Meet Fil-Brit Artist Jon Guelas, And Fall In Love With His Music
Filipino-British artist and "The X Factor (UK)" alum Jon Guelas talks about his foray into the music industry, introducing himself in the Pinoy music scene through his track for the "He's Into Her" series, and releasing his latest single "Hardest Thing"
Jon Guelas is not a new name in the music scene, as he made it to the talent competition The X Factor (UK) in 2018. He treaded its waters and thrived up until the finals where his boy band United Vibe was founded by seasoned judge Simon Cowell and singers Robbie Williams and Louis Tomlinson. His stint in the show kick-started his singing career alongside colleagues Jack Tisdale, Blaise Duncan, Elliot Horne, and Kieran Harrison.
While the quintet’s music quest has only held out for a brief period, Jon and his band have headlined tours in his homeland and on a European scale. Their sell-out shows span Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and the members have also appeared in a number of radio and television networks throughout their music run. Jon co-wrote chart-breaking singles with his bandmates and released four of them, fetching them more opportunities to marvel at.
Back in 2019, this Filipino-British musician bannered Hyde Park in London with veteran singer-songwriter Robbie Williams. This was where Jon’s vision of a solo singing career started to take shape. Now under Tarsier Records, Jon is pushing his career to a higher cause, seeking shelter in his Filipino half and second home. In 2021, he released his first two tracks as a solo singer titled “Wonderland” and “Out Of Love.”
Following his debut, Jon Guelas, now 22, furthered his calling by singing the heartbreak soundtrack of DonBelle-helmed series He’s Into Her, “Did I Let You Go,” in collaboration with PBB alum and one of HIH’s cast members Vivoree Esclito. His other Tarsier-produced pop track with the title “Work This Time” was also released under the record label in January 2022. His latest single, “Hardest Thing,” follows a story of letting go and leaving with a heavy heart.
Last August 27, 2022 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Jon performed live and wowed onstage at the He’s Into Her All Access concert where he sang “Did I Let You Go” with Vivoree. He is also slated to grace the global stage at the 1MX show in London, England on October 1, 2022 at Apps Court Farm along with world-class Filipino talents. The music festival will be marked by back-to-back performances from OPM musicians and personalities.
In line with establishing himself in the Pinoy music scene, Jon has also been tapped to host a travel show, Fiesta Filipinas, spearheaded by Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Tourism (DoT). This gives him the chance to see the country and experience the culture from all over.
In an exclusive interview with Metro.Style, Jon talks about how he beefs up his music with bona fide life encounters, lifting from experience the concepts for the masterpieces that he concocts. He aches to soak up authenticity as a foundation for the tracks that he hums to the tune of. Whether it’s a sob story or a human heart whatnot—a pent-up pain or just about any residual feelings from a relationship—this singer-songwriter’s jam is all about the real and the raw.
He tells us, “I think the thing with music that I’m most looking forward to is just being able to release music. The goal is I want people to listen and to relate. I really want the music to do the talking for itself and the people to just take it in. I really, really want the music to be in as many places as possible. The most recent project [that I have] is called 'Hardest Thing.' The most exciting thing is releasing music and having people be able to hear it—whether they like it, love it, relate to it—as long as they hear it and feel something.”
Metro.Style: When and how did you first discover your love for music? Do you look up to anybody or have you had any influences in music who introduced you to the craft when you were a child?
Jon: “Growing up as a kid, I always loved music. I absolutely adored it, and I can remember, being a kid—me and my brother—we used to sing songs on the piano just for fun. It’s always been a part of me. I’ve always absolutely adored music and I think it was just that, really—that was the main influence. Me and my brother—and even a few of our friends—they used to play the drums. It was just always, always so fun, and that was the very start of it. I remember being 13 years old, and in the back of the car with my headphones on, I used to listen to Ed Sheeran. This song—'The A Team'—came out and I just listened to it all the time and I thought to myself, 'Wow, this is incredible—that someone can produce and make something so meaningful.' I couldn’t relate to the song whatsoever but I just felt it.”
MS: What type of music do you typically create or come up with? What genre do you usually go after? Do you have a certain approach to making music?
Jon: “The type of music I usually go for is mostly radio pop, but there’s always a twist of an instrumental side. It’s not too 'pop' pop, but there’s always that genuine feeling. The main thing for me is there’s always a message in it and it’s always genuine and real. I’m not just writing about something random; I’m writing about something genuine and, normally, it’s a big experience that I’ve gone through, so the process of that is before I start—before I touch any instrument and piano, guitar, or anything—I always come up with a concept. So, I think about what I want to write about—whether that’s heartbreak, whether that’s about missing someone, or wishing you had another chance with someone. It’s always [to] have the concept there and build everything around it, so that [when] it all comes together, the song has about something genuine and honest and real to me.”
MS: Please describe your creative process in composing a piece.
