For longtime fans of Nathan Hartono, you might remember his days as a fresh-faced jazz crooner with crinkly eyes and a beaming smile. Now, he’s made it huge even beyond the local music scene, having made his official debut in China with his first ever Mandarin release ‘Electric Love (爱超给电)’. Yet despite his ongoing successes, the 26-year-old is still the same humble boy at heart. Catching up with the lad about his electrifying new single, he shared with us about his new musical direction, upgraded Chinese skills and penchant for cosplaying as… err, Spider-Man? Read on!
Hi Nathan! It’s been almost a year since we last had you on our January cover. How has 2018 been for you so far?
We’re just kicking it off and it’s been great so far. I’ve spent most of the past year in China and working on my Mandarin release. A lot of the year remains to be seen because I know I’ll be spending a lot of time in Beijing, so I’m both excited and a little bit scared for that.
Your Chinese has certainly improved a lot! How would you rate your skills from a scale of 1 to 10?
Before, it was like… 2. Now, I’m like a 5? I’m getting better, but I wouldn’t be so brave to give myself an 8 or 9. I want to reach a level where I can actually write songs in Chinese, and it’s gonna take awhile (laughs).
Who says Nathan Hartono can’t Chinese? Watch our resident heartthrob read the lyrics to ‘Electric Love (爱超给电)’ with a romantic twist here:
For the music video of ‘爱超给电’, you’ve mentioned that it’s “a love letter to all shapes, sizes and colours of love”. What was the inspiration behind it?
For the song itself, it’s really about love that can strike you in many ways, so we kind of took the concept over to portray the diversity of love. The ensemble in the music video – the dancers, cosplayers and drag queens – are all people who are comfortable in their own skin and true to their idea of beauty. Sometimes it’s conventional and sometimes it’s completely unconventional, but it’s just so much fun to see and experience.
You’ve had lots of Japanese-inspired characters from dolls to pigs in the music video. If you could cosplay as any character in the world, who would you pick?
I wouldn’t play the pig, just saying. Hats off to her man, she was in that inflatable suit for most of the day and she was sweating buckets. It was horrible! But back to the topic, I’d like to cosplay as Spider-Man – swinging from place to place across the traffic and all, that’s the one thing I’ve always fantasised about even till now. I remember there was a period in my life where I was obsessively looking for a Spidey costume for Halloween… still never fulfilled that wish though (laughs).
While we’re at it, what are your thoughts about Japanese culture?
I’ve been to Japan a couple of times, but one thing that’s always reaffirmed for me is that it has a very obsessive culture – in a good way. They are very good at completely giving their all into one task and making sure it can be done to its best extent. It’s such a fundamentally different place from the rest of the world, so much so that it seems like they’re very much ahead of everyone else. But I love it because when it came to working on this music video with the Japanese crew, everyone was extremely detail-oriented and gave themselves fully to the project which was very inspirational to see.
Let’s talk about your upcoming album. How’s the record going to sound like now that you’re going towards a fresh musical direction?
Musically, I’m in a strange place right now. So far, it’s sounding very different from the things I’ve done before so to even define the genre itself is difficult. I would say pop for the most part, but there are also bits of R&B and some jazz elements here and there.
Lastly, what are the top three things on your musical bucket list?
Firstly, I need to release the EP but that’s going to be done so I guess that’s cheating (laughs). Being able to write more, which has always been a resolution I fail at. And lastly, [it’s] just really getting into the flow of producing a lot more, be it my own music or other people’s stuff.
Thanks to Warner Music Singapore for the interview opportunity!
Nathan Hartono’s debut Mandarin single ‘Electric Love (爱超给电)’ is out now.