So, we had the chance to meet up with Billy Simpson, the winner of the first season for The Voice Indonesia as he was recently in town to perform at the Lake Garden Festival.
From just being a bassist in church to being a winner of an iconic singing competition, Billy Simpson told us a little bit more about his life and his journey to becoming a singer-songwriter. Through the interview, we asked him about his experience in Malaysia so far and discovered that he has a “close” relationship with Malaysia too!
That’s right, Billyvers! Check out what went down when we met Billy Simpson for the first time in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:
H: Hi Billy! How is Malaysia treating you so far?
B: So far so good lah. I’ve been to Malaysia before and I love the food here. But this is my first time doing promotions here because before this, I’ve always only been here for holidays. My dad actually grew up in Penang.
H: Oh, that’s cool! When was your last time here in Malaysia then?
B: Few months ago…I think it was May? I was in Penang for a week with my friends because we just want to look for good food.
H: So since you’ve been to Malaysia before, have you ever heard of any songs from Malaysian artistes?
B: Of course! But they are like the older ones like Siti Nurhaliza, Sheila Majid, and the other idols.
H: That’s interesting. Then what are your favourite songs from them?
B: Siti Nurhaliza’s “Aku Cinta Pintamu?” Is it? *sings a little* That’s a hit song, right? That’s the song that made her well known in Indonesia, right?
H: Haha, yes I think so. Okay, so you’re the winner of The Voice Indonesia, are there any unique vocal techniques that you’d like to share with the aspiring singers out there?
B: You know, actually, even singing, I learnt it by myself in the toilet. I’ve never had any professional trainings before. I have no experience and I never did singing professionally before The Voice, so umm, for special techniques, I don’t think I use any special techniques at all! My singing style is like..sending a message. It’s not only the melody, rhythm, fork, beats, or lyrics..it’s the message that I want to send across. I want my music to impact people.
H: If you want your music to give a certain impact to people, have you ever thought of writing your own songs to inspire people as well?
B: Actually, this is pretty rare for a winner of a singing competition. All these while, the label would prepare 10 to 14 songs for the winners once they’ve won the competition. So that happened to me as well. But the label somehow, out of the blue, they asked, “Billy, do you write your own songs?” I said yes. They said, “We’ll have to listen to them then”. Then I showed it to them and they decided, “You know, we might as well use all your songs so that we can promote you as a singer-songwriter”. I got a shock because I kept all the songs for years and they didn’t go anywhere. But now, everyone is singing it and few days ago, I saw a Malaysian selfie video featuring my song! It’s just crazy!
H: You’ve recently released the music video for the song “Janjimu Itu” from your latest album “Lukisanku”. What was the inspiration behind the song?
B: I wrote all of it and the song is about keeping a promise. It’s not just talk the talk, but walk the talk. I just tell everyone to listen to that song so that they can be inspired to keep their promises more.
H: You’re going to perform at the City Harvest KL this Sunday (August 17th), what can people expect from your performance that day?
B: Umm, this is the thing. For me, the wonderful thing about winning The Voice is not just me winning and having my career, but I have a story to tell. You know, my background is not that advantageous. I don’t have a musical family and I’ve never had any professional training before. I have no recording experience, nothing. And I started singing when I was in my second year of university and that was my first time singing in public.
H: How was the performance?
B: It was terrible *laughs* I picked the wrong song. I picked the song that wasn’t my genre and then I forgot the lyrics. But you know, nevertheless, that was the turning point of my life. I fell in love with singing but I still didn’t receive any professional training. I still worked an office job from 9 to 5, until The Voice. Yeah, so I hope my story can inspire and encourage people to just be yourself, give their best in what they do and not be afraid to try something new! Because for me, singing is something I didn’t do since young.
H: But you’ve been playing bass since you were 13-year-old, right?
