Is Henley Hii a singer or an actor?

The Sabah-born artiste identifies himself as a singer, as he kicked off his showbiz career in music after emerging champion in season two of the Malaysian version of the reality singing competition Project Superstar.

But after a successful stint in acting which saw him star in a string of popular local television serials (The Beat and A Time To Embrace) and local films (Kepong Gangster 1 and 2), Hii wonders whether fans know him better as a singer or an actor, to the extent that he actually did a random street survey to find out.

“When people see me, they either think of me as a gangster or a policeman (which he played in local TV drama On The Brink),” Hii remarked, during a recent interview.

“I started off in the entertainment industry as a singer. Music is what I love, so I want to keep making good music,” said the 31-year-old artiste.

Hii recently released the seven-track album Take Me Home, in which he explores new musical genres as well as showcase his songwriting talents. He composed the tunes for six songs and penned the lyrics for three, two of which are in English.

1. You actually did a random street survey to find out whether people thought of you as a singer or an actor. How did that turn out?

It was actually quite balanced. Several identified me as both a singer and an actor. But the singer tag had a few more hits, and many people could actually sing my songs. It’s been more than three years since my last album, and I have been involved in mostly acting projects in that space of time, so I am thankful that people still remember me as a singer.

2. Tell us about the two English songs you wrote for this album.

The title track Take Me Home is an English song that is inspired by reggae, a genre that is not normally explored by Chinese musicians in general. Time Is Love I wrote while I was working on the promotion of the watch brand Solvil Et Titus (as its brand ambassador).

3. Dearly Stranger is a Chinese cover of Mungkin Nanti (a song made popular by Indonesian rock band Peterpan, now known as Noah). What is the story behind that?

Mungkin Nanti was a song that was very popular some 12 years ago. We spent a few months getting the copyright licence for the song, because they wanted to know what the Chinese lyrics were (the original was in Bahasa Indonesia). We got Percy Phang to write the new Chinese lyrics.

When I first recorded Dearly Stranger, those who heard it thought it sounded familiar but couldn’t place it. Some even thought it was an English song and actually somehow managed to sing the song using English words!

4. What is the one special thing about Take Me Home that you cannot find elsewhere?

There is a surprise hidden somewhere in the album. If you search carefully, you can actually find the coordinates that will take you to my home in Kota Kinabalu. If you do want to pay a visit, my mother will welcome you as she loves having guests.

5. What upcoming projects are you currently busy with?

It’s quite a busy time for me. I’ve got a couple of movies coming up. Then, there is also the statement T-shirt venture that I am working on with some friends. We’ve already designed some of the T-shirts.