Gentle Bones interview
We catch up with Singapore’s singer-songwriter Joel Tan, better known as Gentle Bones
It’s a moniker I came up with when I was 16, as I needed a name to upload my bedroom recorded tunes on SoundCloud. Over the years, I guess it grew on me and really encapsulates the cryptic nature of the music I play.
In an interview with ‘We Are Singapore’ in May 2014, you said: ‘My style would have to be defined by Ed Sheeran’. Do you stand by that description of your style, or has it evolved in the past year?
It definitely has evolved over the years. Ed Sheeran’s first release definitely inspired me to take songwriting more seriously and soon got me obsessed with the idea of creation. With that foundation and practice, I believe I’ve found a sound for Gentle Bones that I’ve grown to love.
You’ve been depicted as being ‘at the forefront of the musical movement among the younger generation in Singapore’.
It’s a great honour and to be among the new league of Singaporean youths who have decided to place on themselves the responsibility of breaking boundaries in the local arts scene. The growing diversity and quality in the Singaporean music scene is at its all time best and I’m glad I got to play a part in that.
You’ve mentioned that you spent a few months recording an EP during your A-Levels – but killed the project. In hindsight, what went wrong (or maybe, what went right, if we take into consideration your success today with your self-titled 2014 EP)?
Everything went right! It was definitely a tough time taking on the task of producing an EP and having to take on the most important exam of my life. Of course I was pretty bummed out that all the work I’ve put in went down the drain. But all that work made me grow immensely as an artist and got me ready to take on the project that was my debut EP in 2014.
Tell us about the themes in your EP – what are these songs mostly about?
The songs mostly engird around life themes of love and friendship, questioning the existential crisis one would experience in life and with someone special. It has a very conversational tone and comes off as a visceral and sincere poem in the form of music. Is it fair to say that you got your big break with the release of ‘Until We Die’?
I would believe so.
If so, what inspired the song and the ensuing music video, and what do you think is the appeal of ‘Until We Die’?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist who sang his own tunes. I first started off doing covers on YouTube and Until We Die, and after which my EP, really established me in the Singaporean music scene. I believe it appeals to every one of different ages and the song speaks of an existential.
Your career began with covers – you were a YouTube star before you were touted as an indie genius singer-songwriter. What was it like starting out on YouTube back then?
It was really just an avenue for me to practice and put out renditions of popular songs online. It also provided me with a platform to receive feedback, and work on my musical skills.
Also, you’re a nominee in the running for Singapore Social Media Awards’ ‘Breakout Star of the Year’ category. What are your thoughts on content creation, self-publishing and the role of social media with respect to the success you’ve enjoyed so far?
Creating content for Gentle Bones is a very intricate thing for me. I’m extremely selective with works that I release and I strongly believe that less is more especially in an industry where there is just an overflow of content and competing with its frequency will only affect quality.
What’s in the horizon for the rest of the year?
I’m about to start work on the next release soon. There’s going to be a huge change of sound and I’ve spent the past year trying to work out the soundscapes. It is slated for late this year or early next.
For more on Gentle Bones, visit www.gentlebones.com.