B: Playing bass and singing, they are both very hard. Usually, the singers start from playing the guitar. But that was pretty odd, right? *laughs*
H: At that time, have you ever thought of being a singer instead of just playing bass?
B: Nope. When I started learning to play the bass, I didn’t have as much confidence as compared to now. Because you know, being a musician, you’re not in the spotlight and you don’t get as much attention as say..the singer. It’s like me being in my comfort zone, behind the main vocals. Actually I was very happy being a bassist back then, just that everything changed during my university days.
H: Is there any pressure from being a singer right now?
B: I used to get a lot of pressure when I joined The Voice because I didn’t get any blessings from my parents. They will let me sing for fun or for church, but not for work. But everything changed when the video was aired on TV. My cousins, my family, and my best friends decided to call my parents, asking them, “Hey your son can SING!” And I think so too *laughs*. Because they are not musical, so they didn’t feel anything. So yeah, after that they’ve been very supportive. All went well until today.
H: Few months ago, we met up with YouTube stars Sam Tsui and Kurt Schneider. Have you ever heard their cover videos before?
B: Sam is the kid that plays the guitar, right?
H: Oh no, that’s Sungha-Jung! We’re assuming you haven’t heard of them. Which YouTube musicians do you know of then and would like to collaborate with?
B: I love Gabe Bondoc, Philippine. I love Tyler Ward, Kina Grannis but somehow I don’t know Sam Tsui *laughs*! But I know all these guys. Who else? Oh, and of course Boyce Avenue and Jayesslee, the twins who sang the “Hillsong”! I’m not a YouTube star myself but if you ask me if I have the desire to collaborate with them, then of course yes! Especially last time, even before The Voice. However, because I am with a major label, I don’t think that’s possible. Maybe for fun, if I meet them? It wouldn’t be something I am allowed to do. But then again, who knows?
H: So you mentioned that when you first started singing in your uni, you picked the wrong genre. What was the genre you picked?
B: I sang “I Believe I Can Fly”. It’s an okay song and I can sing it now! I picked the song at that time because I was familiar with the song but it wasn’t my style. Throughout the years, I learned that there are a lot of considerations to take into before picking the right song. The message, the genre, the beat…so now I’m focusing on genres like pop with a bit of British and folk. You know, songs with lots of acoustic guitars.
H: Do you have any guilty listening pleasures on your playlist? Like songs you’ve never told anyone about?
B: My music taste is pretty boring *laughs*. I love listening to Coldplay and Adele and my ultimate band is actually One Republic. For now, I’m listening to all the songs from “The Fault in Our Stars”. All the songs in the movie are great! And you know, I actually picked my songs from the movies. I have no musical background, but I watched a lot of movies with great music like the songs Disney movies, Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and even Michael Jackson’s songs!
H: One last question! Do you still get stage fright? And if you do, what do you do to calm yourself down?
B: Do I still get stage fright? Yes. Do I get nervous? Yes, all the time. But I think that won’t go away as long as you’re a human being *laughs*. The nervousness is still there but you learn to get familiar with it. You know it. You’ve visited it before. So I think it’s the kind of feeling you need to work around with. Sometimes when we are nervous, we tend to focus so much on ourselves. Maybe we think like, “How to handle the crowd?”, “What will people think about me?”, “Will I mess up?”, especially before I stepped onto the Blind Audition stage. That was like the craziest moment and most nerve-wracking experience ever. Singing behind 4 maestros’ backs, you never know what will happen to you. The whole of Indonesia was listening to every note that you sing, you can go too fast at times. It’s just crazy but I prayed to myself that day. The moment I started to sing, I felt like I was singing in my bedroom and I was completely in my comfort zone. The nervousness was still there but once I started to sing, it was gone.
H: Like you’re in the singing zone?
B: Oh yes! It’s like I’m in the zone! That’s the term for it.
H: Haha okay cool. That’s all for the interview. Thank you so much!
B: Thank you too!
(Featured image via City Harvest KL )