Hani is a singer-songwriter who has released a couple of singles, most recently she came out with ‘If young people don’t listen to you anymore’ which we featured in our Weekly K-Indie Report. We contacted her to ask some questions about her life, her career and her music.
Who is Hani?
- How did you start your music journey?
I’ve been playing the piano from a really young age and started writing songs when I was 15. I didn’t know any music theory at the time, but some of my best songs were written at that time. I always wanted to learn more about music, and I was blessed to attend my dream college.
- You graduated from Berklee. Did you study music?
Yes. I majored in Contemporary Writing and Production, and learned different ways to approach when making music. I got into writing music for media such as TV shows and advertisements, and have been working as a freelance composer for media. The experience at Berklee College of Music was very special to me – because not only did it teach me music itself, but it also gave me different points of view on music and life.
- How has the transition been from being a student to being able to focus full-time on what you love?
Honestly, it was all about not being able to predict what I’m going to be doing in a few months. Like many other composers and producers, I started working as a freelancer. I didn’t know where to start at first, but at some point, I started getting many unexpected fun opportunities. But nobody tells me to make my own songs, so I had to be the boss and tell myself to go work on my songs so that I can put them out to the world.
- What kind of messages do you want to share with your music?
I don’t think I write songs with the intention of giving people a message unless it’s me talking to someone directly. Writing songs is like journaling for me. I just write down my thoughts and sometimes it’s me saying something to certain people, and sometimes it’s just simply about a random day in my life. Because one story could sound very different to different people, I don’t want to force anyone to feel certain ways about my songs. It’s all up to the listeners to feel however they do naturally. They might agree with me and feel the same way I felt when I wrote the song, and they can disagree and have different perspectives. Honestly, I love it.
- What should we know about Hani the singer?
She is honest. She never lies when she writes. It’s sometimes really hard to share because it’s too private. Converting everyday life, thoughts, and questions into music is what she does and she’ll never stop being vulnerable when writing music. She might not be the most skilled singer, but she does sing with her heart.
- You both sing in Korean and in English. Do you feel there’s a difference in expression when writing in either language?
Absolutely. I think about it a lot and there’s a lot to talk about.
No matter how good my English becomes, Korean is my mother tongue and will always hit me harder than English does. I think that’s why I tend to write more directly and literally in English. I love how English can be beautifully yet simply descriptive, and how Korean can be free from the order of the words in a sentence and leave some room for creativity.
Also both languages sound so different, and I like to choose the language that flows better with the topic I want to sing about. For some topics I want to mellow down by using a softer English sound, and for some topics I want to give them a more structured Korean sound to give them a stronger color. It’s just how I generally feel, but the decision making process happens very naturally without thinking all about these aspects.
- Which kind of artists or singers are you admiring at the moment?
My most recent obsession is Lizzy McAlpine. I think she writes the melody in a way that makes her lyrics shine. Beautifully written songs are beautifully delivered by her beautiful voice.
My all-time hero though is John Mayer.
- In 2018 you released the song ‘초보음주 ‘. The guitar solo at the end is absolute fire. How did you come up with the theme for this track?
I really wish I could answer this question, but I can’t because it was not me! An amazing guitar player, Sun-ho Lim, played the acoustic guitar for me and brought an amazing energy to this song.
- Obviously it’s been a couple of years since then. Is there something you’d like to be able to say to your 2018 self?
I wouldn’t say anything really. I never really wanted to know anything about my future. My 18-year-old self doesn’t know where she is going to be in 5 years, and that’s what makes her keep trying new things.
Staring is rude
- Your single ‘staring is rude’ very much feels like a poem. Was that how it originally started? Or did you decide from the get-go that this would be a song?
First of all, thanks! When I write songs, 99 out of 100 times I start with the lyrics. I always write down any random thoughts, insights, questions, or what somebody said on my phone in the notes app, and they become potential lyrics. The chosen ones become songs, and the rest of them remain as “potential lyrics” or just my journal.
“staring is rude” started the same way. I remember looking at this person staring at me for an uncomfortably long time, thinking ‘wow does this person not know that staring is rude?’ – and I had to just write it down. I started writing down what I wanted to say to rude people I’d encountered, and naturally, it became a song.
- In your song ‘staring is rude’ you have the lyric ‘The advice you’re about to give might not be what they need right now’. Have you ever given or received advice you felt was unneeded?
Absolutely yes. As long as I can remember there were always some people who needed to just say something about my decision. When I decided to take music more seriously and go to a music college in the United States, I was told that I wouldn’t be able to make it so I should just stay in Korea and try something that actually makes money. I don’t know why but that made me want to do it even more.
But this is what I actually wanted to say through that line: sometimes what people need is encouragement about their decision or just acceptance, not a suggestion.
If young people don’t listen to you anymore
- Your newest single has similar themes to ‘staring is rude’ but a bit from a different angle. What was the thought process behind this song?
There were some people who showed their concerns about my choice and had to tell me what they thought about it. I am pretty sure about half of them actually cared about me so they wanted to warn me about some potential consequences I might be facing later, but the other half just had to talk badly about my future so that they would feel better about themselves.
Whether they were being sweet or bitter, I knew that I was still following my decision because it’s my life! I just wanted to let them know that I am only half listening so that they don’t waste their time. And it’s not because I’m Gen Z who doesn’t care about what adults say, it’s because I want to be the one who takes responsibility in my life.
- Some parts of the song have something childlike to them. Was that something done deliberately?
I created the drum beat and percussive sounds with the stuff I had in my room. I punched a stuffed animal to create the kick drum sound, and picking a tissue and hitting pencils became a snare sound.
If you listen closely, you can hear scissors, pen clicks, and even closing and opening a lip balm cap. They of course wouldn’t sound “better” than the actual drum set, and some might not understand me actively choosing “worse”(I don’t necessarily agree necessarily) sounds for my song. But I still wanted to keep them because… why not? Who made the rule that I can’t replace normal drum sounds with these random noises? By doing this plus my lyrics, I’m mocking those closed-minded people in a way, which naturally makes it sound wonky and childish.
Hani’s social media:
You can find ‘if young people don’t listen to you anymore’ by Hani on Spotify here.