Chart-topper was awful at singing

Chart-topper was awful at singing

When local singersongwriter Reuby sang as a child, he sounded so bad that it upset one of his sisters.

"I wasn't born with the ability to sing well. When I started singing, I was awful and my sister would beg me to stop.

But I continued practising every day until, one day, my sister said, 'Hey, you know, your tone has improved,'" says the 19-year-old behind the iTunes No. 1 song My Sunshine.

His sister was not the only one who has noticed.

A newcomer in the music scene whose public performances were limited to busking stints and low-key gigs, he snagged a deal with talent management company Mode Entertainment, whose stable includes Mandopop singer Derrick Hoh, through an audition video.

The singer, whose real name is Reuben Tan, performs under the moniker of Reuby because he feels that it sounds "memorable".

He also recently became the latest local artist to be signed to major music label Warner Music Singapore, which is distributing his eponymous album released last month.

A pre-album single, My Sunshine, went straight to the top spot of the local iTunes charts when it made its debut on National Day.

His songs are also making the rounds on local radio. Last month, he was 987FM's Rising Star and Lush 99.5FM's Artist of the Month.

Born the second of four children to a piano teacher mother and a financial adviser father, he took classical piano lessons from a young age from his mother and attended classes for the guitar and drums.

At the age of 11, he started dabbling in writing his own songs, inspired by bands such as Coldplay as well as singer-songwriters such as John Mayer.

Over time, he discovered that he had developed a knack for songwriting and also started to enjoy writing his own songs.

"When I write my own songs, I want to tell my own stories rather than other people's stories. I wanted to personalise what I was playing."

Key To A Heart, for example, was inspired by a cashier he saw at cafe chain Toast Box. "I was too shy to pass her my number so I wrote it on a receipt and asked my sister to pass it to her," he recalls.

The girl called him and the pair are now "just friends".

Reuby, who has one older sister and two younger sisters, was home-schooled from Primary 4 as his parents wanted to have more influence on his education.

"They didn't want me to grow only academically. They wanted to build my character as well."

Getting taken out of school was not a culture shock, he says.

"I'm generally people-friendly, so even during my home-school years I would always go out to events and different churches to meet people and explore."

He started school again last year and is now in his second year at Lasalle College of the Arts, studying for a Diploma in Music with a major in vocals.

The singer hopes that the album will be a launchpad to a life-long career in music.

"Over the years, as I play more and more, I realise that I love singing and making music and I would really love it if this takes off as a career and becomes something that I can do for the rest of my life."

This article was first published on Oct 8, 2014.
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