You have seen him on TV for years, but you may not be able to tell his name until recent years –  Fred Cheng may not be an impressive actor, but he rises to fame as a singer after winning a life-changing singing contest held by TVB exclusively for actors and actresses 5 years ago. Today Fred Cheng is already a big name in the industry, this time Billboard Radio China sat down and listened to the rising star sharing his bumpy road to success.

Born and bred in Canada, Fred developed his love for music at a tender age, but he said it was just all fluke for him to really grow his career in this profession. “After I graduated from high school, I came to Hong Kong for summer vacation with no friends at all. My mum saw an ad for a singing competition, and asked me to join since I was bored out of my mind. So I went through the audition, got into the final ten and finished second. After that I got a record deal.”

Unfortunately, the record company went bankrupt, and Fred fell immediately from the top of the world to the rock bottom. One day he got a call from TVB asking him to join the actor training class, and he decided to give it a shot. “Nothing to lose right?” This paved his way for becoming who we see on TV now. It was not until 2013, TVB held their own singing competition, and Fred became the champion that his singing talent was discovered. “I was then signed to The Voice Entertainment. That’s why I am here today.”

Since then, Fred has got his own songs instead of all those covers that he did for the competition, and many of them become top hits. But his latest single “The Starting Line” is quite different from all his previous work. “It’s my own composition. It’s a really personal song. The past year has been tough, but it is also my best year. Lyricist Sandy decided to write about how I feel, but I was like, do I wanna sing about my feelings? It’s like being naked in front of everyone, but sometimes you just have to face the music. It’s a really raw and true song which is really close to my heart. Every time when I perform it, it’s just me. I am not trying to portrait another story, it’s just me standing in front of you, telling you my story.”

Just like what Fred has brought up, last year has been tough for him. As a celebrity, everything he did was put under the limelight for examination, that’s why he had some struggles publicly. How he manages to live his personal life in the public eye? “Sometimes it’s really hard.  I remember there was a time people just kept waiting outside my home, although I was in my home with curtains shut, I could still feel the pressure. But after I go through this, I got to know myself better.  I kind of have a better relationship with myself.” He also has some advice for people who are having similar struggles. “You have to open up to your family, friends or seek professional help. Then find a hobby. I’m so lucky that I have music in my life. I can just go jam with my friends, rock it on the guitar, write songs or start screaming. Just know that the pain is temporary and after you get rid of this, you can be much better and stronger and wiser. Living with gratitude is the key.”

Fred is now doing online courses of Berklee College of Music, the cradle of countless great musicians from all around the world. Studying there has long been his dream. “All the people I really look up to went there, like John Mayer, Diana Krall and Leehom Wang, but it is so so so expensive. Two years ago, I thought I could afford it, but I couldn't go there personally, so I had to do the online thing. Last summer I went to Boston to study for one semester, but I was late for school, so they could not put me in any class. What I did was to take lessons from a graduate from Berklee, and emailed a guitarist called Tomo Fujita, the professor of John Mayer.” Professor Fujita was so nice that he drove Fred to his home to give him lessons, and drove him back to the train station. This made Fred’s study experience in Berklee even more unforgettable.

In the new year, apart from continuing his study, Fred will put up his third album and be in TV dramas again. Having gone through all the ups and downs, Fred can finally show everyone he is not just a random actor you see on TV, but a multi-talented artist that excels in both acting and singing. Let’s look forward to seeing him on screen and hearing him on the airwaves again!