Cover Artist Gareth Tong (Photo: Affa Chan/ Tatler Asia)

Indie-pop up-and-comer Gareth.T has produced tracks for some of the biggest names in the city, but now he’ll have you hitting the replay button on his own tunes

The video starts with a soft male voice humming to a Bieber-like beat. The artist appears on camera awkwardly dressed in a series of ridiculous costumes: first as a big white fluffy yeti, and later as a mechanical Godzilla towering over a replica of Hong Kong with the International Finance Centre rendered out of a rotating fan. “I’m not the type to be noticed because I’m barely 5’7”,” he sings, almost winking at his dorkiness. “I’m OK good-looking but lacking on fashion.”

Gareth Tong, who goes by the stage name Gareth.T, made his singing debut earlier this year under the Warner Music Hong Kong label with his breakout hit, Boyfriend Material, in which he sings about being hopeless at love and gripes about dating. “It was cool,” he says about the filming of the quirky music video. “The yeti costume was hot. I was sweating. And the Godzilla one, I actually couldn’t move that much.”

See also: Introducing The Next Generation Of Hong Kong Rappers: JB, Dough-Boy, Txmiyama And More

Sitting on the second floor of Blue Bottle Coffee in Central, the 20-year-old is wearing his signature large frames, and is a little shy, but articulate. The Hong Kong-born musician speaks with an American accent picked up in his teen years when he learnt English by listening to R&B and rap songs by Eminem and Rihanna. He became fluent studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

He describes his experience at the college as akin to being at Hogwarts. “So many people are good at certain things there; there are people good at lyrics, good at mixing, and they show you their stuff. You learn from them as time goes on,” he says. Tong, who is classically trained in piano and violin, has been writing music since his secondary school days, having first dabbled in making beats and tracks using Garage Band, software available in Apple computers.

During his third year at Berklee, the young artist reached out on Instagram to Dough-Boy, one of Hong Kong’s most popular rappers and producers. “I made this song, and he was a recognisable figure, so I was like, ‘Hey, you want to check out my song?’” It wasn’t long before Tong was introduced to Nicholas Cheung, head of hip-hop and R&B at Warner Music Hong Kong, and his journey to producing songs for the city’s biggest names in music was under way. Tong has written tracks for hip-hop artist Tyson Yoshi and Keung To, lead singer and the face of Hong Kong’s most in-demand boy band, Mirror.

See also: Introducing The Rising Hong Kong Boy Band: Mirror

Whenever he works with a new artist, “I am there from start to finish,” Tong says. “We get lunch, we have an idea, we get the idea and then we go,” Tong says. “It’s important for me that it's not a song without a base. For an artist, they know what they like, and as a producer it’s my job to help express what they want to say and refine it.” With admirers in the industry including Canto-pop singers Hins Cheung, Alfred Hui and Fiona Sit, Tong is now stepping out from behind the production console and into the limelight as an artist himself. Since the launch of Boyfriend Material in March, his debut track has been streamed nearly 400,000 times on Spotify.

He is set to release his next track, Slow Down, later this month. A video was filmed on a goat farm and will feature Tong transforming into a cloven-hooved creature, as well as a cast of real baby goats. Excited for what lies ahead, the artist is ready to take his sound beyond the confines of the city, while still holding his home town close to his heart. “I’m an artist from Hong Kong. If the music takes me to other Asian places,” he says, it will remind people, “here’s where I’m from.”