Sydney’s Marlisa Punzalan was just 15 years of age when she won the 2014 edition of ‘The X Factor’ last October.
Her debut single ‘Stand By You’ followed swiftly and peaked at No.2 on the ARIA singles chart, achieving a platinum sales certification. But then she seemingly vanished from the Australian music industry… until recently, when she released her second single ‘Forever Young’.
But, she tells us in a quick chat to promote it, she’s been far from idle in the past 13 months.
“Well I’ve been busy,” she insists. “We’ve been looking for the song, we’ve been recording and songwriting a lot. I’ve also been doing my studies as well – I’m doing year 10 – but me and team Marlisa have been finding the right song. We just wanted to be sure and now that we have it, I think it’s been worth the wait and I’m really excited to provide it.”
Juggling the studying commitments of year ten at high school can be tough enough, but throw in a fledgling music career and a fanbase consistently hungry for more and you’ve got a recipe for pressure. But Marlisa tells us that she’s coping well.
“I’ve nearly finished year ten and I’ve been able to find spare time to complete my homework,” she says. “I think I’m an organised person. I just find time whenever I can to complete the work. I’m actually finding it quite easy. I’ve been home schooling, so it’s probably a different process.”
Until recently here in Australia, ‘Stand By You’ was Marlisa’s only single release. But her Filipino fanbase was treated to the release of a native language version of ‘Unstoppable’ earlier this year.
“It’s a really inspirational song. The people in the Philippines really love it. They love inspirational songs – anthems that are really motivational – and I think it was a really good song for the Filipinos. I think there may be an English version on the upcoming album.”
Asked why the English version wasn’t released here, she cites a confusion somewhere in the label processes, but assures us that we should be seeing it released in Australia “soon”.
The Philippines isn’t the only place Marlisa’s been finding success with her music throughout South-East Asia. Singapore also developed a love for ‘Stand By You’ and her latest single has already found favour in the most unlikely of places.
“‘Forever Young’ was actually No.8 in Saudi Arabia, so that was incredible. There’s a large Filipino community in the Middle East and they spread news very quickly when they hear about it through social media.
“It feels really good to feel that I have a really big fan base around the world, so I’m really thankful and grateful to everyone who’s buying the single.”
The 12 months since ‘The X Factor’ has thrown up many challenges in Marlisa’s direction, but she continues to develop as an artist. She says that while last year’s win changed her and her schedules, it hasn’t changed her personality.
“I’ve just been learning a lot more about the music industry and the recording industry and I’m loving it,” she says.
“I’ve learned so much and I’ve gained a lot of confidence as well. To have family support is amazing too; they keep you grounded and they keep you being yourself, so that’s good.”
Marlisa’s just-released new single ‘Forever Young’ may (so far) not have become the chart monster she no doubt hoped it would be, but it’s another song that contains a message of positivity and one that’s indicative of the kind of artist she hopes to be.
“We still wanted to keep those inspirational and motivational mottos in my songs, so ‘Forever Young’ is an inspirational song. It’s about being positive and it’s also about striving to achieve your best and also living life to the fullest. And by doing that, you can be forever young.”
For now, work continues on Marlisa’s forthcoming second album. She can’t tell us much about the project at the moment, except to say that “it’s going to be a surprise”. And by ‘surprise’, she assures us she’s not going to “do a Beyoncé” and drop it out of the blue.
And while working on the album, she’ll also be travelling around the world building her fanbase.
“I’ll be going to the Philippines this month to promote the single and I’ll be doing a series of shows there,” she reveals.
“I’ll also be in San Francisco in February because ‘Stand By You’ has been chosen as the theme song for a game by the Wounded Warriors. I’ll be joining their Superbowl weekend, so that will be amazing.”
We do ask whether she feels any pressure to fall into line with other young female popstars of her generation to shed clothes and be provocative in order to get noticed. But, she says, that’s not her style.
“I believe staying myself is the best way I can gain fans, because most of my supporters support me for who I am, not just my music,” Marlisa says. “My mum and my family keep me composed and covered up. I don’t want to be that way. And I think I have a strong mentality to stay the way I am and stay this way for a long time.”
Marlisa’s single ‘Forever Young’ is available now.