Singer-songwriter and producer Gaston Pong is only 27 years old but his impressive oeuvre spans over 80 songs across diverse genres. BURO speaks to the rising pop star on how he uses music as a love language and his big dreams for the future.
Shirt: Levi's. Accessories and tank top: Talent's own.
Amidst the usual rush of a cover shoot, Gaston Pong's infectious energy and perky disposition are a welcome energy boost. The studio is quickly filled with his warm greetings as he enters, looking invigorated despite the early call time. It doesn't take him long to settle in as he shares his excitement with us. "It feels like it's my birthday today; I'm so happy!" he cheerily quips while getting dressed from head to toe in the Levi's summer collection. Offering a range of classic looks elevated through lightweight fabrics, the clothing line is a true summer staple—perfect for our year-round hot weather. It features amazingly soft cotton-Tencel shrink-to-fit™ fabric in selected offerings like the red tab vintage tee, meanwhile, various prints take centre stage for warm-weather dressing. The denims are engineered with advanced fibres, providing cooling, quick-drying, and moisture-wicking properties, designed to ensure all-day comfort. Shorts are the perfect blend of preppy yet casual, infused with a new weightless fabric for a lighter feel and an authentic look.

But don't take Gaston's palpable enthusiasm as a sign of greenness. From giving his own input on how to style his looks to striking pose after photogenic pose, he breezes through the shoot with an air of practised ease. This comes as no surprise—after all, the singer has been in showbiz since the tender age of two; performing in front of a camera is all in a day's work for him.

At 27 years old, the singer-songwriter from Johor Bahru has come a long way since his childhood star days. With his incredible songwriting abilities, Gaston has quickly become one of the most sought-after music producers in Southeast Asia, having written and produced for young artists such as China's Janice Yan, Hakken (our April cover star ) and JYP China's Boy Story.

With love calls from studios in Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, Gaston continues to break borders with his musical prowess. Just take a peek at his TikTok, which has garnered 1.2 million followers, and how his creative song covers have reached audiences around the world—even earning a reaction video from Stray Kids much to the K-pop fan's delight!

As I sit down with Gaston over coffee for our interview, the burgeoning star opens up about his rollercoaster music career (which involves a spot on a China idol survival show that did not come to be), his complicated relationship with music and serendipitous full-circle moments.
Shirt and jeans: Levi's. Earring: Gung Jewellery. Shoes and chain belt: Talent's own.
As someone who began his career at the age of two, music is very much woven into Gaston's DNA. He had an obvious knack for it after being scouted at a music centre in a shopping mall. "I actually recorded nursery rhymes and Chinese New Year songs for almost 10 years," he laughs at the memory. However, when asked how signing to a child star agency shaped his relationship with music, the singer-songwriter grew pensive.

"I've always had a love-hate relationship with music," Gaston eventually shares. School can be overwhelming for any prepubescent, and what more with a music career to juggle. "I felt like music took away my childhood because I had to constantly work." The singer recalls vivid memories of hiding and crying in his bedroom during family gatherings after his parents would ask him to sing in front of his relatives. For Gaston, music had become inescapable and suffocating.

In high school, he tried to put music aside and joined sports clubs and the boys' brigade. However, like a moth to a flame, he could never stray too far from the siren-like sounds of music. "If I don't do music, I feel off," he admits. Soon, he found himself in the music club, writing songs and busking with his fellow friends. Slowly, his love for music was sparked once again. "Looking back, I was always trying to find my way back to it."
Then came the turning point that changed the trajectory of Gaston's life. He shares about his difficult time making friends in college and how he fell into depression. Ostracised by his peers and feeling as isolated as ever, the 19-year-old found himself on a balcony with dark thoughts. "At that point, I don't know why but I started humming a melody. As soon as I sang it, I felt so relieved and healed," Gaston shares looking visibly emotional. "In that moment, music saved me."

