Within the last few months, Taiwan has been graced by the presence of many international artists. Some of them currently hot on top 40 charts around the world with impressive accolades. Others strive to hone their stage performances in the Far East, all the while garnering more fan base on this side of the world. Regardless of their status, we are proud to say that this small Formosan island is starting to witness more musical acts and entertainment spectacles, thus becoming a new central hub for cultural exchange in Asia.

Artists such as Bruno Mars, Ellie Goulding, Jason Mraz, and Bastille have all visited Taiwan before entering China. (Soon to be Katy Perry and Pitbull.) A handful of them only stopped by the island without ever making entry into the mainland. Among these names is a Louisiana native of an extremely rare vocal talent, whom traverses the music industry disguised under his alter ego, Mikky Ekko.

“Who is that?” you ask. It’s understandable that, despite receiving a Grammy nomination before ever releasing a full studio album, you find his name unfamiliar. In a time and space where pop music is largely dominated by cross-genre DJ/producers and flamboyantly-costumed idols (or twerkers?), a well-tempered, Methodist Church-raised, southern boy like John Sudduth (a.k.a. Mikky Ekko) may have been terribly underrated and underappreciated. But that is exactly the idea of MTV Sessions, “a series of music shows that allow music lovers the rare opportunity to watch the latest and upcoming international and regional artists showcase their craft live in an intimate setting”.

“This is my first time in Taiwan? This is my first time in Asia!” During an interview with Taiwan’s all-English radio station, ICRT, Mikky Ekko shows that his upbringing in small towns of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee had no bearing on his knowledge of the world. He knows the difference between Mandarin, Chinese and Taiwanese. He knows about Taipei 101 (the world’s tallest building until 2010). And he’s even eager to try the formidable “stinky tofu” (a fried Taiwanese delicacy made from fermented bean curd).

In contrast, the Far East knew far too little of him. For one, we had no idea that when he takes to the stage, his radiant soprano would emit such distinguished vocal excellence rarely found in contemporary pop musicians. Unlike, say, James Morrison, whose soulful voice reaches its best tone at and alto range, Mikky Ekko’s choirboy-like, yet steadfast operatic high notes, sung through his grunge-influenced vocalizations, vibrates at its best frequency in the high soprano range. Goosebumps, in this case, fall short of the reaction you get from listening to his voice. However, this is a feat that you wouldn’t know just by listening to his studio recordings. It has to be live.

Watching his live performance, we finally understand why big-time producers like Ryan Tedder and Jeff Bhasker agreed to work with him on his debut album, Time.

In case you missed his first Asia tour, hold back your tears because he will certainly be back again soon. Mikky told ICRT that having recently turned 30, he has had the chance to reflect upon his achievements, and he wants to do more. Having finally released an LP is a big step for Mikky. “It’s like having a whole body of work” instead of just an “appendage” like his previous EPs. Musically, he wants to record more albums. Career-wise, he wants to be smart about his decisions. “Think, and act,” he said.

We look forward to more future productions from Mikky Ekko. In the meantime, grab his new “full body” release, the LP Time, or tune in to ICRT FM 100 on February 5, 2015 at 1 PM (UTC+08:00) for a condensed experience of his most representative tracks up-to-date, along with his short interview, on my Midday Show.