Zendee joins music fest of YouTube wonders

Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - May 20, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Zendee got a handful of advice from Jason Mraz when she was the front act in the American singer-songwriter’s sold-out concert at the Big Dome last Tuesday night. In a move not usual for a foreign headliner, it was Mraz himself who introduced the new singer to the crowd.

“When I told him I was nervous, he said don’t be because I was performing before fellow Filipinos. When I was about to perform, he said, ‘Enjoy the stage,’” the 21-year-old YouTube sensation told The STAR in Filipino.

 Mraz offered a helping hand during the rehearsals, readily doing another one in his dressing room when she told him that she wasn’t confident of her part in Mraz’s Grammy-winning Lucky (originally a duet with Colbie Caillat) because Mraz gave the love song a reggae arrangement for his third Manila concert.

Zendee added, “He also signed my guitar with the message ‘stay true.’ I gave him my CD, and he said, ‘Don’t ever change because I know your story and I really love your story.’”

Being the front act of a top foreign artist is a coveted position to be in for any local artist, more so for those still trying to make a mark. The front acts are mostly the personal choices of the visiting artists themselves.

In the case of Zendee, she came to land this gig after the manager of Mraz as well as of Christina Perri saw her viral YouTube video and went to see her when she guested on The Ellen DeGeneres Show late last year. The talented General Santos native was a singing contest “reject” (she made the rounds in several reality singing searches but failed to make the cut), who has been posting videos of her performances on YouTube since 2009. It was a YouTube video, however, that a passer-by (who thought she was showing off) took of her while singing songs on a videoke machine in a record store in a mall, which finally gave her the break that she had long dreamed of.

Her video caught the eye of the popular American TV host as well as Mraz’s handlers, who contacted the people at Ellen to arrange a meeting with Zendee. At that time, Mraz’s return to the Philippines was still being cooked up, but they already told Zendee they want her to be the opening act.

Zendee has since been signed up by Warner Music Philippines and released a debut album titled I Believe.

During an exclusive backstage interview with The STAR, Mraz gave his take on the trend of discovering talents on YouTube and other social media. “I don’t know if it’s any easier (to make it in the music industry nowadays). I mean there are definitely more opportunities from your bedroom because of social media. But that doesn’t mean you can really touch the audience. I think it’s always been the same challenge since the beginning of time, to create something from the heart and actually have it land with user, the way it moves you.”

Zendee may have gotten her break via YouTube, but she believes that the hard work is just starting. “Pero kung may pangarap ka, yun din kasi ang opportunity na maipakita ang talent mo sa mundo. So, para sa akin, mag-post lang ng post ng videos, at imposible naman walang makapansin. I also believe in God’s will. If it’s your time (to shine) it’s your time. Yun po ang pananaw ko.”

For as long as she can remember, Zendee has always wanted to be a singer. When she was six years old, she would record her vocals in cassette tapes and mail them to her mother, who was then working overseas as a singer.

Now, what she hopes to happen next is “to inspire more people (with my story). I hope to last long in the industry. I hope to travel to other countries and that (foreigners) will also hear my voice. I hope I won’t change. I will work harder so I can have more gigs (laughs)!”

International gigs are in the offing for Zendee. On June 28, she will represent the Philippines in the music festival titled Under The Stars in Singapore featuring YouTube sensations all over the world. She will also be flying to Australia in September to guest on a singing competition there.

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