A YouTube bard

A YouTube bard

A singer turned his online fame into real success

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A YouTube bard_L
Photos: Edmond So/SCMP
Singer-songwriter David Choi has this unusual bit of advice for his young fans: "Don't listen to your parents."

Of course, the Korean-American singer, who found fame after posting his music videos on YouTube, means it in a tongue-in-cheek way. But he, for one, didn't listen to his parents and it's just as well he didn't.

Choi's father is a musician and his mother runs a record store, and they both learned the hard way that a successful career in music can be a great challenge. Neither of them wanted Choi to fall on hard times.

"It wasn't until I was featured in a Korean magazine - it wasn't a big deal; it was just a small magazine - that they were like: 'Maybe you can do music'," recalls Choi during an interview with Young Post.

The singer will be playing a gig at the Kowloon Bay International Trade and Exhibition Centre tonight. Then next week he's off to Thailand to play there for the first time. The self-made star has been on several US tours and has also played to his fans in Canada, Australia and Singapore.

And it all started with a simple, homemade YouTube video.

In 2006, the Los Angeles-based musician wrote a song and posted it on the then budding video-sharing site. YouTube (A Love Song), which has since been viewed almost 3 million times, pokes fun at people's around-the-clock addiction to the popular website. More witty lyrics set to quality tracks - mixed in his bedroom - followed.

Soon Choi broke out into the mainstream with his first album, Only You. The musician, who blends folk and rock melodies with his jazzy vocals, went on to release two more albums, By My Side (2009) and Forever and Ever (2011).

An active social media user, Choi credits the internet with helping to spread his music. "The great thing about YouTube is it's worldwide," he says. "It's always amazing to know that there's somebody on the other side of the world who listens to your music."

Thanks to the Net, the American-born singer's music can reach far and wide, winning him fans as far away as Hong Kong.

Choi is now working on his fourth album, which is due for release next year. "It's about the past two years of my life," he says, hinting at some songs about heartbreak as Choi went through a break-up earlier this year.

But it isn't just to YouTube that Choi owes his success: hard work has played a part, too.

When he was still in high school, Choi, then 17, won a prestigious remix competition for DJs, taking home an Audi TT sports car as his prize. And he was signed as a songwriter by Warner Chappell Music before he made it big on YouTube.

A career as a songwriter was always his dream. "I didn't have a back-up plan," he says. "I didn't even complete college, and in Korean culture, your parents will murder you if you don't."

In the end, not listening to his parents paid off for him. But Choi is not suggesting that you just quit school. "Be smart about it," he says. "If people keep saying to you that you're such a good artist, take note. Maybe that's something you could do," he explains. "But if everyone is like 'You suck at singing', that's when I'd say, 'Don't even try!'"


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