Filipinos are once again abuzz over the latest kababayan who’s making waves in the Asia’s Got Talent Season 2 on AXN.
Neil Rey Garcia Llanes of Davao City is now among the first eight semi-finalists of the pan-Asian talent show. It will be recalled that he won the 2014 edition of TV5's talent show Talentadong Pinoy.
Neil is the youngest of two brothers. His kuya grew up as a ward of his father's aunt but they still have a good and strong relationship. He admits that his parents did not finish school, so they were very insistent that he finish his BS in Business Administration major in Marketing.
In an exclusive interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) via email, he described how his life changed after joining Asia’s Got Talent Season 2.
”My parents used to be over protective with me. Sometimes, I could not accept invitations [to play in] other provinces because my parents wouldn't allow me. But now that they see how passionate I am, they support me 100%.
“What really happened last season was I was one of the 24 chosen acts but I backed out because I chose to finish my studies on time because I was a graduating student. The schedule of shootings for AGT semi-finals were in conflict with our final examinations.”
Though he was unable to finish the competition last year, he benefitted from the exposure gained from being on the AGT stage.
“After I joined last season, many opportunities opened for me. [I was] invited to perform at events in and outside the Philippines. Through that, I was able to earn enough money to build our own home (we never had our own before), and was able to start saving money for the future.”
Now that he has earned his degree, the full-time beatbox performer is more determined than ever to succeed. He made the following revelations.
He discovered he had the talent as early as 12 years old.
“I was taking a bath at that time and our neighbour was loudly playing Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. I tried to imitate the beats using my mouth. I then searched on Youtube for some beatbox tutorials. My beatbox journey started there.”
He is able to survive—and thrive—by working as a freelance beatbox artist full time.
“Thank God [I am able to do it.] He helped me earn money through my talent. Since college, I have been earning through gigs and competitions. I started performing in schools, then at local competitions. Later on, I was invited to bigger stages in Davao, Manila, Boracay, Cebu, General Santos City, even Malacañang Palace! I usually perform at corporate events and big concerts as a front act.
“Beatboxing has also brought me outside the Philippines. I become one of the ambassadors of Philippine Tourism. I went with the Department of Tourism to promote our country in Asia, Europe, and Middle East. I have been to Russia, China, Japan, Hongkong, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai, Qatar, India, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Spain, Germany, Paris, and France.
He puts effort into pre-performance preparations.
“I ask for guidance from God on what piece to perform. I also take care of my voice. I don't drink too much soft drinks nor eat sweets. As much as possible, I go to the gym to exercise. Exercise is necessary for my breathing. I also rehearse my piece throughout the day.”
He considers his audience when he performs.
“I make sure I relate my performance to my audience. If my audiences [is composed of] millennials, [for example,] I will perform songs or beats that are familiar to them. As a performer, you have to connect to your audience, that's why I choose my piece according to my audience's taste. But most of the time, I include my signature routines that leave any age bracket amazed.”
He derives inspiration from a myriad of musical artists.
“I am inspired by famous French human beatboxers I see on YouTube like Alem, MB 14, BMG, Beatness, Wawad, Rythmind and the legend Reeps One from UK. I [was even] more inspired when I was able to meet and perform with some of them during one of my travels [abroad]. They gave me advice that are helpful. I check their YouTube channels regularly to get more inspirations.
“Though their style of beatboxing is technical and mine is more on entertainment, I am still inspired because they are able to amaze many people, and I am glad that I see the same impact on my audiences everytime I perform. This is really what fuels me to perform more and better.”
He is confident that he can make it to the top this time around.
“Though I cannot claim the victory just yet but I think the factors that could possibly make me win this competition are: first, the uniqueness of my talent that gets everyone hooked, second, is the connection I build with my audiences, which keeps them hooked; and the entertainment factor that gets them [on their feet] after my performance. I will give my best.”
The 22-year-old performer admits that he sees Angela July from Indonesia as his closest competitor. “She is also passionate and very good in her craft.”
Catch Neil’s performances as a new episode of Asia’s Got Talent Season 2 airs every Thursday at 8:30 pm on AXN.
AXN is available on Cablelink Channel 38, Cignal Channel 121, Destiny Cable Channel 61, Dream Satellite TV Channel 20, G Sat Channel 51, and SKYCable Channel 49. AXN HD is available on SKYCable Channel 247.