On 2 April 2019, Forbes released its 2019 edition of the 30 Under 30 Asia List, with local pop band The Sam Willows clinching the coveted spot in the Entertainment & Sports’ category. The quartet posted on Instagram regarding the delightful news, saying that they “made it just in time”; as one the members – Jonathan Chua – will turn 30 next year.
22 other Singaporeans joined The Sam Willows in the list that celebrates 300 “entrepreneurs and game-changers” from Asia. This Year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia List also includes 300 game-changers in their industry across 10 different categories – The Arts (Art & Style, Food & Drink); Entertainment and Sports; Finance and Venture Capital; Media, Marketing and Advertising; Retail and E-commerce; Enterprise Technology; Industry, Manufacturing and Energy; Healthcare and Science; Social Entrepreneurs and Consumer Technology.
About The Sam Willows
It should come as no surprise that The Sam Willows made it into Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia List, seeing as they are arguably Singapore’s most successful pop band. Comprised of siblings Benjamin Kheng (28) and Narelle Kheng (25), as well as their friends Jonathan Chua (29) and Sandra Riley Tang (28), the band first formed in 2012 and released their self-titled EP in November that year under a distributing deal with Warner Music Singapore.
The Sam Willows made their international debut just a year later in 2013 when they performed at the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Texas. The band then signed to Sony Music Singapore in January 2015; and gradually won the hearts of adoring fans with the release of two albums – Take Heart in October 2015 and I Know, But Where in July 2018, as well as a Christmas EP in December 2018.
The Sam Willows have also performed at national events, like the National Day Parade in 2015 where they performed ‘Home’, as well as on international stages, including Ultra Singapore and Summer Sonic Festival in Tokyo. In addition, the quartet was the opening act for The Script during their concert in Singapore in 2015; and supported Little Mix on their ‘The Get Wired Tour’ in Manila and Singapore.
Despite touring alongside other artistes, the band does have a growing fanbase of its own as well – performing to a sold-out show at their first headline concert in Singapore is testament to that.
Besides performing in a band, the members have also dabbled in solo projects and entrepreneurships in various sectors, including retail, wellness and media.
Sandra Riley Tang
Singer-keyboardist Sandra became the co-founder of The Yoga Collective when she was 24 years old. Otherwise known as The Yoco, it is a new fitness startup branded as Singapore’s first homeconcept yoga studio. In addition to offering small-group yoga classes in a soho apartment, The Yoco also gives members free access to the kitchen, juice bar, living room, shower facilities, and toiletries from brands like Belif and Benefit.
Bassist and vocalist Narelle Kheng has not stood out much solo in the media but that’s not to say she didn’t have her achievements. In 2017, she started a co-working space called 21 Moonstone. She has also engaged in solo projects, including her two singles ‘Some They Lie’ (2016) and ‘Outta My Head’ (2019) – both of which can be digitally streamed or downloaded.
Benjamin needs no introduction – the keyboardist, rhythm guitarist and vocalist of The Sam Willows has made various appearances in television, movies, and even theatre. He also pursues a solo career apart from with The Sam Willows – his latest single, Sober, released in November 2017. Above all, he is probably better-known for The BenZi Project, a YouTube channel which features comedy sketch series – many of which Singaporeans can relate to.
Lead guitarist and vocalist Jonathan may seem like the silent type, but his solo entrepreneurship into the music industry speaks volumes! Just two years ago – in 2016 – he set up Zendyll Productions with fellow musician and business partner, Evanturetime. Zendyll Productions is now under The Zendyll Collective, which also includes Zendyll Studios and Zendyll Records. This year, Jonathan had his first artist, Estelle Fly, signed to his label.
The Zendyll Collective currently consists of top artist-songwriter-producers such as Evanturetime, Charlie Lim, Vanessa Fernandez, Jason Gelchen and the members of The Sam Willows.
While we all hope to see more releases and one-man performances from The Sam Willows, they have yet to announce on any upcoming plans as a band. However, in an interview with AsiaOne, Benjamin commented that the quartet will be aiming for the Grammys next. Given their rapid growth, it is probably just a matter of time before they do.