Hafiz’s face is beaming, his eyes are gleaming and his smile is wide and exuberant as we catch up with the singer in an interview at the Astro headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
He has a lot to be happy about.
Since winning S7 of Akademi Fantasia, the Sarawak-born singer, who turns 26 next month, has earned the coveted Anugerah Juara Lagu grand prize not once but twice (for Awan Nano in 2011 and Bahagiamu Deritaku in 2014) and not to mention a Best Album honour at the Anugerah Industri Muzik for Luahan Hati Anak Seni in 2013.
But his upbeat and chirpy persona may have less to do with his career milestones over the past few years. Come May 14, Hafiz Suip or simply, Hafiz will be tying the knot with the love of his life Nureffy Jasreel.
“She understands me; she understands my line of work, having to be in front of a lot of people all the time and always socialising,” he gushes about his bride-to-be.
“She’s also gentle and soft-spoken except when she laughs, pecah satu Astro (all of Astro explodes with the sound of her laughter),” he says, adding her quiet personality balances out his loud and outspoken demeanour.
Nureffy, 22, who also sat in on the interview, shares bashfully: “I like him because he respects his parents and if he can respect his parents, he can respect my parents.”
“And he’s cute,” she says to which Hafiz responds by yelling “baldi!” and pretends to cry into an imaginary bucket.
“He’s funny and crazy. He always makes me laugh; he cheers me up when I’m down,” she adds.
The couple, who has been engaged since last February, have known each other for about five to six years.
“I saw her on Facebook as a contestant on the Estee Lauder model search. At the time I didn’t feel brave enough (to approach her) yet.
“I thought, ‘Who would want me? I’m not handsome and she’s trying to become a model.’ But I tried eventually,” Hafiz recalls. He connected with her over the social networking site and has stayed close ever since.
Hafiz realises that some may think that 26 is quite a young age to get hitched.
“I have many friends who got married around the age of 30 and above. I don’t know, perhaps others will have different opinions about this, but for me, I don’t want to be old and have my kids be so young.
“I might as well take the opportunity since I’m young now and still able to take care of my kids,” he shares.
Known for his stirring love ballads, the artiste says Nureffy has inspired his music.
“While I don’t write the songs myself, I discuss them with my composers and they always hear me out, like what stories I want to tell through a song.
“She has given me a lot of inspiration. There’s one song where I told my composer Zul (from the 1990s pop group 2 By 2), ‘I’d like to have one song written for her and for our wedding day.’ I want to tell a story about a woman who’s in my heart and that’s how we came up with Andai.”
The song has already been recorded and will be played on the couple’s big day. It is expected to hit local airwaves around the same time.
Speaking of love songs, Hafiz recently released a duet, Terimaku Seadanya, with songstress Misha Omar.
“My management asked me which female singer do I really love. I’ve always wanted to do a duet with Misha Omar. I’m actually a fan. I like her tone, it’s very unique,” he says.
So when the two shared a stage during a Hari Raya performance last year, Hafiz approached the Bunga-Bunga Cinta hitmaker with the idea of the collaboration.
Hafiz reveals he was struck not only by Misha’s powerhouse vocals but her emotional delivery.
“When she sings, she can make people feel what she’s feeling. If she’s sad, she can make her listeners feel sad,” he expresses his admiration.
“Everyone can sing but a singer must deliver a song in a way that the audience can feel what they feel too. That’s the hardest part about being a singer. That’s what she’s able to do and I asked her to teach me.”
With a new single out, can fans expect to hear a new album too this year? Well, there’s good news. A new album is indeed in the works and this time round, Hafiz is looking to change things up a bit.
“There’s a possibility that I’ll be coming up with some fast songs. In my previous albums, most of my tracks are power ballads. I’m hoping to target the younger generation with my music,” he reveals, adding that the album is slated for release the second half of the year.
So far, he has recorded four songs for the seven-track album (to mark the singer’s seventh year in the industry).
If you can’t wait that long, fans can watch Hafiz on the reality series, Seiras Seirama. Don’t be surprised if you spot more than one “Hafiz” on the show.
The eight-episode series goes in search of contestants who not only sing just like the week’s guest star but look the same too.
“The show helps us to see that we have fans and that they follow every step of our journey in the music industry. It motivates the artistes themselves to know that they have fans out there who are brave enough to take on this challenge,” he says.
Other guest stars – or as the show calls them “icons” – include Datuk Jamal Abdillah, Ella, Ziana Zain, Mas Idayu, Faizal Tahir and Misha Omar.
Asked what it feels like to be called an icon, Hafiz says he doesn’t think of himself as one yet.
“An icon must have a career filled with many experiences and I think I’m still very young. So when I’m named an icon, I accept it but I take it as a challenge and a way to motivate myself,” he says.
Having achieved so much success at a young age, he admits it can be hard to live up to the expectations of others in the future: “Have you heard of the saying ‘the higher you climb, the harder you fall’? It has been a challenge for me.
“The expectations are high. It does give me pressure sometimes, but it also teaches me that I have to keep doing better and better.”
Seiras Seirama airs every Sunday at 9pm on Astro Ria (Ch 104).