big undertaking" that he hopes will cause a shift in the K-pop landscape, but declined to reveal more.
In addition, he is also working with Laura White, a former contestant of the fifth season of UK reality TV singing show The X Factor.
Mr Amir has a wish list of musicians that he hopes to collaborate with one day.
They include British pop star Robbie Williams, English singer-songwriter Adele, Malaysian singers Sheila Majid and Siti Nurhaliza.
"To me, it's not about who they are. Fame is irrelevant. Their personality and attitude are far more important," he said.
He also hopes to collaborate with local artists.
Mr Amir's guiding principle in music is to keep learning, be thankful and stay humble.
"It would be sad to be 36 and say I've done it all. An Asian artist told me once that I was greedy (for bigger or better opportunities), but I think it's important to be grateful and never contented," he said.
This article was first published on May 5, 2015.
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