Spotify Spotlight: Capturing The Gen Z Experience In Song

·5-min read
Photo: Gareth Fernandez

John Legend, Adele, and Sam Smith. If they're among your Spotify Favourites, then we're certain Gareth Fernandez will be your new favourite.

His latest single “Could Have Been Us” is a soulful ballad that soars with sublime arrangements and emotionally resonant songwriting. Gareth co-wrote the song with indie darling Linying, who's lent her hauntingly beautiful vocals to the track.

We talk to the 31-year-old about working with and sharing stages with both local and international music icons, coming into his own, and wishing he could redo national service with the Music and Drama Company.

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We hear you're the first (and only) one doing music in your family! What sparked the passion?

Interestingly, no one in my family does any music, apart from my late grandfather who dabbled in the accordion, and so I didn't grow up listening to or learning music. I just sort of picked it up in my teenage years out of nowhere and ran with it!

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Seems like music became a big part of your life as you neared adulthood. Come, come, tell us all about the exciting ride you've had so far!

I started singing on YouTube in 2010 and at bars in 2011, before forming The Momma Shop and writing original music in 2013.

Since then, it's been a roller-coaster journey full of the highest highs and the lowest lows, from collaborating on covers with Singapore's icons like Benjamin Kheng, ShiGGa Shay, and Nathan Hartono; to sharing the stage with artists like Jay Park, Redfoo, and Tiffany from SNSD; singing with Arden Cho, performing for NDP2018; and writing the theme song for 2021's New Year Countdown.

I'm choosing to gloss over the lows here, but in summary, they involve the usual internet hate, community clique-ishness, crippling self-doubt and far too many "almost successes"!

When I look back, I realise how lucky I've actually been to enjoy all of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I wouldn't have had if I didn't take the huge leap into music 10 years ago.

Who and what are your biggest musical influences?

I'm inspired by artists like Adele and Sam Smith, who've managed to draw upon classic genres of music and modernise them.

With "Could Have Been Us", the idea was to write a song that was contemporary, relatable to the millennial and zoomer audience, that would also (hopefully) age well due to its evergreen sound.

I'm especially proud of the Gospel-inspired choir, which involved Linying, myself, and two wonderful career gospel singers to record and layer ourselves about 30 times each!

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Amen to that gospel-choir sound! What was the inspiration behind "Could Have Been Us" and what lyric do you connect with most?

Overall, I'm really pleased with the depth of the lyrics of "Could Have Been Us", and it was really important to both Linying and I to make sure every line was quotable, beautiful, and meaningful, which makes it really difficult to pinpoint any one section.

If I had to pick one, it would be the second part of the choruses, which goes like this:

Could have been us but we're far too brittle
Just one touch and we fall apart

Could have been us but we're both so fickle

Could have been us
Could have been us yeah

This part of the song was meant to depict the challenges of love in the internet age. Dating apps are helpful, but have also created this really scary environment where we have a plethora of choice, and so we never take a chance on or commit to anyone because there's a vague possibility of pulling someone "better".

We never shoot our shots because we're afraid of rejection or being ghosted, or worse: going viral on TikTok (in a bad way) for admitting our feelings.

On top of all this, there's a global pandemic forcing all of us indoors, and thus we're supposed to connect with people through a screen, and deal with the expectations of appearances.

From how you look, to your grades, or your job, and your financial status - all that comes into play unfairly. So to anyone going through this struggle, I've been through this before. I feel your pain, and this song is for you!

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Please tell us there's an album coming soon.

Yes! On 2 July, the album called "Lost In You" drops. The album features the final and title track "Lost In You" as well as all of the songs I've released from 2019 until now. After this album drops, I'll go into a writing phase and return with something new and fresh.

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Seems like you had musical aspirations during NS as well.

I was from the 1st Transport Battalion. To be completely honest, it was a very challenging experience for me. I was in PES C9L9 for a leg injury, but was otherwise reasonably fit.

If I could do it all over again, I would have tried for Music and Drama Company, OCS or SISPEC. Nonetheless, my two years in NS taught me to be resilient.

Wonderwall.sg on Spotify

Yes! We're on Spotify. Check out our "I M SGPN" playlist comprising all the cool local artists we fetaure in our Spotify Spotlight series:

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