Within a few seconds of meeting Dami Im, it was obvious how pleasant and affable she was.
Straight off a two-set performance at PlayLive, a recent indoor music festival touted to be Singapore’s largest, Dami walked off stage looking visibly chuffed after singing her lungs out to a mixture of high-tempo bangers and soulful ballads. As she sauntered into the Mandarin Oriental with her family and husband Noah in tow at half to midnight, her eyes immediately lit up upon PlayLive’s artiste manager introducing us to the winner of The X Factor Australia’s fifth season.
The banter with Dami as we were setting up the interview was easy and free-flowing, unlike what one would typically expect with most guarded artistes. We found out she was staying for another day to tour around the country with her family. We also noted her enthusiasm at trying Hainanese chicken rice and keenness on getting some chilli crab the day after. A table away, her husband Noah was keenly looking on, grinning as Dami gamely answered our queries on her upcoming album Heart Beats and the loyalty of the Dami Army (that’s her fanbase name).
Noah’s dedication to his wife is clear and their affection, adorable. So much so, that Noah actually quit his job to be with her, post-X Factor.
“After I won X Factor, I was expected to fly around the country to do interviews, performances and recordings. We realised I won’t have time to see Noah much anymore, even though we’re married. Noah eventually quit his job so he could be with me — he’s travelling with me now. It’s so wonderful that we get to work together. Because of my husband, people could relate to me more and see that I was just a normal person, just like this,” said Dami.
A normal person she might be, but on stage, Dami transforms into some kind of superwoman. Wearing diva-worthy outfits, her daring fashion sense harks back to X Factor days when the show treated Dami’s wardrobe like one by Lady Gaga. As she belted out hit after hit, the crowd’s sing-a-long became noticeable. In a country where the Australian version of The X Factor is not shown, this was surprising. Dami thought so too.
“It was honestly so incredible. I’m just overwhelmed by how much support and love I felt in the room. I didn’t think they would know all my songs but they were singing Super Love and Gladiator and they really inspired me, the Singaporean fans.”
Dami indeed is raring to go as she is about to drop her second album Heart Beats off her contract with Sony Music. She told Popspoken that she was glad to be able to explore her craft with an effort full of original songs. (Her previous effort contained mostly covers.)
“You hear a variety of different songs — powerful, encouraging ones like Gladiator & Super Love, there is one called Living Dangerously and then there are nice ballads like Heart Beats Again and Solid Ground. There is something in every different mood but maybe not, like, angry. Every human being is not always angry or sad; they go through different phases in life so I had to express all different types of feelings and heartbeats,” Dami explained the motivation behind the album.
That adventurous spirit in life is what inspired her latest single Living Dangerously. She confirmed to Popspoken that she had indeed filmed a music video for the song, as seen in her Instagram post of Dami on set in Adelaide. The video reflects that same spirit.
“It’s about taking risks and trying new things in your life that you wouldn’t normally do and getting more out of life. The video reflects that in a fun way. It’s going to be an interesting video: one that is fun to watch, never a dull moment.”
That zest for life has landed Dami in one of her most plum positions yet: being the Australia representative for the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union TV Song Festival, the Australasian equivalent to the Eurovision Song Contest. Her Korean parentage is both advantageous and tricky, but having been the first Asian to win The X Factor Australia, Dami is doing double representation.
“I feel the responsibility to represent both being Australian and Asian-Korean. Going into ABU TV Music Festival is very special to me because I get to meet and perform alongside great Asian acts and it’s special that I get to represent Australia and Asia,” said Dami.
All the pomp and pizzazz may be heady but Dami stays grounded. She is unfazed by the talent show curse, where winners from reality singing competitions rarely make it past their first album.
“I’m really blessed that I came out from a talent show but that I have great support of my own amazing fans. Some fans, after the show’s over, go “bye” and look for the next person but for my Dami Army fans, they’ve stuck on and supported me so much. To have three new singles and two albums — I’m just really privileged. I want to just focus on my music rather than worrying about being forgotten or unsuccessful. It’s about inspiring people and doing what I was born to do.”
“So, even though I wasn’t successful or didn’t win the show, I would still be making music and doing what I love. (I) try to get my mind off the success,” Dami remarked.
Among the nuggets of information she revealed from Twitter questions Popspoken gathered from the interwebs: she is going to release a Christmas song, wants to do a national tour of Australia as well as perform in Korea and China, and hopes to work with John Legend — “he’s just so soulful, a singer-songwriter with beautiful piano-playing”.
As the interview ended and Dami posed for press shots for our socials, she dropped the question. “Do you want a selfie?”
Yes. Yes, I would. And as we snapped a photo making duckfaces, I remember thinking: Dami is one cool person.
Dami Im’s new album “Heart Beats” is out October 17.
Photos by Kyle Malinda-White for Popspoken