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JFH Indie Review

JFH Indie Music Spotlight Review

Nathaniel Tan, Living The Dream

Nathaniel Tan
Living The Dream

Album length: 12 tracks
Street Date: October 21, 2011
Buy It: iTunes

In 2009, Christian rock artist Nathaniel Tan released his debut EP Glory of the Cross to his fans in his home country of Singapore. After a fairly good reaction to the EP, Tan began work on a full-length album. His latest release, a twelve-track album called Living The Dream that Tan hopes will help resurrect the Singapore music scene, will be released on October 21, 2011.

You get a glimpse of Tan's overall style in the opening track, "Taking You In." It's radio friendly, yet decently written, pop rock in the vein of Daughtry or the Goo Goo Dolls. The sound doesn't change much throughout the album, though I don't really feel like it needs to. Tan has found the sound he's comfortable playing and has gone for it. Sometimes this isn't a good thing to do, but in this case, it's a perfect fit for him, as it seems that he realizes his limitations and doesn't try to exceed them. Keeping these boundaries has led Tan to another album that stands out a little more than most other independent rock bands. It's not the best sound in the rock world, but Tan does it well enough that it's not disappointing to listen to. I do like that he uses it to put his heart on display. He pours out his thoughts and emotions, and is even hopeful in the midst of otherwise sad songs, like "I'm Gonna Say," where he portrays a father and son trying to mend their relationship. One cool thing is that you can also get personal meanings out of this song. It also sounds like Nathaniel is singing to a love that he lost. He shows his heartbreak, and his attempt to figure out what he did wrong, but he also makes sure to ask God about everything as well. It's both sad and somewhat hopeful. The final track (of the original tracks, that is), is one with Tan struggling with God, but then finding himself again, and finding that all of who he is is in God. With each song, the music always fits the respective message. It makes for good music choice, and relatable lyrics.

Living the Dream is pretty solid throughout, but it's not without its flaws. Perhaps the biggest flaw is in the production. It's an independent album, so the production work is bound to reflect that in some way. And in comparison to many independent artists, Tan's is good. But there are lots of times where the music feels a little empty. Some parts (i.e., the transition from the bridge into the final chorus of "You Take My Breath Away") would've benefitted greatly from some louder and more edgy guitars. It felt a little light, when that portion of the song could've been heavier. This leads to another issue of the album: it has some tendencies to be on the boring side. It's a good album, but where the album lacks production, it tends to make me lose interest. Along with a larger focus on production, I think Tan's future albums could also benefit from him just making an effort to spice up the music a little bit.

Tan's radio rock style is a popular one, and with some tune-ups, he could garner a larger fanbase. If he focused on the recommendations made here, and the general public got ahold of his music, I think they would like what they were hearing. For now, if you like radio rock, order a copy of Living the Dream and support an artist who I firmly believe will keep getting better. Living the Dream isn't the best rock album you'll hear this year, but with some work, Tan could become a household name in the Christian music world.

- Review date: 9/13/11, written by Scott Fryberger of

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. Record Label: None
. Album length: 12 tracks
. Street Date: October 21, 2011
. Download It: The Glow
. Download It: iTunes

  1. Taking You In (3:38)
  2. Breathless (3:59)
  3. Crossroads (3:49)
  4. I'm Gonna Say (4:03)
  5. You Take My Breath Away (4:28)
  6. To Fill The Heavens (5:13)
  7. Living The Dream (4:22)
  8. The Answer Is You (3:51)
  9. (Gonna Be) Alright (4:11)
  10. Where It Ends (3:49)
  11. Taking You In (unplugged) (3:18)
  12. I'm Gonna Say (unplugged) (4:18)
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  • Jesus freak Hideout (Scott Fryberger): Is all the instrumentation on your albums your doing, or do you have a band that plays with you in the studio?

    Nathaniel Tan: I'm actually quite glad that all the instrumentation isn't my doing! I had a band in with me in the studio. You'll find me on guitars in this album though. The recording process of this album has been pretty different from the last one, Glory of the Cross, where I pretty much did all except the drums. I had an awesome team of musicians who did an incredible job of getting the sounds I had envisioned for this album.

  • JFH (Scott): How long have you been a musician?

    Nathaniel: I started playing the guitar when I was 14, bass when I was 16 and then later picked up the piano just over a year back. So...I've been a musician for pretty much 14 years! Wow that's pretty long.... I've just realized that it's half of my life. I'm 28 this year.

  • JFH (Scott): What bands inspire your sound?

