“Had It Better is my first solo English single. The song is about rekindling the passion in a relationship. You know how everything feels honeymoon-ish at first? But after eight to 10 years, you start to lose the romance. All those feelings you once had just go down the drain.
You reach a certain point and wonder how things got like that. So this song is about reminding someone of the happy moments you once shared. Maybe by reminding them of the good times, you will re-spark the fire in your relationship.
I’ve always loved R&B music. I grew up listening to artists like Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown. In my younger days, I was actually part of a group called Valentia Phlow. We were one of the first hip-hop trios in Singapore that featured two rappers and a singer.
I didn’t make any money from performing music in Singapore. We did it for the love, but I did try to make music a viable career. If you want to make it as a singer, people always say, ‘Go to Malaysia. There are more opportunities there.’ So I moved to KL for a few years.
But I quickly learnt that you couldn’t just pack your bags, move to Malaysia and start making music. You still need to work. You still need to earn money to make music. That’s the truth of the Malaysian industry that many aspiring artists in Singapore don’t realise.
Unless you have rich parents who pay for your studio time, or you’re sponsored by a record label because you have a trending song or a large following, you have to work. I didn’t have a hit song or a face that could sell, so I really struggled and had to work my way up.
I started working as a social media manager for Dato’ Fazley Yaakob. He’s not only a celebrity chef but also a singer and motivational speaker. He had events to attend every day, so my job was to follow him around and take videos to post on his social media channels.
Because I had a family in Singapore, I would return home every two to three weeks, then take the bus back to Malaysia. The bus ride to KL took about five hours. If there was a massive jam, it’d take eight to nine hours. So that was my life for three years.
The highlight of my music career was getting nominated at Anugerah Planet Muzik, which is a huge recognition for artists in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. My friends and I were nominated for Best Popular Song from Singapore, Best Duo or Group and Best Song.
Our song Only got crazy airplay on mainstream Malay radio. It was amazing. But beyond that, my music career didn’t really take off. In fact, there were many struggles behind the scenes that many people didn’t see.
It was unfair leaving my wife alone in Singapore to raise our kid. And while I’m very grateful that my living expenses in Malaysia were fully covered by Dato’ Fazley, the salary I earned was not enough to support my family back home.
After three years of trying to make it as a singer in Malaysia, I told myself enough was enough. I went back home and got a job as a performer at Madame Tussauds under Merlin Entertainment. The pay was great, and being a full-time actor was very fulfilling.
When I lost that job during the first year that COVID-19 hit Singapore, I actually cried. I really loved that job. My wife and I had our second kid by then as well, so we really needed the money. As soon as the Singapore Discovery Centre had a job opening, I just took it up.
These days, I find slots of time to make music. On my days off or when I’m free after work and I know my kids are well taken care of, I’ll go to the studio and do some recordings. That’s how I was able to record Had it Better.
Making music is my passion, but it’s not cheap. From mastering a track to filming a music video, all of that requires money. That is why financial planning has been very important for me, especially when there’s a house involved and family that I need to support.
I want to continue making music, so having Pendita as a financial advisor and savings plan really helps. For example, with Prudential’s PruActive Cash yearly cash benefit scheme, I get to save money every month. And at the end of the year, I get some money back. This money goes back to my family and studio time.
On top of releasing original music, I’m also songwriting for other artists, which is another avenue to earn money from doing what I love. I was very inspired by Eric Bellinger, a Grammy-winning singer who has written for all the biggest artists.
I never gave up on my music. And no, I don’t think you should ever give up on something you love, just because times get hard. After everything you’ve been through, you should have given up a long time ago. So why do you suddenly want to give up now? Keep going!” – Firwan Johan, 32
Interview by: Arman Shah
If you have questions about financial planning and wealth accumulation or interested in a satisfying career as a Financial Consultant, contact Pendita, a Financial Services Manager:
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Everyone has an incredible and inspiring story to share. These are such stories by the everyday people in Singapore. #everydaypeoplesg
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