Former Pinoy Dream Academy scholar RJ Jimenez was studying for his board exams when he joined ABS-CBN's talent search on television. A graduate of Electrical and Communications Engineering from the University of Santo Tomas, RJ couldn't believe his luck when he became part of the first batch of PDA, which will soon air its second season this May.
While inside the PDA house, he honed his songwriting skills under headmaster Jim Paredes, whom he considers as a role model when it comes to songwriting.
"In PDA, meron kaming teachers sa songwriting tulad ni Sir Jim. Pero sa songwriting more on technical side. Si Sir Jim alam niya kung ano ang problema ko as a songwriter. Marami akong blocks," says RJ during his album launch held at Esquinita last Friday, April 18.
The 24-year old singer-songwriter was commissioned to write songs for six episodes of the youth-oriented show Astigs. This ABS-CBN show is expected to air its final episodes this May. "Sumulat ako ng dalawang kanta for a specific episode pero mali ang instructions sa akin for the song kaya dapat palitan. So kailangan ko siyang gawin and tape it later in the afternoon. Yun yung biggest pressure na naranasan ko."
How would he describe his music? "For me, it's a new genre for OPM. I call it Pinoy light rock kasi hindi s'ya rock, obviously hindi ako mukhang rocker. Hindi rin ako mukhang balladeer. So it's in-between. That's why I call it Pinoy light rock."
Because of his unique singing style, Star Records chose RJ to have his own album. He candidly narrates: "Masaya ako kasi sabi ng Star Records, mahihirapan daw silang maghanap ng kaparehas ko kaya nila ako kinuha, kaya ako nagka-album."
ON YENG CONSTANTINO. RJ has been linked in the past with his fellow PDA scholar Yeng Constantino. When asked for the real score between him and Yeng, RJ says: "Hindi naging kami, yun talaga yung totoo. Close lang kami. Unang-una, hindi kami nagmamadali. Pangalawa, yung parents n'ya, ‘di naman gustong magka-boyfriend [siya]."
What does he like most about the Grand Star Dreamer of PDA? "Si Yeng, napaka-sincere na tao. Siguro, isa siya sa mga tao na nakilala ko na masasabi ko talagang buong-buo yung sincerity niya. Ganun s'ya," he says.
Has he introduced Yeng to his family? "Oo, sa family gathering. Yung family ko, pumunta sa family nila nung first Christmas after PDA."
What kind of support has Yeng shown for his album? "Ang dami, grabe! Laging nandun si Yeng, ‘pag nalulungkot ako, ‘pag pagod sa recording, mga ganun. Kasi minsan nagkasabay yung recording tapos gigs. Mahirap, e, kasi puyatan, wala nang boses, so si Yeng nandun lang lagi. Sobrang laking bagay kasi nun sa akin, yung moral support.
With all the blessings in his life now, what has RJ invested in?
"First investment ko na malaki, yung gitara ko na nasa album [cover]. It's worth close to P40,000 from Yamaha. Tapos nakabili ako ng kotse, '98 model ng Nissan Sentra, secondhand, dark green. Tapos nakapag-invest ako ng recording studio sa bahay, sa kuwarto ko. For demo recording, dun ako gumagawa."
What tips does he want to share for the new batch of PDA? "Magpakatotoo sila with their craft, yun lang. Ako, ganun ginawa ko."
See RJ Jimenez in person when he goes on a series of mall shows to promote his album. Expect RJ to perform at SM North on May 3, SM Southmall on May 25, SM Taytay on June 1, and SM Lipa on June 8. His 13-track debut album RJ Jmnz is now available in record bars under Star Records.