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HomeReviewNathan Hartono: Before He’s Chou-sen

Nathan Hartono: Before He’s Chou-sen

UrbanWire spoke to the jazz singer last year – before he won a mentorship with Mandopop king Jay Chou.

UrbanWire spoke to the jazz singer last year – before he won a mentorship with Mandopop king Jay Chou.
Homegrown singer-songwriter Nathan Hartono has gained overnight fame in China. His standout performance on Sing! China recently won him a coveted place in the team of Mandopop superstar Jay Chou, one of the show’s celebrity vocal coaches. His popularity will likely soar further if he continues to impress in the top-rated reality contest formerly known as Voice of China.
The 25-year-old multi-talented jazz musician gave an intimate interview on UrbanWire last year. Below, find out more about his quirks, aspirations, and an embarrassing episode in his life.

Nathan Hartono: The Multi-talented Crooner

Profile: Nathan Hartono

For someone who started a singing career at the age of 15, it’s not surprising that he lives and breathes music. At just 24, Nathan Hartono has captivated the hearts of many with his high vocal range ability and boyish good looks. His chiseled jaw and smiley eyes easily earn him the heartthrob status.

As Nathan leads the way to a quieter spot in a playground along Shelford Road, UrbanWire hears him humming a tune or two during the 5-minute walk. In fact, he was subconsciously going at it throughout the whole interview!

We sit down for an intimate tête-à-tête with the prolific singer and cover what we’ve missed out on since our last interview – back when he was just a greenhorn in the music industry.

Worlds Apart: Nathan Hartono Then and Now

For his music, at least. He admits that everything revolving around his music has shifted – musicality, performance style, etc. But what about his personality? “An introvert that has learned how to be an extrovert,” revealed Nathan. Although, given his chatty and amiable persona, who would have thought?

“It’s just really borne out of time, effort, and doing lots of stuff in different places. You learn more about performing and about yourself,” he shares. Having been in the industry for 10 years, he has learned to interact and connect with audiences on and off stage.

Studying at Berklee also influenced his music. “In Berklee, I realized how big the world of music is. It’s massive. There’s just so much going on that you can’t even fathom,” explains Nathan. It kind of scares the hell out of you. You’ll realize that your music is alright; it’s not as amazing as you thought.”

He sees their work as a benchmark and aims to improve and be on par with them. “There’s just so many amazing musicians out there doing work that surpasses mine, like, leaps and bounds.”

Nonetheless, his music has been well-received by fans. Nathan’s debut album, Let Me Sing: Life, Love And All That Jazz, topped HMV’s Jazz Chart for 2 weeks and his following releases also enjoyed some success. His originals, “Weight of Her Love” and “Thinkin Bout Love,” were the highest-viewed videos on his YouTube channel, raking in over 50,000 views individually. He revealed that a duet, co-written with fellow local singer Daphne Khoo is in the works – and we can’t wait to see if the combination flourishes.

Life in Boston

The singer took a leap of faith while pursuing a music degree at the prestigious Berklee College Of Music in Boston. Nathan shared that his 2013 single, “Thinkin Bout Love”, came from an opportunity with a student producer in Berklee to produce a 3-song EP.

“Music was pretty much all there was in Boston,” he recounts. “It’s 24/7 (music) – the students, homework, everything. It’s intense, but in a magical way.”

He recalls the best part of Berklee to be its diversity of students. “Their unique perspectives and music styles, I think that’s something only certain schools can offer.” He’s currently on sabbatical to focus on his projects here, and we doubt he’ll return to Boston soon.

A myriad of talents up his sleeve

“I love throwing myself into situations where I am at complete loss of what to do. I think that’s the only way you really grow, pick up new skills and meet new people,” he admitted, explaining his unexpected venture into theatre. He took on his first acting role in a play called Spring Awakening in 2012, produced by local theatre company Pangdemonium.

At the end of this year, he will also star in the television series Halfworlds – a fantasy based original by HBO Asia premiering, which currently has him travelling to and fro Batam and Singapore for filming. Heh, could we expect Nathan Hartono to become a possible thespian shortly?

Amidst all his projects, he launched his very own podcast on June 8 – a medium he’s been faithfully listening to for about 7 years. He hosts the Good Hang Podcast with his friend Jon Cancio. Check out its first episode here!

If you’ve been to any of his shows or seen his covers on his YouTube channel, you would have noticed the occasional electric guitar, trumpet, and percussion sounds made with no instrument. Surprise, surprise. They are all sounds produced using just his vocals and a looping device! This, he claims, was picked up out of sheer boredom.

He gives us a demo of some of his vocal impressions in his locker. Look out for the bonus one at the end. (Hint: It sounds like a certain animated character)

Hold on, that’s not all there is to his talents. Nathan’s also good at designing graphics, and drawing has been a hobby of his ever since he was a kid. “If you look back at my textbooks and notebooks, the margins are surrounded by drawings and doodles.”

It’s a creative process he enjoys while listening to a podcast (not surprising here). But sadly for him, he hasn’t been able to draw as much as he’d like to with his busy schedule. We let him revel in it by coming up with something on the spot for UrbanWire.

Ending off the interview, we gave him a round of quickfire questions to tease out more things you probably didn’t know about the music enthusiast and self-taught graphic designer.

So, are you Team Nathan HartoNO or Team Nathan HartoYES? (The editorial team cringes.) We’re definitely joining his fan base, and we can’t wait to see what bigger things lie in store for this modest and whimsical multifaceted singer.

Check out “Love Sings” from the Sing, Love album – An English-Tamil song he co-writes and performs alongside artistes like Rani Singam, THELIONCITYBOY and Jeremy Monteiro. The album, consisting of 5 original compositions, are a tribute and celebration of Singapore’s 50th year of independence. Catch Nathan at this year’s National Day Parade in August.



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