Newbie balladeer TJ Monterde has high hopes for Original Pilipino Music (OPM).
Being a fan and an advocate of OPM, TJ expressed the wish to boost public interest in Filipino music.
PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) and other members of the press had a chance to talk with the pop balladeer at the Choice Ko! Yum Awards 2013 media launch at Alphaland Southgate Mall in Makati City last Friday, September 20.
TJ said he was happy that his first album Ikaw At Ako has been getting positive feedback since it was released by Polyeast Records in April this year.
The album has five original songs and six covers of OPM classics. Among the artists he covers are Dingdong Avanzado, Gary Granada, True Faith, and Francis Magalona.
He told the press, “It’s doing pretty good. Akala ko dati, parang mahihirapan ako kasi newbie ako, e.
“Bago ako dito sa industriyang to, 'tapos yung kanta ko medyo mellow pa.
“So, nung una naman lumabas siya, sobrang naging okay naman, kasi last three weeks ago I just made a one million mark sa Youtube.
“So, naging okay naman siya. Tinanggap naman ng youth natin.”
As of this writing, the music video for his first single “Ikaw at Ako” has received 1,157,422 views on Youtube with 3,548 likes.
His song made a hit on Youtube because it was used as the official song of the viral film My Super Fan Girl written by Marcelo Santos III.
IKAW AT AKO. For his album, TJ and his record producers decided to mix his original songs with covers of his favorite OPM classics.
“So, yung mga kanta dito sa album, hindi masyadong super sikat na mga OPM songs before,” TJ said.
He researched the songs that did not become popular but which he considered "super ganda na dekalidad talaga."
“So, para marinig din ng mga kabataan ngayon na sobrang ganda ng mga kantang naisulat nung 80s.”
Most of the songs in the balladeer's new album are in Filipino because, he said, he is more comfortable in his native tongue: "Wala lang, parang gusto ko lang, mas comfortable ako sa Tagalog.”
The songs he wrote for his album are: “Ikaw at Ako,” “Sa Tuwina,” “Treat You Right,” “Wala Ka Na,” and “Nandito Lang Ako.”
“'Yung mas gusto kong tangkilikin ang mga kabataan natin,” he said. “Based on experience na din.”
He added, “Meron din akong mga songs na medyo 'broken', alam niyo na yun. Tayong lahat naman dumadaan doon.
“And, may isang blog-con ako na naganap na, and we found out na mas marami akong maisusulat na kanta kapag umuulan.
“So isa yun sa mga pinagdaanan ng album na yan.”
Among the songs he wrote, TJ said “Nandito Lang Ako” was closest to his heart.
“It’s all about unconditional love, pero wala pa siya sa list ng singles namin ngayon.”
The recurring themes of the songs in his current album are breakups and failed relationships. However, TJ plans to include songs that will lighten the mood of his listerners.
“Gusto ko mas marami yung encouraging songs,” he said. “Parang goal ko na whenever you listen to my song, ma-lighten lang nang konti yung feeling mo. Okay na ako dun.”
BEYOND MUSIC. TJ made his entry in the entertainment industry via ABS-CBN Nothern Mindanao’s lifestyle magazine program, Mag-TV Na! Ato Ni!
TJ, a Kagayanon, said, “Dati, nagho-host ako ng isang tele-magazine show for ABS-CBN in Mindanao.
“For three years, nag-host ako dun. So, ngayon pag wala akong ginagawa, I host events and sometimes, I do voice-overs.
“Kasi parang wala lang, masarap sa feeling. Pero most of the time, I just write, I just write.
"Sumusulat ng kanta, gumagawa ng musika.”
But if given the chance, would he try his luck in acting?
TJ answered, “Puwede naman, like a month ago we did an acting workshop.
“Pero ngayon, super focused talaga ako sa music e,” he said.
“Parang ewan ko, masarap magsulat. Masarap mag-share.
“Lalo na yung mga listeners natin sobrang... ngayon nga, I’m so thankful na lumalakas ang OPM.
“So, sa 'kin naman, in my own little ways, sa konting paraan na matulungan ko lang na pasiglahin ulit yung OPM.”
PASSION FOR MUSIC. TJ took AB Development Communications at Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan.
“Una kong tinapos yun; siyempre, pinaaral ako ng mom at dad ko,” he said.
“Ayoko namang i-let down sila. Tinapos ko muna, then I asked my dad if I can do what I wanna do.”
TJ was already making a name as a host in Cagayan de Oro but his passion for music pushed him to pursue his dream.
The young singer shared, “Kasi, when I left my hometown, iyon ang peak ng career ko.
“Maraming pumapasok nang endorsements. Pero I made a firm decision to try this. Ayokong mag-regret na hindi ko man lang na-try na i-share yung music ko.”
His musical influences include Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, and John Mayer. In the local music scene, TJ's favorites include Rey Valera, Gary Granada, Apo Kining Society, and his cousin Champ.
TJ may be a newbie in the industry but music is definitely in his blood. The balladeer has been exposed to the complexities of the OPM industry through his cousin Champ Lui-pio, singer-producer and the vocalist of the defunct band Hale, and uncle Nonoy Tan, the well-known songwriter.
TJ said that having successful relatives in the music industry has worked in his favor.
He said, “Kasi sometimes, kapag nahihirapan ako magsulat, nahihirapan ako sa mga ganitong sitwasyon, nasa industry na sila, so I can call them up.
“So I take it as an advantage, not as pressure.”