A long way from selling ‘ensaymada’
“X Factor Philippines” finalist Mark Mabasa still finds himself in a daze when he looks back on the night he shared the stage with, and impressed, famed producer-musician David Foster in a concert last November in Singapore.
He had felt depressed over his elimination but, Mabasa said, he came home with a renewed desire to pursue music.
“The experience boosted my confidence,” Mabasa told the Inquirer. “After I got booted out of ‘X Factor,’ I locked myself in my room and basically stopped eating. I got offers, but my mind was in chaos; I wasn’t sure if I should continue singing. Then my manager (Grace Mendoza) took me to Singapore.”
Mabasa, whose exit from the contest sparked quite an uproar in social media, recalled being at once excited and nervous after Foster plucked him from the crowd, and gave him about 20 seconds to perform his song of choice, “The Last Time.”
Foster was so impressed, he let Mabasa sing another verse. “He said I was good. I was so happy! Not a lot of singers can say they have performed with David Foster,” said Mabasa. “I still get goose bumps thinking about it.”
After the impromptu number, Foster invited the singer backstage, where they chatted a little and posed for photos. “He apologized for not remembering how to play the bridge because, he said, he knew I wanted to belt it out,” Mabasa related.
The next day, Mendoza got a surprise call from Foster’s team, inviting the young singer to perform on the second night of Foster’s concert at the Star Theater. Alas, Mabasa said, they were already at the airport, waiting for their flight back to Manila.
Though he was the second of 12 finalists to be eliminated from “X Factor,” Mabasa said he learned a lot, especially from his mentor and judge Pilita Corrales, who told him that, more than sounding like a star, he should look the part.
“Ms. Pilita said that a star should command attention the minute he or she steps onstage… that I should always look presentable,” Mabasa recounted. “Sir Martin (Nievera) helped me with my singing, though he wasn’t my coach.”
Mabasa believes that his stint on “X Factor” and singing with Foster, have prepared him for whatever will come henceforth in his career. Aside from the technical aspects of singing, Mabasa said those experiences taught him that nothing was impossible with focus, hard work and a little bit of luck.
“I was afraid of performing in front of fellow singers because I was sure they’d scrutinize every little detail. I never knew that the likes of Martin, Gary Valenciano and David would find me good,” said Mabasa who counts James Ingram, Peabo Bryson, Ne-Yo and Chris Brown among his musical influences.
Right now, Mabasa is busy doing shows around the metro. He kicked off his “Rhythm in the Rain” mall tour at the Festival Supermall in Muntinlupa City last Saturday.
He is also working on his first album which, he said, would be a curious mix of pop, alternative rock and R&B. He has done a show with international artist Iyaz, and opened for John Ford Coley and The Platters. “I started out as a balladeer, but I want to be known as a versatile singer. And I know I’m not that bad looking, either,” he said, laughing.
He continued: “Singing is a never-ending learning process. I just have to apply the things I learn along the way. I have to determine my strength and weaknesses so I can improve myself.”
Does he think he can be a big-name singer someday soon?
That’s the goal, Mabasa said. And why not dream big? After all, he’s come a long way from working in fast-food restaurants, and farther from singing and selling ensaymada in comedy bars.
“When I look back on the things I used to do, ang laki ng pagkakaiba. I feel fortunate,” he said.