Malaysian singer-songwriter Faizal Tahir rose to stardom after coming in second in the reality television singing competition One In A Million in 2006. Having won several awards over the years, his career has shown no signs of slowing, with constant new music to the delight of his enormous fanbase. Going Places catches up with him for insights into his life and career.

What made you participate in One In A Million? Were you always aiming for a career in music?

I really didn’t have much of a choice because a good friend of mine literally dragged me to the auditions. To be honest, it was one of the hardest but also one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was timid by nature, so it wasn’t something I was comfortable with, but my passion for music was strong, and I saw this as an opportunity to share good music with other people.

As a singer-songwriter, what are some things that you look to for inspiration in your music?

If you ask me what inspires me, it’s enjoying life. It’s the people you meet, the places you go to, the hardships you encounter, the sweet taste of success, the frustration and pain of relationships, the joy of giving back. There’s always something to learn from on a daily basis. Travelling is actually one thing that inspires me. The more you absorb, the more you’re inspired.

You helped to cultivate a number of young, talented artists under your own record label, Faithful Music. Could you tell us how that started?

I had the opportunity to do this with what God has provided me with. So why waste it? When you have something good, you share it. I think that’s an important part of life, and it’s a two-way process. I learn more from them than they think they learn from me. It’s also how I get to understand the younger generation. That being said, I owe a great amount of credit to the amazing people around me, who have been through thick and thin with me, just to make sure I can achieve all that I’ve achieved now.

What do you look for in a potential young artist and what advice do you give them?

Purpose and value. Whatever they’re offering has to add value to what is already out there. It can’t just be singing, it has to be more, and it needs to make sense. You want to create an impact. These days, it’s more about signing people who have more influence, like an influencer. In my opinion, you have to be convinced with yourself before you can convince other people.

What were some of the most memorable moments in your music career?

There are many, to be honest. Winning awards is always nice, but I think the ones where my music managed to leave a certain impact are by far the most memorable ones. I’ve met parents of special needs children who tell me that their child responds to my music as therapy. One event I will never forget is when I was on a humanitarian mission to a Syrian refugees’ school in Jordan. I sang the song Assalamu’alaikum, which is almost completely in the Malay language. There was one Syrian kid who cried listening to the song even though he only understood the word Assalamu’alaikum in the song. That really was a life-changing experience. That is only one of many wonderful and memorable moments I have experienced through music. Music has taken me to so many amazing places.

You started a charity movement, #iAMFAITHMEN, to transform lives through education, inspiration and providing opportunities. What was the reasoning behind it?

Life is not about ourselves. I believe that what I have in this life is not even mine to keep, which is a philosophy I always hold on to. It’s a feeling you can never truly experience unless you give back to others.

What is your secret to balancing time between work, leisure and family?

It’s pretty simple. I don’t give excuses. If you decide to take something on, you have to fully commit to it. If you start doing something and it takes away your time with your family and doesn’t add any value to your work and life, then it’s not worth taking on. It becomes excess baggage, and you don’t want that. You want the people who enrich you and push you in the right direction to stay close to you. Nothing else is worth more than that.

What hobbies do you enjoy in your spare time?

I love football. I just wish I had more time and the energy of a 25-year-old to play it. I do spend a decent amount of time on the PlayStation 4 playing FIFA, though. And I do it with my boys, so that’s cool. To be honest, I really appreciate and value the spare time I get, so I’m always looking forward to going on trips with the family. I love travelling, as I think it’s always enriching and inspiring. These are two things, among others, that I look for in life.

What is your earliest memory of flying with Malaysia Airlines?

I can’t really remember much, because I was very young when I first flew with Malaysia Airlines. It was still called MAS at the time. I do recall that it was a flight to Heathrow, London back in the early 1980s, as my father was doing his PhD in the UK.