MANILA -- The year 2020 admittedly turned out to be “depressing” for singer-songwriter Daryl Ong. All his live shows last year got cancelled, starting in March when he was scheduled to perform at Resorts World Manila with his fellow BuDaKel singers, Bugoy Drilon and Michael Pangilinan.
“We even promoted that show, scheduled on March 20, a week before the lockdown was declared,” Ong told ABS-CBN News. “But that concert got cancelled. Lahat ng scheduled performances ko last year, nabura. Grabe. Sobra ang naging impact sa akin emotionally.”
“Ang dami kong plans,” disclosed the 33-year-old artist. “Ang daming work ang nawala. Suddenly, nawala ang purpose namin as artists. Nakahon kami sa bahay. Sa isang iglap, naiba lahat.”
Ong was even planning to build a house for his family, but unfortunately, that also didn’t happen last year.
The start of the new year, however, turned out to be a new chance for Ong. He recently joined Viva Records, where he officially signed a contract only two weeks ago.
A few months back, Ong met with Viva's Vic del Rosario and Veronique del Rosario Corpuz. That initial meeting progressed into something solid for Ong’s singing career. This 2021, he starts a new journey with his new “family,” Viva Records.
“Our plans aligned,” Ong said. “Viva also talked to my [creative] manager, Kate Valenzuela. So I signed up with Viva Records.”
Immediately, Ong expressed his desire to collaborate with one of Viva Records’ top artists, Sarah Geronimo. “I have not worked with her before,” he said of Geronimo. “Now that we’re both with Viva, it will be easy for us to work together.”
Even before Ong officially inked a contract with Viva Records, he collaborated with his “close friend,” Katrina Velarde, also a talent of the company with whom he earlier recorded John Legend’s “Love Me Now” and the Christmas song, “’Tis the Season.” Both tunes were released and distributed by Viva Records.
“I really love collaborating with different artists,” Ong said. “I believe there is always something new to learn in life and it’s the same with music
“Who will not be excited that I’m in the same family with Pop Star Royalty Sarah Geronimo, The Juans, This Band, Thyro and Yumi? They are well established artists, even the new ones. I can collaborate with them anytime.”
Ong also excitedly mentions the new rappers who are now with Viva.
“That’s something I haven’t tried yet. To do a song and collaborate with a rapper... I’m really very excited. Ang lawak ng pool of talents ng Viva na ngayon, ‘kapatid’ ko na sila. I can collaborate with them any time,” he said.
While Ong admits there’s really a certain amount of pressure working on an album, he is excited to work with new artists and collaborate with them. He is interested to constantly reinvent himself and level up.
“I want to be a record producer,” he said. “Every time I will see a young artist who’s doing well in the mainstream or online platform, the initial thing I was thinking was how to get in touch with him so I can work or collaborate with him. What can I do for him? That’s my perspective.”
Ong also wants to “recreate” a song, like what he did when he sang a re-imagined version of Willie Revillame’s Tagalog hit, “Ikaw Na Nga,” which Ong turned into an R&B ballad with his version.
“There really is no formula for a hit song when you record something,” Ong explained. “I know I can maximize my creativity as an artist with Viva now.”
Now that he’s with Viva Records, Ong also expressed his desire to record original songs. When he started back in 2014, he was strongly associated with covers, teleserye themes and remakes.
“That’s a challenge to myself,” he maintained. “Pahinga muna ako sa covers.
“One time, nakasama ko sa isang event ang Ben & Ben. Sobrang ganda ng mga songs nila. I talked to one of them. He told me, ‘Bro, try mo to sing an original song. Iba ‘yung sense of fulfillment as an artist when you hear other people singing your song.’
“I really hope to one day record an original song and collaborate with songwriters. I guess we can figure it out what can work for listeners and at the same time what will work for me as an artist.
“Ang hirap naman na kumanta ng song at wala sa puso ang kinakanta mo. Feeling ko hindi tatawid. Singing and music are something spiritual.
“There are singers na napaka-simple lang kumanta, pero for some reason, tumatawid. So that means, may conviction siya. Naniniwala siya sa kinakanta niya at magugustuhan din ng tao. I want that feeling, too. I’m confident, mahahanap ko din ‘yun.”
Ong wrote songs before. He joined PhilPop 2014 and landed in the finals. “I’m not an aggressive songwriter,” he said. “I’m someone who keeps the sentiments that I can eventually use to write a song.
“I realized relationship is more important to me. More than money, fortune, fame and popularity. Hindi sa dami ng kaibigan, but ang tunay na kaibigan na pwede mong takbuhan every time na may pinagdadaaan ka emotionally. Importante din ang family mo or significant na tao sa buhay mo.”
Last year, Ong transitioned more into online performances. “Naging advantage sa mga artists like me, who performed on YouTube and other online platforms even before,” he shared. “The transition became smoother for us when the pandemic came.”
Performing regularly on YouTube live turned out to be a breeze for Ong. “Madaling mag interact sa fans because abot-kamay lang sila,” he said. “They can chat, shout out or they can request a song that I can easily sing.
“Unlike a live performance na meron ka ng line up of songs, you can easily connect with an online audience even if you don’t see them.”
Ong lamented the difference of performing live and online. “To be honest, iba ang kinikita namin noon performing live onstage than in online shows,” he disclosed. “Mas okay ang income namin before. But we are all hoping for our situation to get better at matapos na itong pandemic.”
Last November and December, Ong had the chance to perform live onstage at Balesin, with Drilon and Velarde. “Ang sarap makarinig ng totoong applause and to see the smile of the audience,” Ong shared. “Nakaka-miss. Iba pa rin talaga ang live.”
Ong got his innate singing talent from his mom, who used to sing in the church, while his dad collected cassette tapes when Ong was growing up. “He made me regularly listen to all those tapes,” he remembered.
When he was only seven years old, Ong rendered Gary Valenciano’s “Shout 4 Joy.” “Only, I wasn’t able to dance like Gary V,” he rued. “Parehong kaliwa ang paa ko. Kumanta na lang ako.”
His advice for young and aspiring singers?
“This is simple and might be cliché. But this is what worked for me. Do what you love and love what you do. I joined so many singing contests. ‘Pinoy Pop Superstar,’ ‘Pinoy Idol,’ ‘Philippine Idol.’
“Nag-audition ako sa ‘X-Factor,’ hindi ako natanggap. Nag-audition ako sa ‘Pinoy Dream Academy,’ hindi rin ako natanggap. Sumali ako ng ‘The Voice’ [Season 2], hindi ako nanalo.
“Pero kung mahal mo talaga ang isang bagay, kahit ano ang resulta, hindi mo talaga titigilan. Don’t be disheartened when you joined a competition at hindi ka nanalo. It doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes to be in the business.
“Kung mahal mo talaga ang ginagawa mo at kung talagang iyon ang ukol para sa ‘yo, sa tamang panahon, dadating ‘yun. Just be patient. Gawin mo lahat ang pwede mong gawin para maabot ang pangarap mo, na hindi ka nang-aargrabiyado ng ibang tao.”