Despite having landed in Singapore at 7am, the YouTube celebrity duo of Sam Tsui and Kurt Hugo Schneider were still in high spirits for the morning press conference, just a day before their live show at Kallang Theatre tonight, 12 September.
While Tsui reminisced about his childhood memories of visiting Singapore and how huge the Merlion was, Schneider was more in awe of the dozen or so fans who waited for them at airport gates with cheers and candy.
This was when one promptly realises that even with their fame and music videos gathering 60 million views, these online icons are really just two cheeky buddies having a good time.
So before you pull your hair out and lose your voices over these two charmers at the show later, hear what they have to say about what to expect, tips on becoming a YouTube sensation, and the strangest fan reactions they have ever received.
We’re more used to watching you guys on the internet. So what can we expect from your live show?
Tsui: We obviously got our start doing a lot of cover music, so we’ll be doing a nice combination of some of those favourites which people can expect, like our Michael Jackson medley and our more recent ‘Cups’ cover. And we also just put out our original album titled ‘Make It Up’, so there’s a lot of stuff from there as well. They can definitely expect a good variety, and it’ll be a high-energy show with hands in the air and all that.
Schneider: I’ll be rocking it out behind the piano!
It’s no secret that the two of you go way back. Is there one thing you guys dislike about each other?
Schneider: I’m really trying to think of something here. But the thing is, Sam is such a likeable guy! I mean, just look at him!
Tsui: Because we’ve known each other and have worked together making music for so long, we don’t have to tiptoe around each other. We’ll argue and disagree about things, but we respect each other so much that we have an ability to just get down to work and make what I think is something good. As to your question, I know this sounds like an easy way out!
It’s also no exaggeration to call you two bona fide YouTube superstars. So for all the budding artistes out there, can you share three essential tips to forging a career online?
Schneider: Don’t give up first of all. You just need lots of perseverance and to keep putting yourself out there. We were doing YouTube videos for about a year and we didn’t have a single video which went big or viral, even after 20 or so videos.
Tsui: I would say the second thing is to enjoy what you’re doing, especially because it ends up being a lot of work and hours on your end. The people watching behind the screen want to feel your passion and your joy, so if you’re doing it to become famous or make money, the final product isn’t going to be something your crowd will be excited about.
Schneider: And third, always try to one-up yourself. Never be content with what you’ve already done.
As they tease one another with inside jokes and finish each other's sentences, it's not hard to feel the natural friendship between Sam Tsui and Kurt Schneider
What do your families have to say about your momentous rise to fame?
Schneider: To be honest, I don’t know how much advice they can give on making a career out of digital media, but I’m glad my family has been supportive nonetheless.
Tsui: I’m equally lucky. This is such a new model of making a career in the entertainment industry that it’s not only hard for our parents, but for anyone to give advice. However, my dad who’s from Hong Kong is really happy that I’m finally coming to Asia and doing these shows here.
Apparently he was back there (in Hong Kong) a few months ago with some buddies, and our cover of ‘Skyfall’ started playing on a screen in a restaurant. And dad was so proud to be able to tell everyone, “Yeah that’s my son, up there on the TV screen!” It’s definitely weird for them to see me on Ellen and Oprah, but I know they get a kick out of it.
Schneider: My parents were really nonchalant about that stuff. We didn’t even have a television growing up, so my parents don’t know much about pop culture. They didn’t even know who Ellen was. But I think they’re being introduced more to this world through us. There’s still no television in the house though.
Tsui: And that’s why he’s so smart!
What’s the most memorable or weirdest comment you’ve ever received online?
Schneider: There was this comment on our song ‘Shadow’ which said, “This song saved my life”. I don’t know what they were going through, but just knowing that what we do can have that kind of effect on someone is just really powerful.
Tsui: But on the flip side, it’s always equally hilarious to read the weird comments. People will just pick one little thing in the video and a ton of people will harp on it. Like in the ‘Make It Up’ video which was filmed continuously in one take, my shoelace came untied halfway through filming and there was nothing I could do about it. And so every third comment on the video was like, “Great video!”, “Awesome!”, “Sam your shoelace is untied!” or “Awesome video!”, “This is so cool!”, “Boy I hope Sam doesn’t trip.” It’s always a hoot.
Any crazy fan experiences you would like to share?
Tsui: Well, there is this one person who has tweeted me several times that she has a tattoo of me.
Schneider: It’s a tattoo of his face.
Tsui: Oh yeah! There’s one of that as well!
Schneider: That’s just too weird for me.
Since there is a bit of Cantonese and German influence in your respective families, can we expect any upcoming songs performed those languages?
Tsui: I’m really embarrassed about my Cantonese. I wanted to do my homework before we got here to be honest. “Ngoh gong siu siu” (I can speak a little bit), that’s all I know!
Kurt: (looks shamefully) I can't even speak another language.
Sam Tsui and Kurt Hugo Schneider Asia Tour 2013 | Date: 12 September 2013| Time: 8pm | Venue: Kallang Theatre | Tickets: $108 (with meet-and-greet session), $78, $58 via www.sistic.com.sg