In 2019, Gaston and his sister, JE, debuted as a duo called PongPong. That very song he hummed on the balcony became their debut track titled Strong Heart. With thousands of comments sharing how the song saved their lives, it was a full-circle moment that showed Gaston the power of music. "After that, I knew I had to continue making music because it has an impact on people. I feel like I have a mission to tell stories through music," the star states resolutely.

"I truly felt like I chose music and it chose me." Without external pressures and outside influences, Gaston found himself in the warm embrace of music once again but this time on his own terms.
Jeans, denim jacket and shirt (worn inside): all Levi's. Sunglasses: Maison Margiela x Gentle Monster. Tie: Stylist's own.
From there, the 27-year-old singer continued to build on his success. After two years with PongPong, Gaston signed to a record label in Beijing and was cast to join an idol survival programme. Unfortunately, Covid hit and put the production on hold. There was a silver lining, though, as he went on to release Ring, Ring, Ring, which garnered a staggering 19 billion streams on DouYin (China's equivalent of TikTok).

With his idol dreams dashed, Gaston was faced with an opportunity to start anew again. "PongPong ended up disbanding because I was supposed to debut in China so my sister went solo. After we went our different paths, I started experimenting to find my own style and sound."

Doing this wasn't difficult for Gaston as he thanked his Malaysian background for giving him a tapestry of influences to work with. "I grew up listening to a lot of C-pop, K-pop and American pop. I think we as Malaysians have an advantage to tap into different genres because we grew up consuming all types of media," he explains.

While Gaston's favourite genres are R&B, hip-hop and pop, he also injects Korean and Chinese influences to make more unique and catchy sounds that appeal to a wider audience. "If you listen to Spark, which I made for Janice Yan, it doesn't sound like a typical C-pop song. In fact, I took inspiration from the K-pop song Eyes, Nose Lips and it turned out great," he muses.
Then there were discussions about which language the multilingual artist would sing in. While he first debuted with a Mandarin song in 2022, he always knew that English would be his language of choice. "With English, it's much more expressive and I love the openness that comes with it," Gaston elaborates. "When I switched over to English, I found myself being more honest and vulnerable. It definitely changes the vibe a lot."

But one thing that did not change is his songwriting ethos, in which Gaston prioritises authenticity above all else, making him the perfect embodiment of BURO's June editorial theme of authenticity. "I told myself that no matter what, I want to stay true to who I am and I want my songs to have real emotion. I'm trying to be more truthful about what I love and put out. I feel like audiences can tell when you're putting out a radio song versus something that's more personal."
One thing that's clear about Gaston is that he has the creative stamina of a stallion. His head is constantly brimming with ideas and you can be sure that his next bout of inspiration isn't far away. "When the beat comes in, I just see a ton of melodies and lyrics fly across my mind waiting for me to catch them." Despite his young age, he already has an incredible portfolio of approximately 80 songs to his name—not counting the other 30 to 40 songs he wrote last year that he hasn't sold yet!

Such musical giftings would naturally attract the attention of producers around the world who want in on the action. Giddily, Gaston shares with me about his most exciting project yet: writing a song for a JYP boy group. "I've always wanted to sell my songs to K-pop bands because I grew up listening to them," he starts. However, it was incredibly competitive and Gaston found himself pulling many all-nighters to produce demos. The singer recounts a time he fell sick during this period of songwriting and even lost his voice at one point. "It was a scary moment for me and a wake-up call to take care of my health as a musician."

Just as he was about to give up on his dreams of entering the K-pop market, a call came. "There was a Malaysian producer who was aware of my work and texted me that he was at JYP China and was looking for a Southeast Asian artist to work on an upcoming single for their group Boy Story. So I sent my profile and in less than a week, they said they wanted to make music with me!" he exclaims.
Denim jacket, shirt, and shorts: all Levi's. Sunglasses: Maison Margiela x Gentle Monster. Shoes and socks: Talent's own.
Before he knew it, he was flying to South Korea to record the song he wrote, Gummy Candy Love, in JYP Entertainment's swanky headquarters in Gangnam. "It was such a magical experience—this is what it's like to sit in a K-pop studio!" During the recording session, he also recalls working with a fully South Korean team who weren't fluent in English. "I felt like we were on the same wavelength. We would give each other a look and understand what the other meant. I love how music connects people and transcends language barriers."