    Nathaniel: The sound that I have is a little like a kind of salad that we've got here in Singapore. It's called "Rojak" (pronounced "Rowe" - "Jak"). Its a toss-up kinda salad with interesting ingredients. We use this term here to say that it's a mashup of quite a few awesome tastes! I should send you the recipe one day for you to try it out! Okay... Bands that inspire my sound include the following: Building 429 for their guitar/keys/arrangement, Sanctus Real for their vocal style/guitars/drums, Alter Bridge for the amazing guitar solos in the arrangements, Daughtry for some of the arrangements as well.

  • JFH (Scott): The lyrics of "Taking You In" are lyrics I can relate to. Care to tell the story behind that one?

    Nathaniel: I can totally share the story behind "Taking You In." There's a reason why it's the opening track. Last year around this time (September 2010) I went through a really tough time. I would come home exhausted and depressed because things at home weren't the way I wanted and things at work were far worse. I was so low, blaming myself for the situation as well. I remember crying one night asking God where He was in all of this, and if He was in all of this, why I had to go through it if He was able to get me out of it.

    The next day, a friend got in touch with me and very randomly shared with me Jeremiah 11:12 which says that when we call out to God, He will make time for us. It was such a reminder - that God would make time for me! When I go see the doctor, I've got to make an appointment; when I go to a government office, I've got to make an appointment. Here, the Bible tells me that God's got some awesome plans for me and that He knows I'll come to Him and to sweeten the deal, He says that He will make time for me. This was a turning point. As the chorus in this song goes, "and now when everything is shattered, You're still the one that matters most to me, right now" - God sees our pain. He knows what we go through. We still matter to Him, not tomorrow, or the day after. Today. Here and now.

    I wrote this song through eyes that were opened - looking through God's eyes as expressed in the Bible. In fact the song "I'm Gonna Say" is also related to this story. It switches back and forth between the father and son and how the father is always ready to take his son in, no matter what.

  • JFH (Scott): What goals do you hope to achieve with your music?

    Nathaniel: The goals of my music are to encourage, inspire and empower people.

    To encourage them and let them know that there's so much more to the life they're living. That they're not an accident. That there is true love that will take them for who they are, not some upgraded version of them.

    To inspire new songwriters to just write what God puts in their hearts without fear of what others may say, because it's their experience. No one can take that away from them. No one has the right to criticize. Everyone has an opportunity to learn from your experience.

    To empower people with the word of God. My ultimate goal is that every person who lays his hands/ears on my music will be inspired to live the dream - the dream that Paul writes of in Philippians 3:14 to push on for the prize which isn't anything earthly, but one that is glorious and for eternity, and to have everyone they know living the dream as well.

  • JFH (Scott): Being from Singapore, why do you choose to make your music in the English language?

    Nathaniel: Haha :) This is kind of a funny question to me. I'm not sure if many people know, but English is our primary medium of communication in Singapore. We're way out in the far east, but English is the language. We've got four official languages here in Singapore and it's Malay, Mandarin (Chinese), Tamil and English. With these four languages, you can come to expect that we've got four distinctive groups of people that make up who we are.

    I am Chinese, but I grew up having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or breakfast cereal with a bowl of milk for breakfast. Not exactly your typical Chinese family that does noodles or steamed rice in the morning. It doesn't work for me. Having said that, there are lots of other people here who wake up to similar breakfasts as well and it gives me a lot of reasons to make my music in the English language. Even though I'm in Asia where a ton of people speak Chinese, there's a whole lot more who communicate in English. So, what better way to spread the word of God?

  • JFH (Scott): Do you ever write songs in any of Singapore's other languages?

    Nathaniel: I actually hope to do so in the future :) I don't seem to have the gift of tongues just yet!

  • JFH (Scott): What has God been teaching you lately?

    Nathaniel: I'm now entering the book of Nehemiah, but what I've learned in the book of Ezra is that when we put God first and stand up for His cause, He won't let us down. The exiled Jews who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon had to put up with a lot, but they pulled through because they put God first. Returning to their homeland without walls, they chose to first build up the temple of God. They put themselves on the line and God was their strength. Literally saying "I'm weak and God, You're strong, so I'm laying all to You."

    It was an awesome reminder to me that if I'm gonna get things right, it's not by might, or by my power but by God. And that means putting Him first in every circumstance. This goes in line with the title track "Living The Dream" in the second verse which says that it's so hard to walk this road when not everyone will see. And when the grass seems greener where all else may be. But I'll take each breath I'm given, to live a life that's breathing, of the one who lived and died just, just so that I could be living the dream...



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