S'pore singer Wiltay being mentored by Idol judge Randy Jackson
Seven months ago, former American Idol judge Randy Jackson took Singaporean singer Wiltay under his wing, hoping to mould him into an international artist.
His grand plans for the 26-year-old? Just two words: Global takeover.
If all goes well, Wiltay, who has made a name for himself in Spain and Los Angeles, will also enjoy a bigger slice of the pie in the European music market and the rest of the world.
Wiltay's 2014 debut solo effort, WTF, won Best Pop Album Of The Year at the Hollywood F.A.M.E. Awards in Los Angeles, and he has a second album in the pipeline.
The singer, whose full name is Willie Tay, will also make his US movie debut in Crash The Sky, co-starring US actor Booboo Stewart of The Twilight Saga.
Jackson, 59, told The New Paper: "In our future, I see hit records and world domination."
He added, jokingly: "That, and chicken rice."
The Grammy-winning producer was in Singapore to accompany Wiltay, who had performed at the Sing50 mega-concert at the National Stadium last Friday, and to soak in the sights and sounds of the city during the nation's Golden Jubilee celebrations.
Wiltay was filming a music video for his song Back To Life in downtown Los Angeles earlier this year, metres from Jackson, who was also on the set of a music video.
The director of Wiltay's music video was Jackson's friend, and he told Jackson to listen to the Singaporean's music.
The Los Angeles-based Wiltay, recalling his shock when he got the unexpected call from Jackson, said: "It was a Sunday and I was hiking when my phone rang.
"Randy introduced himself, told me he had heard my music and asked if we could grab (some) coffee.
"I remember asking him, 'Wait, is this real? Are you really calling me?' This is the guy I used to watch on American Idol."
Wiltay is one of a lucky few, for Jackson does not give everyone the time of day.
Said Jackson: "I usually ask 10 or 20 questions and I could feel his drive in all of his answers.
"I look for talented people who are so passionate that a music career is something they must and have to do and something that their lives depended on. In that case, you probably have a shot."
Wiltay is grateful to Jackson for showing him the ropes in the challenging US music industry and the pair affectionately refer to themselves as "brothers".
Said Wiltay: "The journey we have together is exciting. Randy teaches me (how) to connect with the audience through music and share the good vibes with them.
"He is also very open to my ideas and offers his input to help achieve a more polished sound."
The future looks promising for Wiltay, who was once laughed at by his Catholic High School classmates for dreaming of making it big in Tinseltown.
He recalled: "On the first day of school, by way of introducing ourselves, we all had to write down on a piece of paper what we wanted to be when we grew up. Everyone burst into laughter when I said I wanted to be a singer in Hollywood. Thinking back, dreams do come true."
He said the fact that he got Jackson as a mentor bodes well for other Singaporean artists.
"I think it is so empowering to know that someone so experienced in the music world acknowledges that we have a pool of talent in our small country," he said.
Jackson, who teased an appearance with the original panel of judges Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul on the last season of American Idol, already has his sights set on working with other home-grown talent.
He said: "I've heard a lot about Singapore from my travels in Asia. I'd like to see how we can merge the wisdom from East and West and create something special the world can digest.
"I'm already in talks about a couple of music and TV projects here to help and expand the marketplace."
While he is here, Jackson also made sure that he got a taste of local delights.
"I've already had chilli crab, black pepper crab and popiah. Now I must have that chicken rice I've heard so much about. I'd also love to see the Botanic Gardens," he said.
"I've heard a lot about Singapore from my travels in Asia. I'd like to see how we can merge the wisdom from East and West and create something special the world can digest. I'm already in talks about a couple of music and TV projects here to help and expand the marketplace."
- Randy Jackson