The Email Interview: Nathan Hartono

His debut 11-track album Let Me Sing: Life, Love and All That Jazz showed off his jazz capabilities. In June at the Esplanade, the 15-year-old again made a bigger name with his first solo concert that intrigued his audience. The winner of 2005 Teenage Icon, Nathan Hartono has already made quite a mark in the music industry with the multi-talented Dick Lee calling him “a rare find [and] a budding new talent who gives much hope to the local music scene”.

UrbanWire quizzes this teenage sensation about his future, life, love, and all that jazz.

UrbanWire (UW): After releasing an album and staging your first solo concert, what’s next on your plans?

Nathan (NAT): Well, for now it’s really just getting back to a normal student life. Performances etc will be put on hold for a while, as I’ll have to study hard and try to get good marks for my O-levels. But music wise? I’ll be releasing a second album soon, so do take a lookout for it.

UW: Speaking of plans, how did you get discovered?

NAT: Well, I’ve been singing all my life, but only professionally (for lack of a better word) for the last 2 years. My parents found out that I could sing and when they found out about this singing competition organised by Teenage magazine (Teenage Icon 2005) they encouraged me to sign up, which I did and now here I am.

UW: Have you been singing in the bathroom since you were a kid?

NAT: Yeah definitely, it’s always been a hobby of mine but I’ve never really come out with it till recently you know? I’d sing everywhere there weren’t any people.

UW: As a singer, who are your idols, and who would you die to work with as a singer?

NAT: I wouldn’t DIE to work for anybody, that’s a little much doncha think? Ha ha, but as a singer, I look up to many people.

Many people think it’s just [Frank] Sinatra for me, but that perception is not entirely correct. He IS a big influence to me but he is not the only one. I look up to almost every musician I like. From rock n’ roll, to pop, to country to alternative pretty much everything I like, I take bits of every musician’s style and incorporate it into my sound, which grows day by day.

UW: In your opinion, who is your biggest fan?

NAT: I’m not sure if there’re any huge ones because I haven’t met them formally yet. But I’d say my parents definitely. They’ve supported me in every way and I can just imagine how they feel about what I’ve accomplished for myself, how many doors I’ve opened for myself in the future and I love them to bits for helping me all the way.

UW: And on the topic of fans, how is it like for a 15-year-old to be able to handle the hordes of female fans that you seem to get?

NAT: Ha ha it’s hard, probably the hardest part because I’m never used to the attention. So having to receive so much all of a sudden, it’s really scary and I try to get it under my control.

UW: Any bad experiences with fans yet?

NAT: Nothing too bad. I try to reply to their emails or internet messages but once it comes to the point where they ask me for my phone number or email address that’s where that little exchange stops because it gets a little creepy to tell you the truth.

UW: Being a 15-year-old student at ACS, how different do you think you are from your schoolmates, given that you are a singer?

NAT: Well, other than the fact that I have my own CD and all. Ha ha ha. I really am no different. We go through the same stuff in school; we all have to deal with homework, exams and all that. To tell you the truth, I still don’t feel the effects of all this ‘celebrity’ stuff like the way I’m seen as, I’m just a regular kid who does something special on the side.

UW: How are your schoolmates coping with your burgeoning fame then?

NAT: It’s really not that different. I mean, sure I get attention from people who would otherwise never say a word to me. But the close friends I’ve had over the years don’t treat me any different. Though I do get teased like being called “Mr Superstar”, or so they call me.

UW: How do you juggle school and music? Any fans volunteer to do it for you?

NAT: I WISH. Now that’s a thought, my own little clan of homework slaves… but yeah it probably won’t happen. I actually get asked that question a lot, and every time I answer it, it gets harder to answer because music wise, it piles on with bigger gigs, bigger press, bigger events. School wise, it piles on with more homework, harder school work, edging closer to the big exam. So it’s getting harder to cope, but with my few month hiatus now on, I can concentrate on my school work a lot more now.”

UW: Why such an old man’s genre- jazz when you are merely 15?

NAT: Well, it was kind of a slow transition. When the competition I joined started out, I was completely new to stage performing and I’ve never done anything on stage in my life, except for the time I sang “I’m a little teapot” in primary school. But I was very green to the whole thing, and I ended up singing songs by [Michael] Buble, as those were the only music discs I found. But when I started singing those songs, I found a real love for the jazz genre, and at the same time, people were calling me the ‘young-crooner’ so I thought, why not? After all, I did love the music and it’s a genre I can really fuse myself into. But that doesn’t mean that jazz is going to be the only one I do. Expect more, much more.

UW: With Jazz pretty much open to each singer’s own interpretation, could you share with us your interpretation of jazz?

NAT: Well, jazz is sort of like a blues band that fell down the stairs. There’s a lot of improvisation involved. I cannot tell you the number of times I was on stage and forgot my words but ended up either:
a) making up my own words
b) doing a little scat or
c) dancing like a fool.
And after performing, my manager would say, ‘YOU FORGOT THE WORDS!’
But I made it work didn’t I?

UW: Have there been any sacrifices that you’ve made for your singing career so far?

NAT: Yeah, definitely. What I do has given me a lot less free time for myself. And I love spending time with myself, or the family and friends. Ever since I started doing this, there’s been less of that. I’ve sacrificed lots of TV time, lots of family time and I haven’t been spending as much time with my friends but I PROMISE TO THEM (if you guys are seeing this) that I’ll make up for lost time (:

UW: How far down the road do you see yourself doing this?

NAT: Well, I’m well aware that the music industry is no easy task. It’s not all peaches and rainbows, succeed once and you’ve got it made. I’m gonna have to improve to stay in it, so I’m gonna make the most out of it and try my best in all I do, and try never to give up… Gosh, I sound like a Hallmark card.