Gurmit Singh (far right) with his new colleagues Mike Kasem (far left) and Vernetta Lopez.
Gurmit Singh has just wrapped up his third day on the job as a Gold 905 DJ when we catch up with him for a chat at the Mediacorp Campus’s ninth floor cafe - and he tells us he already wants to resign tomorrow.
Don’t worry, the actor-comedian is clearly pulling our leg because he loves his new gig too much to let it go just yet. He gushes that the station’s weekday morning show, which he co-hosts with Mike Kasem and Vernetta Lopez, is “the perfect shift” for him as it’s a stable job that still allows him to spend time with his wife and children.
“Just because I’m going back to work doesn’t mean I’m forsaking my family and going back to square one!” he chuckles.
By “square one”, the 54-year-old is referring to the period prior to leaving his full-time showbiz career on Dec 31, 2014 where he was so busy, he barely got to see his kids and often missed celebrating special occasions with them. Back then, he had told us that while he was happy to be doing a good job as an entertainer (be it as a host or as his iconic alter ego Phua Chu Kang), he felt “lousy as a dad”.
Gurmit with his daughter Gabrielle and son Elliot.
Those days are clearly far behind him. Now, he’s able to indulge in life’s simple fatherly pleasures, such as meeting his eldest daughter Gabrielle for lunch after work (which he happily reports he was able to do just yesterday).
“Last time really cannot,” he says. “I would be filming at such weird hours that I would typically come home after everyone had gone to bed, and I would be off again before they got up. Or I would be too tired to interact with them. That was hard.”
That scenario has changed so drastically, he jokes that his youngest child Mikaela, who was born not long before he left Mediacorp, probably sees him as “this guy who never goes anywhere”. We guess that makes him “Gurmit the hermit” in her eyes (sorry, couldn’t resist).
“The funny thing is, I now find myself alone at home and going, ‘Eh? Where is everyone?’ I think they’re getting back at me [for all the times I wasn’t around],” he quips.
Read on as Gurmit tells us about his new radio gig, family life, future plans, and more!
Toggle: You’ve been a Gold 905 DJ for three days now. How has it been like so far?
Gurmit: It’s turning out to be a lot of fun, but I’ve also discovered that it’s a lot of work, which people may not realise. We have to brainstorm about content, and Mike and Vernetta are doing 200 things at the same time, like looking at news, weather, traffic and songs, checking the timing, recording and editing the calls… Haiyo, my goodness! I don’t have to do all that yet but my manager is hoping I can get to the point where I can do that someday as well.
Have there been any funny incidents so far?
Mike has forgotten to turn on my mic before going on air, but it’s all good, we’re still getting used to it. And sometimes I don’t understand when they use shortcuts for words, like acronyms. For example, they would ask me to do a “CTA”, and I’d be like, “I know CTE, but not CTA.” I’ve learned that it stands for “call to action”. (Laughs)
How has the feedback for the new show been like?
It has been good! Fans and friends have said that the show is very fun, lively, and has gone to a whole new level. Yesterday, a lady called in and said that she just wanted to hear my voice. (Laughs) And someone told us that from now on, they’re going to switch to GOLD 905 from another station. Wah, it feels like I’m doing my appraisal!
Continued on next page: Would Gurmit let his kids enter showbiz?
Have you made any “rookie” mistakes yet?
Something that I am very scared of doing happened a lot when I was a substitute for other DJs in the past. In those days, the big blunder I kept making was saying the wrong station number, like instead of saying “Class 95”, I would mix it up with “Gold 905” and say “Class 905”. So the weekend prior to my first day, I kept repeating to myself “Gold 905, Gold 905, Gold 905…” So far, so good!
What does your family think of your new radio gig?
I really appreciate that they (my wife and eldest daughter) actually get up in the morning to listen to me even though they don’t have to. They said I’m doing well and that I sound good because my voice suits radio. I don’t know what that means but it sounds like a good thing! (Laughs)
Has there been any constructive criticism of your performance as well?
Of course, of course. After each shift, we all sit down and exchange feedback that’s both good and not-too-good. For example, today one of the comments I received from my colleagues was that while they’re talking on air, I tend to make a lot of noises [in response] like “mmm, heh, hee, haw”, like this donkey in the background, which they said can make it hard for listeners to concentrate. I didn’t even notice I was doing that!
You got to spend a lot more time with your family over the past five years. What are some new things you discovered about them?
Wah, a lot, and it’s usually little things like, for example, I thought my eldest daughter liked eating this particular food, but she doesn’t! I’m also learning a lot more about my son Elliot’s musical taste and bonding with him over it. He is learning how to play the bass and I’m learning the drums, and he would share with me new songs and bands that I would never in a million years come across on my own.
Have your kids expressed an interest in joining showbiz like you?
Not in front of the camera. My oldest is currently studying theatre and fine arts, while my son is doing visual effects studies, so they’re more interested in behind-the-scenes work.
My youngest, on the other hand, is getting to a stage where she wants to be in front of a camera. When I’m in the living room jamming with my son, she wants to join in and sing. That day she stood on the piano stool and pretended to hold a mic like she was on stage! I was like, oh okay, it has begun.
Gurmit with his son Elliot, wife Melissa, and daughter Gabrielle.
Would you encourage or at least allow them to pursue a career in showbiz?
Of course! I’ve always told them to pursue what makes them happy - as long as it’s legal. Don’t be like, “Dad, I want to push drugs.” No, no, no, cannot. “But it makes me happy!” No, no, no. (Laughs)
So, what else do you hope to achieve in your professional life?
I’d like to become a movie director, not just for one movie, but for several so I can show that the first one is not just a fluke. (Laughs) I’ve been an actor in several films but never a director, so maybe that’s the next thing to do. Having said that, I understand that it will take a lot of time away from my family, so I’m still a bit hesitant about that but who knows? Never say never.
Tune in to LIVE! With Mike, Vernetta & Gurmit on GOLD 905, weekdays from 6am-10am, on meradio.sg.
Photos: Mediacorp, Instagram/Gurmit Singh, Gabrielle Virk, Elliott Virk