How SB19’s Stell became David Foster’s friend

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
How SB19�s Stell became David Foster�s friend
SB19 member Stell performs Celine Dion's All By Myself at the Big Dome concert of the power ballad's composer himself, Canadian hitmaker David Foster.

SB19’s Stell said he felt like a winner after performing Celine Dion’s All By Myself with the power ballad’s composer himself, David Foster.

Stell got to share the stage with the Canadian hitmaker for his “HITMAN: David Foster and Friends Asia Tour 2024” show at the Araneta Coliseum on Tuesday night.

It was the latest edition of David’s signature all-star concert series that would feature his friends and frequent collaborators. For the Manila show, the man responsible for writing some of the biggest hits for the “who’s who” in the music world, was joined by All 4 One, Brian McKnight and his wife, Katharine Mcphee, as his special guests.

With the blessing of Foster, Stell was initially tapped by producer, MQLIVE, as the opening act. But much to the surprise of the audience on the concert itself, he became one of David’s featured “friends,” with the job of delivering one of the, if not the most difficult song of the night, with its famously sky-high notes.

The STAR learned from an MQLIVE source that they also found out about Stell’s number with Foster just an hour before the concert. We were told that David first heard Stell sing during a rehearsal and then asked for him to join him on stage “to rehearse with him, to sing” what would turn out to be All By Myself.

But even before the concert, the producer already sent to David videos of Stell singing, including his performance at National Artist Ryan Cayabyab’s “Gen C” concert in May. The producer got Stell as front act following SB19’s sold-out concerts at Araneta.

Meanwhile, in a separate post, Stell said he still couldn’t believe he was given the opportunity to perform with Foster.

At first, he thought he was just doing a soundcheck for his spot, one of the routinary preparations, just like rehearsals, before live performances but he was surprised to find Mr. Hitman himself on the piano.

“So pag-akyat ko ng stage dapat mag-soundcheck na ako for my spot, but nagulat ako Sir David (was) playing the piano,” he said in a post.

“Then he asked me kung suot ko na in ears ko kasi pwede daw namin i-try yung song. Nagulat ako, sabi ko sa utak ko, ‘What song?’

“So na pa ‘huh’ ako then sabi niya All By Myself, give it a try daw. Bilang lutang ako sa sobrang gulat kinanta ko lang siya kung paano ko siya kinakanta,” said Stell, who has an earlier viral performance of the song for SB19 digital concert “Back in the Zone.”

Despite his nervousness, he accepted the challenge when David then asked him afterwards, “Do you want to perform this song tonight?”

“Nasabi ko nalang, ‘If it’s OK with you Sir,’” he recalled.

Reflecting further on the “surprise” gig, Stell said, “Para akong nag-audition talaga. Na-manifest ko yata. Grabe ‘yung kaba ko. Akala ko pina-try niya lang sa’kin. Syempre sino na naman ako para tumanggi ‘di ba? Minsan lang yung ganong pagkakataon kaya binigay ko talaga yung best ko.”

The “Voice Generations” coach further shared that after the actual performance, his team and the staff backstage were screaming.

“Para kaming nanalo sa contest tapos talon kami ng talon,” he said. “Thank you sa lahat ng sumuporta. Thank you Sir David Foster and to the whole team. Sana nagustuhan niyo po yung performance ko. Thank you Lord! Kayo po talaga yung boses ko kagabi.”

Stell already received the biggest praise from Foster himself even before his rendition of “All By Myself.” He said, “Stell who sang before me, incredible! He did a great job.”

And before playing “All By Myself,” Foster gave the story behind the song’s high notes that even the Grammy-winning diva, Celine Dion, had a tough time during recording.

“When I was making this song with Celine, she complained really a lot about this very high note in the song? It’s an impossible note to sing and she hated me in the studio that day. If you ever read her book, page 37 to 38, she devoted two pages to how much she hated me that day in the studio,” recalled the songwriter and producer.”

“But she got the job done, she hit the high notes and it took her a few tries. Tonight, my friend Stell, you only get one try,” David challenged the SB19 member onstage.

To which Stell responded with a sign of the cross before going on to nail the song before a very proud and wildy cheering Araneta crowd that even screamed for “more.”

“Wow. What a voice,” David praised Stell before stressing, “And he’s your very own.”

The video of the ballad cover quickly went viral online, making his name trend on social media platforms and winning over music fans beyond the P-pop community.

It also brought to mind past All By Myself performances of Jake Zyrus, formerly Charice Pempengco, in Foster’s past “David Foster & Friends” tours, including the US.

It can be recalled that in 2009, Jake was discovered on YouTube and recommended by American TV host Oprah Winfrey to Foster for mentoring. Foster is particularly credited to have helped the release of the Filipino singer’s first US single, Note To God, in 2010. - Patricia Dela Roca

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