Blessed with oodles of musical talent, Hubert Ng (BBM, 2017) sings, as well as composes and produces songs for other well-known singers in the Mandopop industry. An overseas exchange programme stint in Taiwan convinced him to take the path less travelled -- that is, to remain in Taiwan to pursue a music career full-time. As they say, success is when preparation meets opportunity. Read on to find out how SMU provided him with a golden opportunity to fulfil his dreams and how a couple of fortuitous encounters in Taiwan led to him reaching his goals. Who says our SMU graduates (from the Business school, no less) don't pursue careers in the arts? We wish Hubert much success and longevity in his budding journey!
Hi Hubert! How was your SMU experience like?
Honestly, if I were given the chance to choose which university to pursue my degree in, I’ll choose SMU over and over again. My SMU experience was incredible. I forged lifelong friendships with my schoolmates, be it from my faculty or from co-curricular activities. Most of the professors I met were also really patient, and they guided me through my modules whenever I needed help.
When I first stepped into SMU, I was really nervous. I wasn’t good with words, and was rather awkward socially, but the environment in SMU was really nurturing. I had to learn to step out of my comfort zone through class participation. I started taking part in faculty and school activities to meet more people. Through my stint as the 11th BONDUE President, I gained lots of leadership experience -- I had to learn how to manage relationships between my committee members, and also forged new relationships with external organisations which were working with us. Concurrent to my commitments with community service projects (CSP) and BONDUE, I was also heavily involved with pursuing my career in music. So time management is definitely key as well. My four years in SMU just flew past so quickly that I really regret not having more time to participate in more activities.
(Hubert during his tenure as President of BONDUE. Above: the BONDUE exco supporting the launch of Hubert's EP. Below: together with Dean of LKCSB, Prof Gerry George (second from left), and (then) Associate Dean of LKCSB, Prof Tom Estad (far right)
Could you share with us a most memorable moment?
When I was President of BONDUE, I was managing an event, Slightly Scarlet, promoting fashion for a cause. An organising committee member unknowingly infringed on the copyrights of a fellow student photographer by using the latter's photograph in one of our collaterals which was published by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). Well, when the photographer discovered his photo copyright was infringed, he proceeded to send a lawyer’s warning letter to SPH, demanding compensation and a public apology. When I received the news (from the Chief Editor of STOMP) that this photographer was threatening to sue us, it was 9pm on a Friday night in SMU. I was practically running all around school, searching for this photographer, wanting to apologise for my committee member’s oversight and offer a compensation for the infringement, so as to resolve matters as swiftly as possible. I finally found him at 11pm and we had a conversation, but he insisted that the matter should be handled legally. I had no choice then but to inform the school about this incident so as to pre-empt them that they might receive a lawyer’s letter on Monday morning! But luckily, over the weekend, I spent more time speaking to him over the internet, and he finally relented and decided not to proceed with legal actions due to the fact that we were all students then, and that we had learnt from this incident.
That was the mot insane weekend I ever experienced and the craziest time in my time at SMU haha!
Have you always been passionate about music (or about arts & culture) since young? What kind of music / musical stylings are you interested in?
I picked up the Guzheng when I was 6 years old, because my mum wanted one of her three kids to learn music. I took up lessons for 14 years and obtained a diploma in Guzheng Performance, before starting to venture into Chinese Pop Music. However, I discovered had always been tone-deaf before 17, so I started training my ear (via additional lessons) every single day once I knew I was tone-deaf, and that was when it all started.
I started listening a lot to music from overseas, such as K-pop, Thai songs, Indonesian songs, EDM (electronic digital music) etc. to gain more exposure. In terms of writing, producing and singing, I actually do more ballads and rock pop songs.
(Hubert with his guitar)
We understand that an overseas exchange stint to Taiwan led to you pursuing music more seriously, and subsequently spending more time in Taiwan. Could you share with us how this came to be? Why did you choose to stay on?
Oh, this was pretty interesting! The exchange programme (planned for Term 2, 2016) was something I've ardently looked forward to since freshman year, with dream destinations being either Europe or the USA. However, two months before I had to decide on the location of exchange, my EP was released in 2015, charting #1 in Singapore, and #3 in Taiwan. I hence had to make a tough decision choosing between the dream I had since freshman year, and the decision to pursue my music career in larger markets overseas. Ultimately, I chose Taiwan.
When I was on exchange in Taiwan, whilst everyone else was exploring neighboring countries like Japan or South Korea during weekends, mine were spent attending music lessons conducted by famous producers in Taiwan. On weeknights when everybody might be partying, I would be running all around Taipei and its nearby cities, knocking on doors of record labels to submit my music demos for consideration, hoping that they’ll be interested in my music and sign me as an artiste/singer. My total email count plus knocking on doors were close to a 100, and I probably attended close to 15 music workshops during my stint in Taiwan. There were no calls, no interest, and I gave up hope thinking that anybody would be keen in me.
(Hubert at a music session)
However, in June 2016, when I was about to return to Singapore, there was an audition for a live-stream show at a recording company and I thought why not expose myself to more people and try this out. I went for the live streaming, did a one-hour show singing, and the boss really liked my music. He brought me in to try for a couple more times, and that was when I met a famous social media group 那對夫妻, a singing family unit comprising husband (Kim), wife (Nico) and daughter (妮妮, Nini) who performed on Facebook (with 2.5 million followers/fans and growing). That was when I noticed the adorable interactions between 妮妮 and her dad. Feeling homesick and missing my family, that was when inspiration struck! I sat down and started writing the song entitled《妮妮》. I did not initially intend to send the song to Kim but ultimately, I decided to because it was a song I wrote about them. Upon hearing it, Kim said he really liked it and wanted to sing it! I was taken by surprise! Long story short, we recorded the song and casually released it into the internet. After that, I went home and had a good sleep. When I awoke the next day, I had 24 missed calls from the company, and that was when I had realized that the song had taken over Taiwan by storm. We had 1 million views in a day, and 《妮妮》 soon hit the #1 charts on all platforms in Taiwan. With such an unpredicted success, the boss of the recording company then asked me to extend my stay in Taiwan to produce and write a full album for them. So that’s why I took a Leave of Absence (LOA) to continue pursuing music.
(Hubert wrote and produced a duet《不懂愛你》for Hong Kong singer Daniel Chan 陳曉東 (middle) and Kim (far right) of 那對夫妻 fame)
We think you made the right choice! Would you be based in Taiwan for a while?
I’ve been permanently stationed in Taiwan after graduation in July 2017, and I think I’ll be here for a while. So anybody who's up in Taiwan, do hit me up! I started getting some work in China (the biggest market for Mandopop) this year, and may probably move to Beijing, hopefully by the end of next year. We’ll see.
(Hubert in the recording studio in Taiwan, where he spends much of his time)
What are your future plans for your career?
I’m currently preparing new singles for myself. However, most of the time, I’m writing songs for other artistes and doing collaborations with them too. When the time is right, I’m thinking of signing potential artistes in the near future as well.
If you didn’t pursue music upon graduation, what would you have pursued instead?
I would probably go back to my business which I started after my stint in army, whilst waiting to enter SMU. It’s called Gold Online, where consumers can browse through collections and purchase their gold (be it goldbars, jewellery etc.) online.
Last updated on 07 Sep 2018 .