Two years ago, British wannabe singer Kashy Keegan felt like he had won the lottery when Universal Music sent him an email saying a new television network in Hong Kong wanted to use his song, This is My Dream. He signed a one-off deal with the company, and thought that was the end of it.
A year later, he started getting alerts from YouTube saying people were uploading his song. He clicked into videos of people playing the song on loudspeakers, and waving their mobile phones along. "There were thousands of people, and I'm thinking, why?" recalls the 31-year-old.
He posted the videos on his Facebook page, and soon got invited by Hong Kong Television to sing at their rally for a free-to-air license. He booked a flight, and within 48 hours, Keegan found himself performing outside the government's headquarters in Central.
"I wrote that song seven years ago, and had never performed it," says Keegan, who by that time had given up on a musical career after 15 years of doing odd jobs to pay for studio time.
"That's the irony of life, I guess. Things happen when you least expect it."
That night, This is My Dream topped Hong Kong's iTunes chart, beating songs by stars including Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.
"I saw it as a sign from the universe that maybe it wasn't the time to give up, 'cause that was my true passion. I always vowed to myself … if I got my foot in the door, I'd be damned if I was pushed out again," says Keegan.
Riding on the momentum of his song's popularity with what he calls a "do or die attitude", Keegan came back to Hong Kong in February this year to hold a concert, funded through crowdsourcing. Soon after, he decided to move here permanently.
"I thought, why not?" says Keegan. He gave himself three months to find a record deal. "I was relentless, I didn't want to take no for an answer." Now signed to Evo Sound, he's teaching singing to local children as he prepares to release his debut album, This is My Dream, next month.
Wearing a grey cotton shirt over a plain white tee, Keegan seems the teacher type. He answers questions patiently and humbly, and smiles while he speaks. It's a bit of a shock to learn of his interesting past; for example, that he grew up living with three schizophrenics - his counsellor mother brought some patients home when the psychiatric facility where she worked closed - or that, as a teenager, he interviewed film director Steven Spielberg for a children's news programme.
Keegan was always a shy and sensitive boy, and never fitted in with the British lad culture of "football, beer and banter". Even at home most of his friends were from ethnic minority groups. "I think England is more of a culture shock for me than here," he says.
After hearing Mariah Carey's Hero at a Christmas pantomime when he was 12, Keegan realised how empowering music could be. Asked to describe his own music, Keegan uses the words "inspiring" and "empowering" before reluctantly conceding that "I guess it is pop, but … deeper."
Clearly, he values substance over style. "If you look at all the TV talent shows, it's like glorified karaoke. They're singing other people's songs, and mimicking certain styles of singers, and on YouTube there's gazillions of people covering people's songs, and I think it's just lazy. Where's the originality? I mean, try and write something yourself," he says.
"For me, an artist is not so much how well they sing; it's having the genuine heart behind that."