Honesty Hour with Gareth.T
Imagine you’re at the beach on a summer evening at sunset. The ebb and flow of the waves are almost as entrancing as the cotton candy clouds that fill the sky. You gaze out at the vast openness of the sea and watch the sun ever so slowly dip below the horizon. The sand beneath your feet vibrates as the crisp briny air stings your face. That longing, unshaken feeling overtakes you.
Hong Kong based R&B singer, songwriter, and producer Gareth.T (Gareth Tong) seamlessly weaves these emotions into his music, giving us a familiar taste of chill R&B in the vein of Frank Ocean meets keshi and hints of Nieman. He has a firm grasp on the ability to tap into the dynamic vein of the human condition–from the fun, light-hearted innocence of “Crush” to the empathetic “Moved On,” to the comforting “2 more weeks.” There is a type of relatable yearning from Tong’s perspective that continuously draws in the audience. In a tribute song to his grandma, “best me I can,” he serenades “One day / I’m doing the best/ To be the best me I can / The best me I can be” as a motivator and promise to chase his dreams and become the best he can be.
Now in his final semester at Berklee College of Music, Gareth has cultivated lasting relationships and resources to spearhead his career in the Hong Kong music scene. With an exciting upcoming project set to be released sometime in 2021, Gareth allowed me into his creative process and shared with me how he plans to hopefully one day break into the Asia market with his sultry, contemporary R&B.
Hey Gareth, it is so nice to meet you! Can you describe yourself as an artist, your journey into music, and who inspires you?
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I would describe myself after going back and forth from the US and Hong Kong a couple times now. Due to school, I feel like a term that would describe me is, I don’t know if it’s a little too much, but I would say I’m kind of unorthodox. In the sense that, I was born in this environment (HK), which doesn’t really think or write the songs that the West has, but I was still able to break into this type of genre that is R&B.
Like most kids, I first got into music by learning how to play the piano and violin. It wasn’t until later on in my high school days that I started to do a deep dive into pop, hip hop, rap, and R&B–listening to iconic artists like Eminem, D’Angelo, and Michael Jackson. From there I started to play around making beats after school just for fun. After making a bunch of trash beats, I started to get a little better at it as time went on, and by my final year in secondary school I knew I wanted to pursue this career. From there I was lucky enough to get into Berklee and seeing how many talented artists that I was surrounded by, it drove me to the mentality where I knew I had to “step it up.” Now my aim is to not only create and produce meaningful projects, but also to market it towards the Southeast Asian scene.
2020 has been CRAZY! What are you looking forward to going into the New Year and what can listeners be expecting of you in 2021?
I’m planning to drop an album in 2021. I don’t want to give away the title or how many songs will be on it just yet, but what I can tell people right now is that this album will be about my life experiences. It’s a culmination of my experiences living in the city, in my career, school, having family arguments; it’s these types of songs that I’ve made with being really honest with myself.
The most recent track you released this year is called “2 more weeks”, can you tell me more about the creative direction you went in and what was the meaning behind it?
The story behind “2 more weeks” was about my roommate. I wrote the song in the last few days before we left Boston to go back to Hong Kong after which you have to do a 14-day quarantine. From how much I knew he was missing his girlfriend, I wrote down all these different details of them just from what I observed. They did Netflix parties, continuous texting, and constantly telling her how much he can’t wait to get out and reunite with her. So that’s basically the whole song, the two weeks when he couldn’t go out because of quarantine, it just meant two weeks until he’ll be seeing her.
A lot of your songs that I’ve resonated with have definitely made me feel emotional towards love or at least the longing of it. Do you consider yourself to be a romantic?
To be honest, I don’t think I’m a romantic person. I definitely show my love and care in different ways that other people don’t and it will definitely be apparent in later songs that I will release. But in the songs that are out currently, I think it’s more about missing out on love or its over than actually being in love.
As an Asian artist, do you plan to make music in another language that isn’t English? Why or why not?
I think I will, but since my Chinese level isn’t that good, I’ve been trying to find more Hong Kong writers that are fluent in the language to write with me. I do want to write a Mandarin song with a poetic grasp to it, I just haven’t found the best writer to be able to help me in that aspect.
What other artists have you been recently listening to and who should we be keeping our eyes out for?
Just recently I’ve been listening to UK rap, there’s this British guy AITCH, he flexes low key and chill. My friend MARS (@marsmusicofficial) who we actually released a song together called “Moved On.” I really like his production style. Another dope artist named Moon Tang (@moonstyles_), she makes really chill sleep music, so I think her music is really cool too.
I usually listen to a lot of new rising pop artists, because it’s artists like them that are on the come-up and who I learn the most from. In my opinion, I think the new wave of music will be pop song lyrics ingrained into folk music.
Who do you hope to work with in the future or dream collaboration?
I don’t know if I would want to work with anyone in particular, but I definitely have a list of people I want to MEET. I think meeting them is more interesting than working with them. I was a really big Pharrell / The Neptunes fan growing up and seeing how Neptunes was using chords no one was using or doing arrangements that people weren’t really thinking about necessarily… and Pharrell was behind their creative success making this outrageous art that no one had yet tapped into. If I could meet artists who I’ve admired for so long, like Pharrell and Kanye, rather than working with them, that would be enough for me. Asking them how they came up with their songs and talking to them as people is my dream.
Is there anything you would like to tell your supports / peers / fans?
First and foremost, I’m not good at saying thank you, but deep inside I’m very happy and appreciative that people listen to my music. It makes me feel pretty great when people message me on my Instagram saying they’re listening to my music and that they’re liking it. From the past two years since I started my Spotify page, coming back to HK, and doing a bit of soul searching, I’m finally at this spot where I’m really comfortable about who I am. I’ll let the songs do the talking, but it’s like finally everything I write is really honest. Hopefully when people listen to those songs, they’ll like it and appreciate the time and effort I put into making these songs. I hope that people will recognize how much I’ve grown and improved as an artist and will see me fully through these songs.
This interview was conducted via Zoom by Lexy Pang on December 10, 2020.