Talking to Hunnah about her new EP 'Show You', we get into the vulnerability that inspired it, who she's been listening to and her 'unreasonable' love for Jojo.
"it’s kind of about vulnerability and very honest just spilling of self."
Let’s start with your latest single, ‘Crush’, how did the collaboration with Cuco come about?
and I have the same manager and I met Cuco on my first trip out here to LA. We were always like, well we should do something together … but nothing really happened. Then he posted the beat for ‘Crush’ on Instagram and so I wrote to my manager like … I would like to write to this! And she said that he was already saying, ‘Yeah we should send this to CucoSo, Hunnah’. It isn’t usually what I would make but I think it’s like a great middle ground meeting for both of us.
You also recently got to support him [Cuco] at the Fonda, how was that?
Yeah, it was super cool - his audience are so warm and incredibly nice and welcoming and just open to this random person on stage! It was definitely a great, great experience, he’s great for sharing that platform - for sure.
Let’s move onto ‘Think About It’, what was your inspiration for the song and how did it come about?
So, ‘Think About It’ is super old, I went to university in a different city and when I came back in 2016, I started making stuff with a collective of people - mainly my friend Martin Sole, who produced the track. So, it was like the first pack of beats he sent me .. there was this one beat called ‘Think About It’, I heard it and was like ‘oh, that’s cool’, but had never really written that way before.
I was like 18, I had like ‘dated’ or whatever … had been in a situation with this guy and was like, ‘Wow, I haven’t thought about this stupidity for a long time’, but I was like ‘I don’t want anyone in this town to know I messed with you … that’s embarrassing!’
It’s worth it for the song, I guess?
I mean yeah, I guess it all worked out! But yeah that was like the first demo I made with him, it was summer of 2016.
As a keyboard player, how does your writing process fit around that?
It depends but if I’m writing by myself, it’s always just going to be me and the keyboard. But I like collaborating with other people because I think sometimes I have the tendency to do similar things - how people hear things differently is super helpful. The melody and the words are all me on the project, none of that is co-written, but the production is definitely collaborative. I think it’s like exploring parts of my sound I wouldn’t have gotten to without that inspiration from what they’re doing.
Your new EP ‘Show You’ just dropped, what are the main themes and inspirations on the project?
The cover of the EP, is me and my mum. I lost my mum last Summer. So, whilst making the EP she was diagnosed with Cancer and passed away within a year. It was all kind of overlapping in that process, the interesting thing is that ‘Think About It’ and ‘Crush’ are the only two tracks on the project that aren’t directly related to that.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s dedicated to her … I don’t know how she would feel about that even … but it’s definitely reflective of the experiences I was having and the emotional processing and all of that naturally bled into what the project became.
I think thematically, it’s kind of about vulnerability and very honest just spilling of self. Even though ‘Crush’ and ‘Think About It’ aren’t really on that subject matter of loss or my mum, they’re still very much about exploring a vulnerability that I find very difficult in reality. Even ‘Think About It’ is like, ‘I don’t want to admit that I was perceptible to that’, like I wasn’t human enough to be in this romantic situation.
The second song on the project which I’m probably the most excited about is called, ‘Broken Pieces’ and that’s about kind of always being able to hide my fragility and hide the fact that I’m hurting but getting to the peak where it’s like, ‘I can’t hide this anymore and I’m starting to crack’ - you’re going to see the reality of what’s going on.
What messages or feelings are you hoping to portray through your music?
Sometimes when I think of music I think like yeah I would like to make this idealist thing of wanting to make people feel less alone, but to be honest I think it might be more selfish than that, like I want to feel less alone. It’s like helping to have other people be like … ‘yes, I feel this too’ and I’m like, ‘Ok, I’m gonna be fine!’. I know the first two are about love, or romantic situations, which is obviously very central in a lot of music - but the rest of the project isn’t about any kind of romantic love, so I’m interested to see … how many people respond to it and interact with that.
Which artists or albums have shaped your sound the most?
I have very old Motown music or Ethiopian music in my household, or literally Top 40 radio, there was no heightened taste early on - I was just listening to whatever my older sister was listening to, which just happened to be a lot of Lionel Richie, or Commodores, very white etc., but in university I started exploring artists that I actually liked myself.
Definitely, the Miseducation was a big album for me and Jazmine Sullivan, anything that she - makes her voice is so crazy. NAO , I probably just started listening to a couple of years ago, but like, I’m attracted to certain voice tones, like Jazmine Sullivan’s huskiness … I love Toni Braxton , I mean Solange’s first album , like those big cultural moments - but I definitely just listen to a lot of Black women.
Also, Jojo’s mixtapes . Her mixtapes were like a super big deal for me, she was the only artist ever where I was like … ‘I should write her letters … like physical fanmail’. I didn’t really listen to her before, like I knew the big songs but I didn’t listen to her albums or anything but when she started making those mixtapes, she was talking about being stuck in her narrative, because obviously she was stuck in that deal. I felt so stuck in university, so I connected like crazy to her melodies and everything … I have a very unreasonable love for Jojo.
What are your favourite projects of last year?
… What came out last year?! Honestly, I really liked ‘Sweetener’ , a lot of it just sounded like it wasn’t crafted for radio, it was really a creative explanation. Actually, I just found this artist, I think he’s from Oakland - his name is Julius . He released this little three song thing, I think it was called ‘Fear’ , but I’ve been listening to that for the past week non-stop .. but that’s 2018 so that counts! He’s dope and so is his lyrical content.
Do you feel like a lot of new music is blurring the lines of genres and opening up space for more experimentation?
I definitely think that if someone asked me what kind of music I make, I will say R&B because like what am I going to say, but I don’t know, I think like you guys can decide what it is - It’s just got to be something that I’m connected to.
who blend … like ‘housy-electronic R&B’? But it all sounds different, they just have like hella different songs, like this one song will be super classic R&B and the other one will be like, ‘nope’. I’m just gonna make stuff and people can decide where it fits, but I think for me, if the narrative is clear, that’s more important to me than is this my sound - that’s not really a question I ask.
Shout out five artists you highly recommend?
Does it count if I say NAO? Everyone is going to be like, ‘okay. We know her’. I’m going to say Julius because I just found him, and that sounds like a legit recommendation. I’m looking at my recently played on Spotify and I’m like, ‘I can’t say that …’. Actually, there’s this one artist, I think she’s from Minnesota, she has this one song called ‘Ballin’, she’s called Parisalexa.
What’s coming up for the rest of 2019?
So, the EP is coming out at the end of the month … honestly I’m really excited about the second project! I’m not supposed to mention it, it’s going to be out a lot closer to October but I think this is going to be a good introduction, I’m just really excited about the new stuff I’m making too. But hopefully, by the end of 2019 people will have a wider catalogue and understanding of who I am musically and who I am as a person but yeah, hopefully some visual stuff coming out as well but yeah - that’s pretty much it!
"You guys can decide what it is - It’s just got to be something that I’m connected to."