Heartbreak begets music for Gayle Nerva

The singer-songwriter and Tanglin star opens up about the inspiration behind her latest single

Gayle Nerva

Photos: Zara Zhuang, Channel 5, Gayle Nerva's Instagram

Don’t let the powerful beats and slick groove of "Pretend" fool you into thinking it’s an upbeat tune — Gayle Nerva’s latest single is a breakup song, through and through. It’s always easier to write a sad song than a happy one, she said.

The self-penned tune was inspired by a soured romance. “Most of us have been there, a relationship has ended and you see that person move on and you’re not happy about it,” she said. “You’re upset that person is moving on before you.”

Two years later, Gayle has moved on to bigger things: From singing at the CELEBRATE SG50 countdown concert to lending her voice to the 28th SEA Games official music album, Gayle will now be holding her own concert, “An Intimate Evening with Gayle Nerva,” at the Esplanade on September 5 as part of the Singapore Street Festival.

Though she’s a seasoned performer — she debuted in 2006 on the second cycle of Singapore Idol — the 26-year-old admits to being nervous about helming her own concert and sharing mostly original material during the 12-song, 75-minute show. Her songs are intensely personal, she reveals, “almost like diary entries.”

Gayle Nerva on Channel 5's Tanglin

At the same time, Gayle is strengthening her credentials as an actress. On Channel 5’s Tanglin she plays Suzanne, a sass mouth, blunt, sarcastic, and the comedic relief in the show, according to Gayle, who enjoys that kind of role because it’s light-hearted and portrays a side of her that people seldom see. And though she considers her character similar to a younger version of herself, Gayle sees herself as more free-spirited than the HDB-obsessed Suzanne. “I’d like to go overseas, maybe study musical theatre or just go away for three months and take a bartending job or live on a farm,” she said.

Being one of two Eurasian actors on Tanglin — and without the backing of an onscreen family — Gayle hopes her character will be developed further as the show progresses. “Hopefully in the next 100-odd episodes you’ll find out why she is the way she is, who her family is and that there’s more to her story,” she said.

“It’d be nice to introduce a Eurasian family,” she added. “I think the writers have something in mind, but you never know what they’re going to write — we get the scripts a week in advance.”

Gayle Nerva and the cast of Tanglin
(Images courtesy of Gayle Nerva's Instagram @gaylenerva)

The relationship among the Tanglin cast is close, and Gayle talks about how the team often make off-camera jokes and wisecracks to sustain them through 12- or 13-hour shoots. “Did you know James [Seah, who plays her boyfriend, Chris] is secretly a Malay boy trapped in a Chinese body?” she said. “We’re always singing silly things on set … and then James will go, ‘Eh why you liddat lehhhh!’”

Asked if she’s open to exploring acting opportunities on Channel 8, Gayle admits her language skills are a little wanting. Though she’s open to it if roles came along, “Mandarin is so difficult,” she said. “Maybe I can play Filipino maids. Then I’ll have an excuse [for my poor Mandarin].”

Reflecting on her artistic journey since her Idol days, Gayle shares how she used to try to emulate certain musicians because she thought that was what people wanted to hear; now the singer is far more comfortable in her own skin. “I’ve found my own sound and I’m happy with it,” she said. “Before, I was kind of afraid. … I guess we’re all pretending in a certain way.”

Catch Tanglin’s on Channel 5, weeknights at 8.30 pm. For more information about Tanglin, visit the official website.

Watch Tanglin on Toggle-It-First or catch-up TV.

An Intimate Evening with Gayle Nerva
Date: September 5, 2015 (Sat)
Venue: Esplanade Recital Studio
Time: 8PM
Ticket Prices: S$35 *Excludes booking fee
Tickets are now available on SISTIC.

Tanglin: Stories about kinship and the kampong spirit


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