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Tuning in to Van Hunt

DuJour gets the lowdown on the new record, The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets

Musician Van Hunt might have won a Grammy Award for his work on the tribute to Sly & The Family Stone, but it’s his original work that’s currently getting all of his attention. Specifically it’s his fifth album (and the second he’s released on his own label), The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets, that Hunt’s currently excited about, and why not? It’s Hunt’s first record in five years and not only does it put on display his already well known musical acumen, but it also tips its, er, hat to his interest in fashion.

Here, Hunt explains how sleeping helps him work and why Halston was instrumental in making his latest release.

How did you start working on this album? 

After the last record [2011’s What Were You Hoping For], things were a bit frustrating; not with the record itself, but with where the industry seemed to be turning. I wasn’t sure there was a place for me in the current market place, but then one night I was just up late and I had seen a story about the kid who was a rapper and was into fashion. It was an interesting twist and combination of influences that he had. I thought, Well if this kid who’s nearly half my age is into similar kinds of things, whether it be fashion or musical influences, maybe I can give this another shot. That guy was A$AP Rocky.

How does fashion play into the music you create?

I don’t know if many people are influenced by the needle work—the tailoring, the attention to the care and the craft of the seams in the fashion—but that’s what I’m into. The most important part of the clothing is the elements that you don’t see. The same goes for my music and the care in I take in putting together the songs. 

Is there anyone whose work you’re feeling in tune with right now?

I have more Alexander McQueen than I do anything else. Obviously he’s gone now, but his work still moves me and still resonates with me. You can’t say that about all the fashion houses when someone [other than a namesake] takes over. I liked Chanel when Lagerfeld took over, but I can’t say that with everybody. 

How do you write your songs? 

Probably about 70 percent of the time, it’s from a dream. An idea becomes really clear around 3 or 4 in the morning in the subconscious state, and my brain just puts this composition together and it generally has everything there except for melody and lyrics, which I’ll add later.

Do you have a notebook next to your bed to jot all this down?

If it’s lyrics that come to me, yes. I always have a notebook or I’ll put it in my phone. For the musical elements, either I can remember them if they’re that strong, or I have a guitar right by the bed so I just pick out the notes. 

Which tracks on the new record are you most excited for people to hear?

Probably “Old Hat,” which actually starts with a mention of Halston. As you know, Halston started off as a hat maker, and on my own first trip to New York, some writer criticized my hat. She said it looked old. That started an idea about a song called “Old Hat,” and I mixed that in with Halston, whom I like very much, and the fact that he started out as a hat maker, and in this industry a lot of technology has replaced the imagination. Everything is becoming more homogenous, and the song started from there.

How long does it take you to lay down a song like that from beginning to end?

That one in particular took more than two hours. I did all the music, and it came to me really quickly. I actually sang the song in the car, and recorded the song in my car. My other favorite song, “Teach Me a New Language,” took me the entire rest of the album process to finish. I just kept hashing out the song, and redid it three or four times.

Are you gearing up to take these on the road?

I’m going to see what the reaction is out there, and if people want to hear it live and they let me know that, I’m definitely going to hit the road with them.

Do your songs evolve during the course of a tour? 

To be honest, half of them are probably unrecognizable by the time I hit the stage. That’s not me trying to be cool. You get out there and you’re creative and the ideas hit the oxygen and they just turn. They’re pretty different from the record.