Profile: Gentle Bones

Published on 17 February 2015

A regular boy-next-door morphs into his alter ego, the chart-topping crooner known as Gentle Bones. What’s his story?

BY jo tan

“I’ve just completed National Service and turn 21 in March. Then I go to Nanyang Technological University’s Business School — business because I want a general degree. I don’t know yet what I want to do in the future,” admits a mild-mannered Joel Tan.

As he runs through the generic checklist for a standard Singapore son, it’s difficult to reconcile Tan with his alter ego Gentle Bones, the breakout star with several chart-topping singles on Singapore’s iTunes charts, hundreds of thousands of YouTube views from all over the world and, the opening act for American pop balladeer Christina Perri when she performs in Singapore this month.

“I’m still surprised at what I managed to achieve since everything I do and create is on an impulse. I started writing songs when I picked up the guitar. I recorded my single ‘Until We Die’ right after my ‘A’ Levels for the fun of it. Then people started liking it, local celebrities started sharing it and giving me shout-outs. Things just kept growing and I thought, ‘I can’t stop now.’ ”

Today, Gentle Bones has grown into an entity with merchandise, singles, music videos, multiple social media accounts… the whole showbiz shebang. Even then, Tan maintains this has nothing to do with any career-development plan.

“I’m a music fanboy myself. I latch on hard to artists I like, buying their merchandise, attending their concerts and following all their accounts. So when I came into this business I just followed what they did,” he ventures.

Indeed, behind the burgeoning brand that is Gentle Bones, the unvarnished Joel Tan is still clearly visible, without the expected glitz or glamour getting in the way. “I produce all the Gentle Bones music videos myself with a friend as video guy. All the people in it are also my friends. It’s a very low-budget kind of thing, but I love the do-it-yourself concept,” Tan beams. “I like that I can put these underlying ideas into them, that you can see people in helmets and masks, and it’s about being trapped and confined in society or losing yourself in love. Yes, they can be teen-angsty,” he laughs.

Ultimately, the appeal of Gentle Bones may be that the earnest Tan hasn’t seen the need to become some manufactured megastar. “I’ve always believed in honesty, especially when it comes to music. It’s being frank that allows people to get to know you and fully engross themselves in a song’s message and theme.”

Gentle Bones opens for Christina Perri’s Head or Heart Tour at The Coliseum, Hard Rock Hotel Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa, on 27 Feb.

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