It was an accidental, phenomenal career."
Pop and jazz singer Joey Albert was performing with a show band called The New Minstrels in the Philippines after leaving university when she was discovered in 1984. It was one of those lucky, fateful moments that happen all too rarely.
"I sang for fun and the success was unintended," she recalls. "My mother had told me, 'You can sing for three years and after that you get a proper job,' which at that time singing was not, apparently."
Out of it came an offer for her to go into the recording studio and Albert begged her mother for the opportunity, and again was given parental support.
"And the company promoted the record and the second release was a huge hit, very unexpected. And things just progressed," Albert says.
"I started winning awards (including the best female vocalist in the country's music industry Cecil Awards), getting concert offers and the recordings just kept getting better and getting more successful. In the beginning I would say I was a reluctant artist, but I enjoyed singing. I didn't like show business."
She moved to Canada in 1995, still at the peak of her career. But that year the first of two bouts of cancer struck. Fortunately, both are now in recession, but they impacted her immensely.
"It was a wakeup call for me. I had lost two members of my family (her father and sister) so I thought that life had given me more than I'd asked for so it was time to focus on my family, and so I did... I thought I had to say goodbye to all that I had enjoyed (in her career) but that wasn't the case. There were more blessings," she says.
Now 53, Albert's career, albeit on a smaller scale, was still there waiting for her when she got better.
"It was a slow return, I guess as it should, because when my children were much smaller I really enjoyed my time with them. My mother impressed upon me that if there is anything you want to teach your children you must teach them before they are 13 or you have just lost them. Those were, I think, the happiest days of my life," Albert says, adding that her children are now 21 and 24.
Now living in Coquitlam, Albert is singing at Millennium Place with Ray An Fuentes, a former recording artist who is now a Christian pastor in Surrey, on Saturday, Jan. 18. Tickets are available at www.artswhistler.com.
With the Filipino diaspora, Albert is well known for her songs, which are beloved as pop standards from early in her career. She remains modest of this achievement but says she was also ambitious for her work.
"Looking back, I think the most valuable part of all of that are the songs that I left behind. For some reason, perhaps because I lost my father and my sister early on, I had perhaps a subliminal consciousness of leaving something behind," she says. "It was something I was well aware of, so I worked very hard on my recordings and in promoting them. I wanted to leave something for my children, at that time. I wasn't even married yet, but I had that consciousness at the back of my head. I wanted to leave something good and a good name.
"I'm not as active now but it was a good career." You can hear the fondness in her voice as she says this.
This has led to continued life for her songs by younger generations of artists, including American Idol winner David Archulete ("How great is that?" she says).
Another six of her songs have become movie theme songs.
"There is no formula for a successful song. My sister, who managed me, and I realized that there was a career developing and so we sat down and talked about my image. We agreed, no image, we were just going to sing from the heart. And that in itself became a good image and it sold," Albert says.
"My country loves all the pop music from the Western world but what they will keep is the old traditional love songs. The Filipino market is very two-sided that way. They enjoy modern pop and they will choose what is olden and golden."
She will be presenting these standards in her Whistler show, including her soundtrack hits.
"I would like to think of my career here as a sort of giving back, gracing Filipino events and communities with what they have learned to love in another time. This is how I see my presence and my role now."