US hitmaker David Foster searching for new Charice Pempengco

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02:42 AM August 24th, 2011

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By: Pocholo Concepcion, August 24th, 2011 02:42 AM

Charice Pempengco. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

For his all-star Asia tour that comes to Manila in October, top US record producer and pop hitmaker David Foster said Charice Pempengco will be the “clean-up woman.”

“Do you know what that is?” Foster asked the Inquirer in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Before he could get an answer (and that would have been a “no”), Foster explained: “In baseball, the clean-up guy comes in when a team is in trouble. He’s the guy who hits the ball out of the park. Charice is like that, she hits the notes way up high, like hitting a home run.”

The petite Filipino singing sensation may just be returning the favor, since Foster actively helped launch her international singing and recording career.

He still can’t believe that every Filipino he meets seems grateful for that. “It happened again this morning,” said the 16-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter.

He had gone to see a doctor in Malibu, California, only hours before, and a Filipino named Melinda approached him. “She said, in a very soft voice, ‘Thank you for helping Charice.’ It never fails to touch my heart,” Foster said.

Inspired

Apparently inspired by Charice’s talent and success, plus his recent collaboration with 11-year-old soprano Jackie Evancho, “America’s Got Talent” 2010 runner-up, Foster has launched a search for young singers via the website borntosingasia.com. The search is worldwide, he said, but the website is exclusively for Asian talents.

“I know there are lots of other great singers out there, especially in the Philippines,” Foster said.

Aspirants aged 8 and older may log in, register and submit a video not longer than four minutes.

“We will pick two winners and they will perform with me in Manila,” said Foster, whose Asia tour, “Hitman Returns: David Foster and Friends,” comes to the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Oct. 25.

Featured artists are Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire, tenor Russell Watson and Charice, with the special guest appearance of soul superstar Michael Bolton.

Winners of the talent search also get a chance to record a song, with Foster as producer.

According to the website, they will be brought “in the fall” (possibly before the tour) to Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, where Foster mounts a monthly show. (He said his energy for touring came rather late, having spent the last 35 years in the cold confines of recording studios.)

Asked why Donna Summer and Chaka Khan (two iconic R&B singers who figure prominently in the “Hitman Returns” live CD and DVD) were not on the lineup for Asia, Foster said, “It’s difficult to get these artists to leave home for weeks on the road.”

But, he insisted, Bolton, Bailey Watson and Charice Pempengco are no pushovers, either: “I got my big break (as a songwriter) through Earth, Wind & Fire. Bailey will sing some of his solo stuff in the concert. Watson is another great find. We’ve never worked together in the studio, but he has recorded my songs—I may ask him to sing ‘Nessun Dorma.’ As for Bolton … I’ve always admired him since the first time I heard him.”

The tour starts in Tokyo on Oct. 19 and 20, moves to Kuala Lumpur on Oct. 22, then Manila. It proceeds to Jakarta on Oct. 28, Bangkok on Oct. 31 and Singapore on Nov. 3.

Last with Charice Pempengco

This is the last time that Charice Pempengco, now 19 (he had taken her under his wing when she was 16), is going on tour with him, Foster revealed.

He’s not writing new songs for her, either. “She wants to hit a younger market— that’s not my forte,” he explained. “She’ll be working with new producers.”

If “hitting a younger market” was not right up his alley, how come his talent search welcomes 8-year-olds?

That sure sounds like a contradiction, but one thing is clear: Foster can’t keep still.

In fact, he said, he wants to “write and produce more songs for more people.” He’s not called “The Hitman” for nothing.

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