By Jocelle Koh
An advocate for self-care and a low-key fan of Mandarin music; we’re learning loads about Singaporean artist Gentle Bones (aka Joel Tan) who is making his latest re-entrance into the music scene count with his latest single ‘Smile For Me’. With a serene dynamic sound and effortlessly heartfelt lyrics; the 25 year-old singer-songwriter has built his brand on creating music that comforts in the best way possible.
We chatted with the soft-spoken artist about his recent musical direction, and how his personal philosophy has informed the new single.
1. It’s been a while since you last released music! What have you been up to lately?
Gentle Bones(GB): Yes! I’ve been giving myself some time-off releasing music the past year and really wanted to find the next best sound and direction to move towards!
2. For your comeback single you’ve released the heart-warming and chill track ‘Smile For Me’. Can you tell me a little about the inspiration behind this song?
GB: I write this song for everyone in my life and for myself. I feel that in this day, we are taught as a society to be unfulfilled, to have the latest iPhone, to strive for a highly respected career, to have a balanced lifestyle with way too many good things to do. Looking externally for answers will only result in a lack of belief in the self and this song hopes to encourage everyone to start finding out about what self-love is to them.
3. ‘Smile For Me’ is an anthem for self-care. Why do you think it’s important to be kind to yourself? Do you have any self-care tips to share?
GB: Letting yourself change your mind is a good way to start. We are too quick to define ourselves through Instagram or a reality television based personality these days and truth is, life is going to throw a lot of things your way and it is best to always be ready for change and embrace uncertainty and doubt, that’s how the best version of yourself shines through. The negative connotation put on loneliness is misleading and I feel people should really see it as an opportunity to love and really be with themselves, you are all you have in this life and when you accept that, you love others with a lot more passion.
4. You’ve worked again with MYRNE on this track, with whom you released a full collaborative project ‘B4NGER PROJECT’ in 2018. How did you guys start working together, and do you see this as a long-term collaborative partnership?
GB: We always hang out and write even when we don’t intend to release something, there’s a constant back and forth of ideas and musical energy flowing between us at all times. We are simply great friends and our favourite thing to do is to make music. We got to know each other when he approached me to remix my first song Until We Die. We’ve been buddies ever since.
5. Your music has always been inherently comforting to us, especially the lyrics you write! Would you say this has something to do with your personal philosophy?
GB: I think that I go through the same thing as everyone else and with every new area that I venture into in my life, have always been met with an unrealistic expectation from others and myself. I try to address that pain through my music and I hope it comes off as comforting to know that all through my discography, I was equally as clueless and trying to find myself too!
6. We hear that you’ve been looking at the possibilities of dabbling in the Mandarin music side of things too. Why do you think this scene is something that interests you?
GB: I’ve always been a huge fan of Mandarin music. My family would have a ton of karaoke DVDs stored at home and my siblings and I would sing along to tons of JJ Lin songs. I’m hoping to do my country, Singapore, proud with my new Chinese songs.
7. Do you have any Mandarin artists in particular that you’re into?
GB: JJ Lin is my all time favourite. I’ve been a huge fan of Eric Chou, Joker Xue and G.E.M lately too.
8. As one of the foremost artists on the local Singaporean music scene at the moment, do you feel the scene is any different than when you started a few years back? Do you have any hopes for the local/SEA music scene?
GB: Definitely. The scene has grown so much and what I love about it is that everyone isn’t afraid to push boundaries and new musical ideas. I hope that the scene in our country and region will be able to capture more attention worldwide and I really see that happening in the coming decade.
9. Could you share any projects that you might be working on in the near future? Any more new music that listeners can look out for?
GB: Can’t tell you all too much yet but 2020 will be an exciting year, I promise! I hope my listeners will enjoy what I intend to create.
Sharing with us some very choice words of wisdom, there’s a certain aura of zen that follows Gentle Bones, and I’m starting to realise why he’s chosen to go by such an apt stage name. There’s a quiet kindness to his music that he manages to put across in ways that are both fresh and nurturing, and ‘Smile For Me’ is no exception. By truly acknowledging the lack of fulfilment and loneliness that he sees around him, Gentle Bones has turned pain and suffering into musical healing and comfort for his listeners. I only hope that he continues killing ’em with kindness, no matter where his music takes him.