When it comes to sharing his opinion about the local music scene, singer-songwriter Nelson Tan does not mince his words.
“The local media, be it TV, radio or print, needs to get out there and feature more local content and talent, instead of the same old few over and over and over again,” Tan declared, “we have many many good songs and great bands made in Singapore that deserve airplay and I feel that we have to give ourselves a chance to appreciate what we have here, not just the familiar names.”
It’s fair to say that in the current wave of popularity, there has been a greater emphasis on acts playing contemporary pop music – be it of the folky or jazzy or soul-funky variety. For any Singapore artist not creating music within these genres, existing under the radar is the fate reserved for them.
So where does that leave Tan and his new album Believe? The music has a very classic 80s pop-rock feel channeling the likes of Bryan Adams and Bon Jovi and somewhat out of step with what is hip and cool in 2016. Tan is not the least fazed by that observation.
“I never think about what genre or feel my music has or is and I don’t consider trends, past or current. I just write and arrange based on what I think is nice and what suits the song,” Tan explained, “I don’t believe in writing based on current trends to please the mainstream. It’s up to the listeners to decide if they like my material, or not”.
A very strident approach which extends to the title track with comes across as strongly faith-based material. To wit, the refrain – “Someday the whole wide world will see/Only you can be our king/I thank you for your work in me/Down on my bended knee/Jesus, I believe”. Once again, Tan’s motivation is not to please or to fit in but to express his heart.
“Well there wasn’t any intention for the album to lean towards any form of faith. I wanted the album to be based upon 3 words; Pursuit, Perseverance, Passion,” Tan emphasised, “the word ‘Believe’, for me, was my way of expressing belief for believing in something, whatever that might be”.
A labour of love perhaps? As Tan himself confirms, some of the songs have been 3 – 5 years in the making, with the recording of the album taking almost a year to complete. Throw in Tan setting up his website himself and the filming of the ‘Borderline’ Music Video (see below), there is no doubt that Tan’s ambitions match his passions. Or as he quipped, “It was pretty hectic but I loved the process”.
Local music fans have little doubt about Tan’s love for the music. This romance has seen Tan playing in various guises – from playing bass with progressive rockers In Each Hand a Cutlass to being a serious working musician on the local pub circuit to being part of Malay pop outfit Tujuhband – and to date he has no regrets whatsoever.
“It has been a hell of a journey and would love to do more,” he elaborated, “someday I would love to be able to coach and mentor the younger generation of musicians and hopefully through my efforts as an artiste and a musician, they will be able to see that if I can do it, so can they.”
Nelson Tan launches his new album Believe at Hood Bar on Saturday 19th November at 8pm. Admission is free.
… still there’s more …