Pandemic music: Gentle Bones releasing album eight years after debut

Joel Tan says he does not want his music to be limited by his own abilities.
Joel Tan says he does not want his music to be limited by his own abilities.PHOTO: CROSS RATIO ENTERTAINMENT

SINGAPORE - After eight years of making his name through singles and EPs, singer-songwriter Gentle Bones is finally ready to release his first album.

"I was always a singles-oriented artiste and also very much finding my own sound for the first few years, experimenting with folk, pop, R&B and electronic dance music," says the 27-year-old, whose real name is Joel Tan. "After many years of experimenting, I finally found what Gentle Bones' music should sound like."

The self-titled album, expected to be released by the end of the year, will include many of the collaborations with local and regional artistes that he has put out in the past year. They include Filipino singer Clara Benin (A Day At A Time) and fellow Singaporeans Benjamin Kheng (Better With You) and Jasmine Sokko (Help!).

Last year, he released his first song in Mandarin, Don't You Know Yet?, a duet with Tay Kewei, another home-grown singer.

Tan says he does not want his music to be limited by his own abilities. "To be able to learn and work with all my favourite and most respected artistes in Singapore and in the region took our perspective of what music should be to a whole new level because, now, you have several great minds to put this together."

He also feels that now is the time for musicians across the region to band together to define South-east Asian pop.

"If we can be a part of the definition of the South-east Asian sound on this side of the world, that would make my career a lot more fulfilling."

Tan is one of Singapore's most successful English pop singers in recent times. Last year (2020), he was the third-most-streamed Singaporean artiste on Spotify, coming in after Mandopop superstars JJ Lin and Stefanie Sun.

His most recent work has a distinctly positive vibe. You're My Superhero, for example, celebrates everyday superheroes such as front-line workers who have been working hard during the pandemic. "I'm trying to make music that is able to lift the spirits of others and empower the individual."

Live gigs might have dried up due to the pandemic, but he is using the time to focus on songwriting.

"I think it's just very nice to be able to have that opportunity to fall back in love with music again, as I did when I was 18 before this career started. I was just writing for the pure joy of it, without knowing where it was all going to go."


The album will include many of the collaborations with local and regional artistes that he has put out in the past year. PHOTO: RATIO ENTERTAINMENT

He has also been busy with running his own record label, Yung Lee Records, and wants to help other singers with their artistic and commercial development. The label recently signed on singer-songwriter Dru Chen.

"As an artiste myself, I think it is important to be able to build a foundation where artistes are respected well," he says. "Dru Chen is someone we hope we'll be able to push further in his career."

Gentle Bones' self-titled album will be out by the end of the year.