A star is born

A teenage upstart from Phuket sings from his heart and takes the nation by storm

Besides his singing versatility, Tanon Jumroen has this instant likeability and those amicably gawky teenage charms to thank. After all, they helped land him the title in the first The Voice Thailand competition.

The Voice Thailand winner Tanon Jumroen, left, and his coach Saharat Sangkapricha.

Admittedly, the 16 year-old Phuket native had been aware that his technique and vocal prowess were slightly short of some of the contestants on the show. But the nation was gripped with endearment every time Tanon hit the stage, and the SMS votes kept coming in. The coaches swooned over his unpretentious performances and down-to-earth personality as well as his sincere delivery of each song, fast or slow.

Growing up next to a karaoke joint and with music-loving parents, Tanon began singing since he was four years old. For now the 10th grader plans to finish high school in Phuket before considering moving to Bangkok. He's most likely to pursue university education in arts and design as he doesn't plan to study music.

Just like how he appeared on The Voice, Tanon, in person, has that innate intangible quality that draws people towards him. Though rather new to the interview game, Tanon tried his best to answer each question without appearing annoyed no matter how early his meeting with Life was (it was 9am!). After all, this is the teenager who drew a heart on his application when registering for The Voice competition and scribbled "my heart is very handsome" on an accompanying piece of paper, as he never thought he would pass the first round audition.

During the blind audition round, Coach Saharat "Kong" Sangkapricha was the only one to turn around at the last second. But from the moment Thailand laid eyes on this cheeky youth, we were in love with his boyish sincerity, hard work and homey inclination. Tanon went from strength to strength after each round, garnering admiration from voters and the coaches.

Having won the coveted title, Tanon received 1 million baht in cash, a Toyota Prius, a condo unit and a three-year contract with a music label, but our newest national darling has yet to decide what colour his Prius will be.

So how are you feeling?

I'm getting over my surprise now. I never thought I would win. It went by so quickly. The next thing I knew it was over. It's quite a whirlwind experience. We're preparing for countrywide concerts and gearing up to release a single.

Why do you think you won?

I think I was chosen because I never held back when I was on stage. I just felt I wanted to make everyone happy when they watched my performances. I've also been told that I'm more charming when I sing _ and I'm not talking!

People say they love you because you never seemed overly hungry for the win, and you were always at ease and natural on stage.

I might have been stressed sometimes before I got on stage because I wanted to be the best. But I never treated the show like a battle, that I had to go out to destroy others. I just wanted to have fun, and the audience to feel the same. The more I got into The Voice, the less it seemed like a competition.

How did you come to know about the competition?

My teacher told me about it. She also sent my seniors to apply. She encouraged me to try, but she didn't think I would make it. I didn't think much of anything. I just went to the audition in Phuket.

How was the blind audition for you?

Coach Kong turned at the last note. I was very surprised because I didn't think anyone would. I didn't have any confidence during the blind audition round. I was very nervous and felt very uncomfortable. I told myself that when the singing was done, the exit is on the right. But then Coach Kong turned around. I was overwhelmed.

I knew that I didn't have that powerful a voice nor had I full-on technique, so for one person to turn was quite unbelievable. I'd thought I would be sent home straight away.

What was your work process with Coach Kong? What was it like learning with him?

He helped me a lot with his advice, analysis and well-rounded vision. He was a great coach. He taught me that singing is not only about the singers as it's also about the listeners. He taught me to give my all.

At first, I didn't talk much, but he coerced me out of my shell. He also exposed me to singing many different styles. He's not strict at all, but when he's serious, he's very into it. It was so much fun. It wasn't stressful at all.

Was the atmosphere competitive, cut-throat?

Never. It's very much a family affair. I didn't feel any great tension between the contestants.

What was the hardest round?

It was when I sang Kob Jai Jing Jing. It's quite an adult subject for me. The song is about having your heart broken, and I have yet to go through such experience. So it was quite hard for me to embody the song wholeheartedly. It was an emotional song.

You must be getting recognised a lot now?

I feel happy that people recognise me. That makes me want to do even better. No, it's not uncomfortable. It's up to you how you want to view the world. I believe in positive thinking.

Part of your prize package includes a three-year music contract, what do you plan to do?

I play drums, and I can play guitar. I can play a little bit of piano. I would love to work on music with Coach Kong. I also would love to collaborate with Pu Pongsit. But whomever I end up working with, I'll try my best to make sure that my identity is still intact.

I want to sing all types of music. Every genre is special in its own way. So if I ever have a chance to release my own album, I would like to incorporate a lot of musical styles into it. But I don't know yet. We'll have to wait and see what will happen from now on.

About the author

Writer: Onsiri Pravattiyagul
Position: Entertainment Editor