The Feeling in His (Gentle) Bones
We’re admittedly a bit late to the party, what with us being on hiatus and all. But even in the middle of a disappearing act it’s a little bit difficult to ignore Joel Tan, especially with a moniker like Gentle Bones (we embarrassingly mixed him up with Chris Jones of These Brittle Bones when he first came to our attention).
And we certainly weren’t the only ones who took notice. As if in the blink of an eye, the unassuming young lad has stolen the public consciousness (and arguably, their hearts too) with an Ed Sheeren-ish brand of pop-rock that, from the turnout at his EP launch, seems to be right up your alley. It got us clicking on his YouTube videos, but it got the National Arts Council (NAC) to give him $10,000 for his debut EP.
At the tender age of 20 (note: we say tender, but the MOSHIN’ crew isn’t much older), Joel is following his dreams like few other 20-year-olds, having played shows at the Mosaic Music Festival in 2012 and Music Matters Asia earlier this year. He’s even landed a gig to perform at next year’s Southeast Asian (SEA) games.
We spoke to Joel in the midst of his post-EP launch high about his inspiration, success, support and future.
How did you start playing music and singing?
I’ve always been a huge fan of music but it was only when I did my first performance in school while my friend accompanied with the guitar that I thought I could possibly give this a try. I started when I was 16, mainly picking up basic chords on the guitar so that I could sing my favourite songs. That’s when I started becoming obsessed with the art of crafting tunes and being a singer-songwriter.
When did you decide that music was more than a bedroom hobby for you?
I guess last year? When I made a huge decision to take a leap of faith and have the songs I written be produced professionally. It was mostly an outlet for expressing my emotions at first but it grew into something a lot bigger in the past few months! it’s now something I really want to push for as I see my music touch people’s lives.
What’s in a name? Do you consider yourself a gentle soul?
I’m pretty gentle, not as much an emotional wreck as how my songs portray me to be. But I guess it’s because I’ve always been quite a happy person and tend not to show my emotions. So I always exhaust all the feelings that get built up inside me through the writing of my songs. Gentle Bones was very much a random name though and I tend to prefer these meaningless monikers especially when it is something I have to stick with for the rest of my music journey.
Congrats on your EP launch! What was the process of putting that out like?
Thank you! The production process was very new to me, and being a big fan of music, I had a lot of artistes I looked up to who also have concepts and sounds that I really admire. And it’s through this process that we gelled my favourite sounds and influences together and I think after it all, my producer and I have really found a sound that I feel really sums my musicality up and is something I am really proud of, at least for now.
Did the NAC do anything else other than give you money?
NAC has been of great support since the beginning of embarking on this project. They believed in my music enough to aid me in my dream financially and I couldn’t really have asked for more. I have so many other people to thank in my journey thus far including my team, Audio Technica and my family… the list could go on forever. I have never been more grateful for anything else in my life.
We read somewhere that you’ve written more than 100 original tracks. What happened to the rest?! I’m sure we would love to hear some more.
I’m really picky when it comes to choosing songs I’d like to put out publicly but almost the opposite when it comes to writing. I don’t believe in working on a song for an extended period. I prefer writing all sorts of stuff and being able to pick and choose.
Your YouTube channel’s mostly full of covers at the moment. Should we expect more originals up there soon?
I take the releasing of my originals really seriously. Recording a song requires loads of studio time for instruments, arrangement, mixing and loads of trial and error. Then I’d have to film a decent video of it, which requires weeks to come up with, both of which is way more difficult than putting a cover up online. But I have a passion for original work and I’d love to be able to put more stuff out in the future.
What does staying true to yourself look like in terms of music?
To be able to retain creative control. Of course having a team to assist me in realising my visions would make life a lot easier though, haha.
What’s next for Gentle Bones?
More songs, be it in the form of singles or an album. I don’t really know yet. We’re planning for a couple of regional tours and it’ll finally give me the chance to explore other parts of the world musically.
Gentle Bones’ self-titled debut EP is available now in the iTunes store.
More Gentle Bones: