Rob Deniel recalls composing debut song 'Ulap' on cellphone

Rob Deniel

For a 17-year-old kid to feel nostalgic about something that happened just a couple of years ago tells a lot about Rob Deniel.

It is this same feeling, this wistfulness, that gives his songs an almost retro vibe. The vibe is right there on his songs such as the harana-like ballad “Gabi,” and on the almost doo-wop sounding “Baby I Tried.” Two of the first few singles that he released just last year.

But someone as young as Rob, that youthful vibrancy is going to come on the stuff that he does. And that’s what he has going for him in his breakout single “Ulap” – indie music with a tinge of 60s pop. Dream-pop sung in yearning falsetto. The sound of what Pinoy pop could be in this roaring ‘20s. 

“’Ulap’ was made out of boredom in my room. I was pretty chill and had nothing in my head (and) I was just writing words that I wanted to say. You could say that the whole song was made subconsciously.” Not bad for a song produced on a cellphone.

Rob, who plays guitar, the drums and also dabbles on keyboards, has his own description for the sound he’s going for. “Maybe alternative pop, or rock and roll, sweetheart. I think it’s almost the perfect way to describe my sound.”

He is the teen Pinoy pop singer-songwriter that the mainstream doesn’t know about. That’s saying something, especially in this age of instant celebrities and viral- today-gone-tomorrow acts. Because despite his debut single “Ulap” getting listened to a whopping 55 million times (estimated and combined from his Spotify and YouTube streams), Rob is basically still unknown in the mainstream media.

But that’s the least on Rob’s mind.

Because if it were up to him, he’d just write and crank out tunes as much as he wants. But his label Viva Records has other ideas.

Rob started music at an early age. “I started when I was around 12 or 13 years old. My dad bought me my first guitar, and it was a black guitar, and it is still here, I use it sometimes here at our house,” Rob said. He added that his dad basically introduced him to all kinds of music. “That helped me grow and learn even though I’m self-taught. My dad started all of this,” said Rob, seemingly proud of the fact.

The adage ‘many are called but few are chosen’ seem to apply to Rob, because at some point in his development, he decided that writing his own songs would be the logical next step.

“2019 was the year I started to take music seriously. It was during this time that I learned the stuff that was useful (to me) for making (my own songs).”

Rob also shared that it was also during this period that he was “inspired to look at music as having a bigger part in my life.”   

And just like that, Rob wrote a handful of songs. One of them, he recalls, is called “Sunshine.” “It was a song inspired by the indie artists that I Know (and was listening to). And it gives me a nostalgic feeling just thinking about the song right now.”

Viva Records’ game plan for Rob is simple. “We’ll just let Rob write his songs and not get in his way,” said an executive. “That, and to make sure that as many people as possible hear about Rob and his songs.”  

Rob’s most recent single “Ang Rosas” is currently making the rounds of ‘chill and feels’ playlist circuit. A new single titled “Darling” will be released on June 18.

Rob said of his aesthetic and upcoming song, “’Darling’ was inspired by music from the 60s and 70s. The song is sort of like advice for myself and about the experiences I’ve had so far. I hope people will like it.”