Jon: “As I mentioned, it first starts with a concept. I make the concept and then, I build my way around that. So, once I have the idea of what I want to write about, I then pick up the guitar normally and I’ll play some chords. And then, I try and hit the chorus first so that the main section of the song is sorted and I know what the storyline is—what I’m trying to write about. And then, I’ll go to the verse and the pre-chorus and what I do is I try to write the whole song now—just on the guitar. So, I met this guy—a songwriter—and he was so incredible. His words stuck with me and told me, 'No song is a good song unless you can just sing the song and play on the guitar and it sounds good, because if it doesn’t, then it’s not good enough.' So, yes, I always try and do that—write the whole song now then go to the studio.”
MS: In music, what was the most difficult or challenging project that you have completed to date?
Jon: “One of my songs is 'Did I Let You Go' and it got heard by He’s Into Her series in the Philippines with DonBelle. Vanessa—who’s writer for the show—was like, 'Jon, I absolutely love the song!' She heard the original version and she’s like, 'I really want this song for my series but can we make a new version where there’s more hugot and more feelings?' So, I was like, 'Sige, okay. Let’s do it.' At the time, I was based in England and I really didn’t know anything about the music scene in [the] Philippines, so I was kind of walking in the dark when trying to create this piece of music for them—for the series—and I just had no idea how I was supposed to do it, so it was super, super difficult. But, it turned out amazing and I’m really happy how it turned out and I think they were also really happy with the song. That was the most difficult one.”
MS: Your stint in The X Factor catapulted your music career. How did you land the competition? What were the learnings you took with you from your time in the show?
Jon: “I was out with my friends one time and there was music playing in the background, then I just thought of singing—just 'la-la-la' or whatever. There was this girl next to me and she was like, 'Jon, you can sing!' [I replied,] 'Just for fun, really.' And then, she was like, 'I’m actually signed to a management. How about meet my manager?' I was like, 'Okay, I never thought about it but okay, sure!' So, I went to this manager’s house. I met him and he was like, 'Sing me a few songs.' And then, after that, a week later, I signed with this management. He put a photo of me on Instagram, online. And then, X Factor [said,] 'Okay, we want him on the show!' Two months later, I never sang in front of anyone or any crowd or anything. In two months, I sang in front of all these people on the X Factor stage, which is crazy—super scary! But then, during the show, so much happened. It was an incredible experience. I think what I learned from that is you have to adapt. You have to be so open-minded and obviously, you have to do the things that you want to do.”
MS: You were part of the boy band United Vibe. What propelled you to start a solo career instead?
Jon: “Initially, I only moved to [the] Philippines six [or] seven months ago—something like that. I wasn’t very accustomed to the Filipino music scene. I was kind of in the dark, really, so most of my stuff is quite international at the moment. But, since coming into the Philippines, I’ve met two artists and they are just incredible, and I think that’s something I’m going to start working towards—kind of using them as a reference point. They are Arthur Nery and Morissette. They just are incredible—the songwriting—the songs themselves. When listening to them—to the songs—they also have the kind of feeling where there is a reason for them writing the song. It’s not just ’cause it sounds nice. There’s something genuine about it. So, in future songs, future songwriting, they’re going to be a good point to start with.
“I was in a boy band before. It was a good experience. Once the boy band split, I was thinking, 'I need a solo career. This is what I want to do.' There were offerings from different labels—there were two in England; there was one in America; and then, there was also this opportunity to come to the Philippines—that was Tarsier Records. I sat down with my parents. I was like, 'Mom, dad, what should I do? Where should I go? Where do I start?' I think it all boiled down to I’m half-Filipino and this is the other half of me that I haven’t experienced so I was like, 'I’m going to take a leap of faith and I’m going to come to the Philippines, ’cause I absolutely love it here.' I was only supposed to be here for one month and I ended up loving it so much so I’ve been here for seven now.”
MS: You were already able to perform alongside popular music icons including the multi-awarded and highly-acclaimed singer-songwriter Robbie Williams. How was the encounter? What is your takeaway from the experience?
Jon: “I remember going onto the stage and someone told me that there were 60,000 people in the crowd. I was like, 'Wow, this is incredible!' Singing with him alone is just amazing. That’s something that everybody would want to do. But then, seeing all these people—it just makes me really think about it. I was like, 'I really, really, really want to do this and I’m not going to stop until I get into it.' I mean, that’s the dream, but the willing[ness] and the want to do shows really increased and I was like, 'This is incredible. I want to do this for the rest of my life.'”
MS: Apart from music, is there another craft or creative path that you think of pursuing?
Jon: “I think I know for sure that people around me that I’m working with—I think they want me to go into acting. That’s something I’m super willing to do. I know I don’t know a lot about it—it’s not an easy task, but I’m so willing to learn. But, I think before that, I just need to polish up my Tagalog kasi hindi ako marunong, but I’m learning. I really get to a stage in my Tagalog grammar [where I think,] 'Okay, I’m good enough now!' And then, let’s see where the acting goes if ever there’s an opportunity that comes up. That’s something that I think would be interesting and a lot of fun.”