Today, we are interviewing Jaan Hantson, a 19-year-old Belgian producer/singer-songwriter. With influences like Frank Ocean, James Blake, Daniel Caesar, Billie Eilish, and even classical composers, Jaan tries to create his own style.
Please tell us something about yourself.
I just finished my first year of studying ‘creative music production’ at ICMP in London. I have been making my own songs since I was very little, just never with the intention to make a career out of it. My first song was about sad sharks in the deep sea. I must have been around 4 years old. My mum recorded it on video – A big fun to watch at family parties, hahaha.
How did you get into what you do right now? Please tell us more about your journey?
My dad is creative, and my mom is very musical. So, as a first child, I guess I’ve inherited both ingredients. It’s actually striking how musical my maternal family is.
At my mom’s side, literally, everyone has a job in the music industry, from classical musicians to teachers to production managers of orchestras. Besides that, it’s a family tradition (kind of an obligation, I guess) to go to the music academy once you’re 8. Which is what I did as well, and there I started learning classical piano. When I was 14 years old, I studied at a high school for music in Belgium. There I studied classical piano combined with music production. Once I graduated from high school, I partly moved to London to continue studying music production.
Who are your role models?
Without any doubt, my biggest role models in music are Frank Ocean and James Blake. Their music opened – and are still opening – up new worlds for me. I admire their beautiful melodies, chord progressions, beats, instrument choices, arrangements, and I could go on and on. Obviously, there are a lot more artists that influence my music. You can definitely hear that when listening to my music. Some more people I look up to are Tyler The Creator, Kendrick Lamar, Anderson Paak, and Tom Mich. Their music and style often give me a lot of ideas to try out within my own music. Which I love doing.
What inspires you?
Regarding inspiration to make music and write lyrics, anything can generate or stimulate my inspiration. Life itself is inspiring. Or Loving someone, hating someone, missing someone, etc. Certain places I physically or mentally go to or want to be at, often encourage me to write lyrics. Another thing that really inspires me – or better said, motivates me – is people telling me they like my music. It’s such an incredible relief when someone actually tells you they enjoy listening to your music. Because at the end of the day, that’s what I do it for. Music is a call for love, I guess. I like making music, and I want to share this intimate but powerful language with as many people as possible.
Please tell us about your music.
I’m still figuring out what ‘my music’ really is or even to what genre it classifies. Maybe I don’t want to know. I’m experimenting with a lot of different genres and workflows. I don’t think I ever started making a track in the same manner. It always depends on where I am, how I feel, what instruments I have with me, etc. Because I am a pianist, my songs are often keyboard or synth-based. The first song I released on Spotify, ‘Reminiscence,’ is very Frank Ocean based. Slow rhythms and lots of vocals. Whereas my latest release, ‘Same Shoes Different Moves,’ is very Tyler The Creator based. I think it also depends on who I am listening to a lot at that very moment. I love so many different artists and styles.
What’s your most memorable experience?
Probably multiple events. Positive and negative. One of the experiences that stands out positively was my final student project at the high school for music in Belgium. Since I was studying music production, I wanted to produce something unique. I made a 15-minute song with drum sounds I recorded myself using nothing but random objects in my school. Like smashing garbage cans onto each other. Or using the sound of the lockers to recreate a nice snare/rimshot. After months of recording, writing, and practicing, the live performance finally came about. It was an amazing night with versatile genres and arrangements from everybody in the last year. I performed my 15-minute song live, with 4 friends who joined me on stage throughout the performance.
How are you using different social media channels/online marketing to market your work?
I definitely have a lot to learn about marketing and promoting me as an artist. My main platforms definitely are Instagram, Spotify/iTunes, and YouTube. On Instagram, I quite regularly post videos, either via stories or via my main feed, of me singing a cover or teasing an unreleased song. I try to release a new song on a regular base – ideally, every 2 months. Hence I keep the ball rolling, and I keep the listeners engaged. Whenever I release a song, I upload a lyric video on YouTube. I do this because I believe it’s important to have my music on different platforms. The more platforms, the more potential listeners. I also partly do this for my grandparents. Since they are not native English, the ability to read my lyrics makes it a little easier to understand for them. So now they actually know what my songs are all about!
What’s your greatest fear?
I am shy. Sometimes very shy. But I am also very good at hiding it. With that said, my greatest fear is me. I think you can achieve anything when you truly believe in yourself. By being shy, I definitely missed a lot of great opportunities and missed connections with some amazing people. I try to recognize the moments where I am stopping myself from doing something just out of shyness. Working on it!
Looking back, what’s one thing you wish you understood better before you ever got started?
I grew up in a warm and loving home. So, understanding – and most of all accepting – that there are people out there that do not necessarily wish you the best, that will not support you when you need it the most or that are simply envious or plain jealous. That was something new that I didn’t really experience a lot before moving to the capital of the music industry, London. By moving abroad at the age of 18, firstly, I quickly found out who’s got my back, who believes in me, and who will support me when it comes to my friends in my hometown. And secondly, studying in London as a Belgian, I got exposed to much more competition, to much more collaboration and to kind of a combination of both: people collaborating for one’s own frantic self. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really not a bitter experience. It’s a good thing. You enjoy the sun much more after some rain, right?
What are the success strategies/secrets that helped you in your journey?
Hear everybody, listen to nobody. It’s important to seek for many people’s opinion and critique about you, your music, your work ethics, and your career. That doesn’t mean that you actually have to do as they say and obediently listen. But at least you heard what they said, and now you have the freedom to choose what to do with it.
What keeps you going when things get tough?
Music is my passion. Listening and making music keeps me going when things get tough, and when they don’t. Obviously, it’s more complicated than that. And of course, music isn’t always the solution for everything (although it’s close). I am fortunate enough to have very loving and supportive parents. They dragged me through tough times and praised me for my succeeds. One of the things I really like to do is to go for a walk to an open place like a park or a mountain, all by myself. It gives me space and time to think, self-reflect, and approve or disapprove of the things I did, which made me want to go for this walk in the first place.
How can people connect with you?
As I said, I can be quite shy, so I’d say, please come to me or contact me. Take that first step, please, because chances of me doing that are probably smaller J. You can always send me a message on Instagram or Facebook/Messenger. My name is Jaan Hantson, so not really hard to find.
Any message for our readers.
First of all, thank you for reading this until the end. I hope you learned something about me, life, music, or even yourself while reading. Whoever you are and wherever you are in the world, I hope you can succeed in doing what you love. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t. Because the only one that can stop you from doing what you love is you.
Thanks again for sticking with me during this Interview. And to show how grateful I am, I’d like to share with you a private SoundCloud link to ‘draft-previews’ of 2 upcoming releases:
Follow me on Spotify, subscribe to my YouTube channel and check out my Instagram to find out everything about new releases.