Singer Nat Ho: Goodbye Singapore, hello Taiwan

Elizabeth Soh
Elizabeth Soh
Singapore Showbiz

Local sunshine boy actor Nat Ho is leaving Singapore for the greener pastures of Taiwan (Photo courtesy of Nat Ho)

When he forked out S$100,000 of his hard-earned savings to direct, produce and act in his own music video, boyish local singer Nat Ho drew both support from new fans and criticism from naysayers.

But whatever the response, Ho achieved what he wanted -- for Singaporeans to sit up, notice him, and remember his name. And now, he's decided to head for the (musically) greener pastures of Taiwan to pursue his entertainment career.

"Back then, people said stuff about me like, 'why you so stupid go and make a video'. I knew I wasn't going to make money, but I didn't see the need to say anything because my objective was to make a good enough product," said Ho, 28.

"Now that I'm known in Singapore, the next step is to try the regional market, and Taiwan is the place to start," a relaxed-sounding Ho told Yahoo! Singapore in a face-to-face interview on Tuesday afternoon.

And how long will be he gone for? If all goes well, nine long years (yes you read that right, nine years).

These spartan bunks will be home for Nat Ho for the next nine years (Photo courtest of Veloce Group)

'I'm selling my soul'

Right off the bat, he says that the decision to leave Singapore was not an easy one. Ho, who is very close to his parents, started talks with his new management agency Veloce Group back in October 2012 and only decided to sign on the dotted line two weeks ago.

"A nine-year contract is not something I could sign easily," said Ho about the length of his contract with the group.

"The contract process is like dating. Once you've decided, it's like, let's get married. It felt a bit like selling my soul."

Ho was also taking a huge risk in deciding to join Veloce -- the newly set up agency had only one other client. But Ho decided it was worth a shot after finding out that the agency's investors were three well-known, Singapore-based and public-listed companies.

"They were also willing to invest in me - and it's not a small amount. For a contract like this, they will be training me, paying for music production, forking out marketing dollars. In Taiwan dollars, this adds up to many, many zeroes," said Ho.

While he does not know the exact amount they will be spending on him, he said that if another company should want to buy out his contract, the penalty would be a whopping S$1 million.

Tough times ahead

And if Ho needed a clearer sign that his agency-to-be meant business, his audition told him all he needed to know. Straight off the plane, Ho was given two new dance routines to learn within a day on top of the existing two songs and script he had already started learning.

"The script... it was like Shakespeare in Chinese. No joke, okay," laughed Ho.

Nat Ho will go through a grueling six month training programme (Photo courtesy of Nat Ho)
Nat Ho will go through a grueling six month training programme (Photo courtesy of Nat Ho)

Starting 15 April, Ho will begin a grueling six-month training programme in Taiwan, staying in a artiste hostel with a strict daily regimen.

"The training includes six months of training, language lessons, voice projection, physical training, and learning to play the guitar, amongst other things," said Ho, who first was thrust into the spotlight during the inaugural season of Singapore Idol in 2004.

At the end of it, the former model and MediaCorp actor -- who is both fluent in English and Mandarin -- hopes to make a successful debut as an entertainer, doing everything from acting on idol dramas to launching an album and appearing on variety shows.

"In the Taiwanese industry, you need to do a bit of everything. Actors who find fame release albums, singers appear on dramas. I don't see myself as just a singer or actor, I am first and foremost an entertainer," said Ho.

While being away from home may be lonely, Ho will have company in the form of other Singaporean artistes who have already moved to Taiwan or will soon take the leap.

Fellow entertainer and friend Andie Chen left earlier this year, while artiste Dawn Yeoh will be leaving for Taiwan just weeks after Ho does.

'My idol is Jay Chou'

Ho's inspiration is no other than the multi-hyphenated Taiwanese mega star Jay Chou.

"Jay Chou -- he has his own catalogue of songs separate from those he sings, he's not only a writer and singer, he's also an actor and director, and he's gone to Hollywood," enthused the former ACS boy, who left MediaCorp in 2010 to forge his own music career.

"I think that's so cool and I think he has also helped put Asians on an international map, and that's something I'm aspiring towards."

And what about love and matters of the heart?

"I only have one shot, I'm not about to lose focus. If it (love) happens, it happens, but I'm not out looking for it. Definitely no wedding bells, not for the next few years," he said.

But what if the 28-year-old star with the clean-cut looks finds love too late in life?

"I may have to freeze my sperm, or something," joked Ho, bursting into laughter.

Still, he maintains that Singapore will only be four-and-a-half hours away and he intends to return every two months for dental treatment and also to connect with his fans, friends, and family.

In the mean time, with less than a week from now till his flight to Taiwan, Ho is trying to fit in as much quality time and preparation as possible even as news of his move finally sinks in.

"I feel I've worked so long and hard for this that now, I feel a bit lost. But if I don't try then I'll never know. As long as you try, there will be a 0.1 per cent chance of you succeeding, but if you don't try at all, that chance is zero. That's my mantra."

Watch Ho's self-funded $100,000 music video "Unleashed", starring local celebrity blogger Xiaxue aka Wendy Cheng below:

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