Anyone who has been following me on Facebook would know about a new song I’ve put out called “Ever My Only Love” performed by Zion Aquino.
Zion and I were at the Elements Songwriting Camp in November 2014. It was my 3rd time to be one of the camp’s mentors. Zion was one of 60 lucky campers who got to join that year. During that farewell lunch before we all headed back to Manila, he approached me and asked to have his photo taken with me, telling me we had met a few years ago through my good friend Chad Arrieta. “Oh, that’s right!” I said, and he quickly snapped this selfie. Neither of us knew this moment would be a turning point for both of us.
Not long after camp, Philpop 2015 was launched and I thought about joining the songwriting contest again. I had a song in my “baul” which I thought needed a strong vocal on it to get noticed. I could not think of anyone else with a more remarkable voice than Zion. I asked him to sing my entry, and he was so excited to do it. I loved that he loved the song so much. And I loved hearing his voice on it. We were both proud of our recording.
We bonded over our anxiety over whether the song would make the Top 12 or not. We fantasized about Finals Night. He said it would break his heart to not be this song’s singer, but that he understood that the final decision rested with the organizers. I told him I was beginning to feel we wouldn’t even make the Finals. He was so sure we would, and made a bet to treat me to coffee if we didn’t. I was amused by his optimism.
Listening to our entry over and over again, I began to think about how not having him be the song’s interpreter, if indeed it made it to the Finals, would be heartbreaking for me as well. We had started to dream about it, and I wanted to see that become a reality. We had embarked on a journey, and I didn’t want it to end. My desire for the world to hear his voice slowly began to outweigh my desire to become a Philpop finalist for a second time.
When the Top 12 Finalists were revealed and my song wasn’t one of them, I realized my disappointment wasn’t so much for myself as for Zion. I so wanted to be the one to give him that break I felt he needed. So I made a decision to not have this setback end what we had started. We had one song, and we would work on more, I told him. I asked him who his manager was and he said he didn’t have one. “Ikaw na!” he said. I laughed and initially dismissed his proposal. I didn't know the first thing about managing talents. But he was serious about it, and after thinking about how no one else I knew seemed to want to see him rise to fame as much as I did, and how no one else seemed to have the time and resources to try and make it happen, I found myself reluctantly agreeing to it.
Over coffee he owed me, and over talks and online chats in the days and weeks that followed, I got to know Zion a little more: his work in advertising, his indie band, successes and failures, his bout with cancer and desire to use music to help others battling this disease. His passion for music had always been there, but past disappointments made him apprehensive, perhaps even scared, to dream again. I told him the trials were a thing of the past. This was a new beginning and his time had come. There were people who believed in him, I reminded him. He thanked me for being one of them.
I went from believing in him to trying to get others to do the same: as mentor, manager, adviser, vocal coach, vocal arranger, record producer, record company, website builder, fan page co-administrator, a willing alalay, assistant, fan and friend. Some people have told me how lucky they thought Zion was to have me. But I tell them he’s a blessing in my life, too. I feel like I suddenly grew and acquired a male voice, a good one. And I am excited to hear this voice on new songs I had not thought of writing before. I don’t remember being this driven on any other project where money was not the motivation. Together, Zion and I are learning, meeting new people, fulfilling our creative needs, and perhaps most importantly, enjoying the whole process.
"Ever My Only Love" isn't the Philpop entry we recorded. That first song we did had been sitting in my "baul" for years, and Zion breathed new life into it, and it turned out good. But I wanted his first single to be a song created especially for his voice, a positive love song people could relate to, something with a hook that could give the song broad appeal.
The release of this single, its airing on radio, creating a music video, interviews and so on... all these are just the beginning of a journey with Zion that I look forward to and I am grateful to be on. But I look back at how this all started and my thoughts bring me to that selfie taken at Jun Sy's house. Where would all this be without the Elements Songwriting Camp?
Obviously, Elements is a life-changing experience for campers: 5 days of lectures on songwriting and the music biz, networking and bonding with like-minded individuals would surely give any new artist enough inspiration to last a lifetime. But talk to the camp mentors and you’ll know why each one is eager to come back every year. I remember how Gerard Salonga said he wasn’t sure who benefited from the camp more, the campers or us mentors. I couldn’t agree with him more.
Thank you Jun Sy, Twinky Lagdameo and Maestro Ryan Cayabyab for the gift of Elements Songwriting Camp. You have 300 campers and counting, plus a whole bunch of industry practitioners who have been part of Elements for the past 5 years, who will never be able to fully express their gratitude to you for an experience that has changed and continues to change our lives.
To all songwriters age 18 to 35, do yourselves a favor and audition for this year's camp. Click HERE for details.
My name is Trina Belamide and I'm a songwriter and record producer.
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Learn more about me on www.trinabelamide.com.