As he swiftly rises to fame, with over 110 million total streams across platforms, Hojean bestows upon his followers an impassioned, slow R&B single 9 to 5. Taking listeners on a scintillating, hypnotic journey of “a modern twist to my older work,” Hojean simultaneously woos and soothes listeners.
As a self-taught musician, artist, and producer, and a first-generation Asian American, Hojean is one to keep an eye on in the music scene as he dazzles and inspires listeners across the globe. This year, he’s launched not only into his debut international tour of Asia, but also the release of a second EP, Cherie. In an exclusive interview with METAL, the singer shares his thoughts and reflections on his journey to fame and relationship with music.
Hello Hojean, thank you for speaking with us! How are you?
I’m well, thank you!
First of all, I would like to speak about the song 9 to 5. It’s been reverberating through my mind since I first listened to it, and I’m sure I’m not the only one! Off the bat, it calls to mind a 9-to-5 job, yet this stands in stark contrast with the fervent glow of the lyrics. Was this intentional? For example, when you sing “Kiss me like it’s 9-5,” is there a deeper meaning to the phrase?
Thank you so much! I’m really glad you’re enjoying it. I wouldn't say there’s too much of a deeper meaning within the lyric “Kiss me like it’s 9 to 5,” but I will say that I’m more than aware that a 9-to-5 job can be really annoying and tiring for a lot of people. I thought, what if I gave something so tedious and monotonous a new meaning? The song, about making love to someone for that long, is the product of this thought.
Cherie is a beautiful exploration of intimacy and love in which you blend soothing pop and alternative R&B. However, in your earlier songs, I noticed a more indie influence. Is there a reason for this switch? Where do you look when in search of musical inspiration?
I would say the indie influence was because I was just starting to learn how to make music – I am still learning! I believe I’ve just gotten a little better at understanding different genres and in doing so, I’m beginning to enter a genre that I truly love, which is alternative R&B.
If you don’t mind me asking, and please feel free to plead the 5th, was this song written about a particular special someone?
It was written for a few special people… I opt to plead the 5th! (Laughs).
Was it always a dream of yours to create music, or is it a relatively recent endeavour? Can you remember when your interest in music was first sparked?
My dream has always been to pursue a creative journey. Ever since I was young, everything I did always revolved around creativity. I used to love the attention I got out of my drawings when at school, and later I loved the attention of performance. All genres of music have always been an integral part of my life growing up and the second I started to create music myself, I became addicted. I’m grateful to say I made it to this point at which I can make my music a reality.
The guitar is an instrument that is very present throughout your songs. Do you play any other instruments? Is there an instrument that you would love to play that would complement your musical technique?
I would love to be a pro at piano! I can play small chords but I can’t play anything incredible. The same goes for guitar as it happens, there’s still so much to learn. I’d love to master both instruments. I believe there to be something so powerful about learning an instrument to the point where it’s almost like a muscle in your body. A strength that after years of training you can flex in front of the world!
I understand that your parents moved to New York and that is where you were born. Has your identity as a first-gen taken root in your music? Can you point out any aspects of your songs that draw inspiration from your Korean heritage?
I would say that as much as I love being Korean, I feel as if I don’t draw much cultural inspirations from Korean culture in my creation of music. Of course, growing up I would listen to whatever Korean music my dad played on his car radio. The exposure was definitely there. However, I feel like my sound comes from stars like Prince, Frank Ocean, Elton John, Sza, d’Angelo, Pharell, Miguel, etc. The list of Western inspiration could go on!
As a self-taught musician, artist, and producer, you are practically a one-man-band! Could you tell us a bit about how you find managing multiple aspects of your music production? Do you feel like it's given you more freedom of expression? What is the biggest challenge you've faced?
I definitely do feel more freedom producing with only myself. There’s still a lot for me to learn as I continue down this road and it’s definitely more work as a ‘one-man-band’, but I have always found it challenging to work with other producers. In my head I know what I want, and it’s difficult for everyone in the room to read my mind like that. That’s why I learned to produce by myself.
You have a track-record of successful songs and have really taken off in the past few years, so let’s take a look into what lies ahead. What is your 2024 goal when it comes to music? Where do you see yourself a year from now?
2024 is going to be what it’s going to be (laughs). I’d love to explain in more depth and apologies for the cliché, but who am I to predict the future! From my experience of this question I think all I can say is stay tuned and expect bigger and grander things from me as an artist. I believe that as an artist I am changing and growing in a way I've always wanted to!
And finally, have you got any advice for aspiring musicians? What guidance would you give to your younger self?
I’d love to tell artists to think of who you are individually, focus on that, draw inspiration from it and that will make you happier (and more successful!). If I could tell my younger self anything, I wouldn’t. I believe I am who I am because of what I’ve gone through.
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