Reflecting on his time in Seoul, Gaston gave a melancholic smile. "It's another full-circle moment for me because in 2021, I had the chance to go on a boy band show but Covid struck. And now, I'm writing a song for a boy band and even filming dance challenges with them too," he shares in amazement. Over our drinks, we delighted at how life works in mysterious and serendipitous ways.
Despite growing a rapid presence internationally, Gaston has always had his sights on changing the local music industry. He had met with six local record labels and realised that there were still improvements to be made. "The contracts did not have concrete plans or enough clauses protecting artists' rights."

As a result, the singer-songwriter took matters into his own hands and founded the entertainment company Pong Entertainment in 2019. Knowing what it's like to be a signed artist under several labels, Gaston hopes to share how his artistic values and Gen Z sensibilities can shape a new musical landscape in Malaysia. "Most of the industry is being managed by people seasoned in the market and holding on to traditional practices. What we want to do at Pong Entertainment is to be relatable to the current music market," he explains.
Rather than looking at the commercial aspect of it, he hopes to leverage content that is close to the artist's heart. "When it comes to songwriting and promotions, it has to be authentic. We don't want it to feel packaged and produced," he tells me. "We don't label our artists and want them to express themselves freely and honestly." He also shares that the oldest in his team is born in 1996. "It's a Gen Z company for Gen Z artists, which makes it truly one of a kind in Malaysia," he says with a gleaming smile. The company is debuting two Mandarin artists this year and is hoping to expand into English soon.

"There's an advantage to being a Malaysian musician. All the media we consume helps us to adapt to different markets." As both an artist and record label founder, he hopes that local musicians utilise their extensive media literacy just like he has. It's clearly a topic he's passionate about as he sets aside his drink and speaks in a more serious tone. I perk my ears. "I want to show that with Malaysia's diverse and multiracial background in music and language, we can really be a cutting-edge powerhouse nation to make good music." It's a powerful statement from the ambitious star.

He cites how social media apps such as TikTok have helped him tremendously. "I gained over one million followers posting song covers and I have fans all over the world. Even Stray Kids reacted to my music," he explains. "I feel like this shows anything is possible now with social media. We don't have to look within our borders but beyond it."
Shirt: Levi's. Accessories: Talent's own.
After years of non-stop hustle and bumpy roads, Gaston has finally found his footing. With his hand in several music markets, the rising singer-songwriter has many exciting projects this year that have him booked and busy. "I was so happy with the response from my English debut last year and making connections with songwriters around the world. It definitely gave me motivation to release my debut album this year."

Releasing in October, Gaston promises that this album will sonically be the best representation of him in a record. "I've been consuming a ton of the latest music trends and learning so much. When this album is released, it'll be the best moment for me as a musician because I know that what I put out is truly what I love."
Printed shirt, shorts and jacket: all Levi's. Socks and shoes: Talent's own. Accessories: Gung Jewellery.
He tells me that his album is only the start of his new musical era. Apart from upcoming collaborations, which he can't disclose just yet, he's also looking at performing more concerts and even a tour.

But most of all, Gaston is learning to take everything in and live in the present. "People around me say that they're proud of me but I realise that I don't do enough of that for myself," he says sheepishly. "I'm always figuring out what to do next and am always on the go. So I've made it a goal this year to tell myself I did well and that I am deserving of this success."

With his incredible work ethic and musical inclinations, Gaston is a shining light in the industry on the precipice of pop stardom. As producers and fans around the world continue to discover his great talents, we can only stand in awe of what this burgeoning star has in store.
Editor-in-chief / Sarah Hani Jamil
Videography / DENNIS KHO