Gentle Bones wins big

Home-grown singer-songwriter Gentle Bones, who started out in the indie scene, won two major awards at this year's Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (Compass) Awards.

The 22-year-old, whose real name is Joel Tan, won the Top Local English Pop Song for his first single, Until We Die, from his debut EP, Gentle Bones, and the Young Songwriter of the Year award.

Until We Die, which came out in 2013, went to the top of the Singapore iTunes singles chart.

Tan did not pick up his award in person, but said in a telephone interview with The Straits Times yesterday that he was "honoured" to have won.

The annual Compass awards ceremony, which is in its 21st year, was held on Sunday night at Resorts World Convention Centre.

Compass awards are given to Singapore musicians who earned the highest royalties last year. Compass tracks the royalties musicians earn based on how many times their songs have been performed live, played on radio and in nightspots and food and beverage outlets.

Tan, who released his sophomore EP Geniuses And Thieves earlier this year, says: "It's been quite a dream that companies are asking for the right to use my songs and that radio stations are playing them. Ask me just 1 1/2 years ago what royalties are and I would have no idea."

While he says that he is not raking in the big bucks yet, he has made enough to pay his bills. Universal Music Singapore, which signed Tan last year, declined to say how much Tan's two EPs have made so far.

It has been a big year for Tan. In June, he played his first ticketed solo show at the Esplanade Concert Hall. All 1,500 tickets to the show were sold out within 10 days and a second concert was quickly added.

He was also the first Singapore artist to win the Super Nova Award at the Hong Kong Asian-Pop Music Festival 2016 and the first to be listed on the inaugural Forbes 30 Under 30 list for entertainment and sports personalities in Asia.

Up next for him is next week's 2016 Asia Song Festival in Busan, South Korea, where he is among the performers.

Although he seems like he has made it as a musician, he remains realistic. "Even if there's money coming in now, it's about the sustainability and longevity of being an artist in Singapore. My dream is to write the best song possible, so I'm going to keep working at it."

This year, 11 awards were given to top-earning Singapore songwriters in various music genres.

Mandopop singer-songwriter JJ Lin, who has won at least one Compass award every year since 2006, when he was named Young Songwriter of the Year, kept his title as the top Singapore songwriter.

But the Top Local Artiste of the Year award, which he won last year, went to fellow Mandopop singer Stefanie Sun. Both did not attend the awards ceremony.

Awards in four categories were also given to Singapore musicians to recognise their artistic excellence and contributions to the local music scene.

Singer-composer Mark Chan, 57, was one of three veterans who took home the Artistic Excellence Artist award. Chan, who is putting out a new album next month, said: "Many people might not know me today, but there are others who remember. I never think of the awards. I just want to make music."

Singer-composer Mark Chan was one of three veterans who won the Artistic Excellence Artist award. Photo: The Straits Times

He has not made an album in recent years and moved back from living in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Paris to Singapore only two years ago.

Despite this, Ms Caroline Heng, who manages membership and public relations at Compass, said the award honoured his body of work.

The other two Artistic Excellence winners were music arranger George Leong and the late singer- songwriter M. Osman, who was a symbol of the Pop Yeh Yeh era in the 1960s. The latter's wife accepted the posthumous award.

Mr Tong Hong Tat took home the Wings of Excellence award. Photo: The Straits Times

Mr Tong Hong Tat, 34, who has produced, written and arranged music for the likes of Taiwanese singer Show Lo and Australian singer Troye Sivan, took home the Wings of Excellence award, given to an individual who has achieved an outstanding performance internationally.

This article was first published on September 27, 2016.
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