When Joel Tan, the artist known to most as Gentle Bones, picked up a guitar for the first time at 16 years old it’s doubtful he could have predicted how quickly he would achieve the incredible successes he’s managed…
In fact, the 21 year old has achieved more in the past 18 months than many aspiring musicians could hope to achieve in a lifetime. His debut single ‘Until We Die’ secured the number 1 position on the iTunes charts and Music Weekly Asia’s Top 30 Singapore charts upon release, he has become the first ever Singaporean artists to sign a ‘360-degree-deal’ with Universal Music Singapore, performed in front of 25,000 people at The Float@Marina Bay and now is mere days away from a European invasion, performing in London with his band.
Indeed Gentle Bones represents the forefront of a new wave of Singaporean artists that, along with The Sam Willows, are making an impact far beyond their small island home. His delicate approach to stripped back folk driven pop music has resonated with both local and international audiences and it seems only a matter of time before a major international record deal is imminent. It’s safe to say that the trajectory is looking good for this talented young artist.
We took some time out of the perennially humble Tan’s day to discuss his recent collaborations with YouTube sensation Kurt Schneider, what he couldn’t live without on a deserted island and what lies in the future for this mercurial talent.
How would you describe your sound to someone that hasn’t had the opportunity to hear you perform?
My music of late has been very folk inspired. A lot of big sounds, from orchestral bits to large choir chants, they tend to contrast the intimacy and honesty of my lyrics, but yet accentuates the emotion.
You played packed out shows at Music Matters 2014 before your EP was released, with so much momentum coming into this year’s Music Matters what was the response this time around?
We performed one show during Music Matters 2015 at the main Fountain Stage and it was an incredible night. We filled up the whole place, people sang and it was a good time.
Do you have any pre-gig rituals or superstitions?
Not quite. But I do keep to myself most of the time as show time draws closer.
You’ve just been signed by Universal and the first Singaporean artiste to sign a “360-degree deal” which includes recording and publishing rights, events, endorsements, and merchandise. This is the kind of opportunity that many young artists can only dream of. Can you tell us more about what it was like when you got that call?
Everything that has happened over the one and a half years since I released my first single “Until We Die” has exceeded all my expectations. It was extremely humbling to know that Universal believed in my work and was willing to invest in my art. I’m grateful to be able to continue putting out material.
You’ve collaborated with YouTube sensation Kurt Schneider recently. Tell us more about that came about and what it was like working with him?
Kurt is a genius. He works so fast and churns out his “one-take” content so quickly. It was definitely a huge learning experience and taught me so much. We filmed a video with Tiffany Alvord that is up on his YouTube channel now!
The SGMUSO Live showcase is coming up in London soon, running from 24 to 28 June? How are you feeling about bringing your music to an international audience?
So much pressure! But most of all, I’m grateful that I’m able to present my music to people of another continent and take my band with me.
When can we expect the debut album to be released?
Hopefully, by the end of the year! Expect surprises though, laughs.
Finally, name the three things you’d take with you if you were going to be stranded on a deserted island?
A friend, a guitar and sushi.