From singing at pubs and bars for years to finally clinching the Best New Artiste trophy at the 2014 Anugerah Industri Muzik (Malaysia's equivalent to the Grammys), local singer Poova has definitely paid her dues and then some.
Despite the wealth of experience she has gained since becoming a full-time singer in 2010, Poova decided she still has more to learn. Which was why she joined reality singing competition Asian Dream.
"I haven't been on a reality show before and I simply wanted to try it out and have fun. And of course, there's the competitive aspect to it too," the 40-year-old tells StarLifestyle.
There's another reason – Michael Bolton.
"Michael Bolton was my idol growing up. I wanted to meet him, soul singer to soul singer," she gushes about the How Am I Supposed To Live Without You hitmaker.
“He is such an amazing person on and off the camera. He’s got a really good sense of humour. It was very inspiring being able to talk to him and hear his thoughts.”
Bolton, 67, joins the show as a coach and host, alongside Filipino singer-songwriter, Morisette Amon, 24.
The seven-episode series centres on six contestants from six Asian countries – Becky Yeung (Hong Kong), Karl Zarate (Philippines), Linh Tran (Vietnam), Sasha Ka (Thailand), Tyen Rasif (Singapore) and Poova – trying to outperform each other in a series of challenges.
Their performances are then evaluated by a panel of judges. The worst-performing contestant is eliminated by the end of each episode.
The last contestant standing will get to go on tour with Bolton and become an ambassador for automobile brand Subaru.
"It was a little daunting singing in front of Michael Bolton," the Malaysian representative recounts the challenges of being on the show, which was filmed last year over the span of a month.
"But more than that, I was also more accustomed to singing in front of a live audience. I've performed at corporate shows and concerts. So I feed off people's energy.
"Here, it was just cameras everywhere. And I was singing only to the judges and the other contestants."
Still, that’s the least of her worries. "Besides singing, we also had acting and dance challenges as they were looking for a performer as a whole," she says.
Poova, who had no experience in the latter two, admits stepping out of her comfort zone was difficult at the start.
"It was fun but the dancing bit was extremely challenging. I can't dance to save my life," she says with a laugh.
Poova, whose full name is Poovanesvary Sri Rama, says one key lesson she took home from the competition is “daring to try something new".
With that in mind, the singer is emboldened to head into uncharted territories this year. During the movement control order (MCO), she got the idea to take her career in a different direction.
"The MCO has been difficult because as a performer, I don't get to perform, ” she reflects. “So I've been putting my attention to something else – working on my first Bahasa Malaysia single, Karya."
Poova – whose song Faketown was nominated for Best Local English Song at AIM in 2014 – has always wanted to tap into the Malay-language market.
She talks about giving it her all to the new project: "I went through a vetting process. I heard a lot of songs from different producers – roughly 20 to 25 songs. There were all amazing songs but this one resonated with me."
She explains the message behind the power ballad: "Karya is about how when you get into a relationship, the first few months is always amazing. Then after that, the person starts to show their true colours.”
The singer recorded the song in July and will film its music video in September.
Poova is understandably anxious when talking about her new venture during our interview. Perhaps a piece of advice Bolton offered her during her time on the show may be of some comfort.
“He gave me a lot of advice but one thing I remember is he told me to be true to my art and be true to myself as an artiste. Being authentic and genuine is what people will see and appreciate.”
Asian Dream airs every Thursday at 7.25pm on AXN (Astro Ch 701).
Did you find this article insightful?
63% readers found this article insightful