Grammy Award-winning singer Van Hunt has always danced to the beat of his own drum. Whether he was producing records or playing multiple instruments, he remains an original and at the same time influenced by such classic artists as Prince, Iggy Pop and David Bowie.
He just released his first live album, entitled Live at The Troubadour 2011. In support of this, he heads to Lincoln Hall in Chicago. We caught up with him on the road on his birthday in the middle of his tour.
Windy City Times: Happy birthday, Van! It's today, correct?
Van Hunt: Yeah, man. Thank you.
WCT: Don't you have a million things to do? I'm honored you are talking to me.
Van Hunt: [Laughs] Yes, but high at the top of the list of those million things is making sure everybody knows about our concert.
WCT: I noticed on Twitter that you said all you want for your birthday from your fans was a picture of the concert ticket to your show.
Van Hunt: We spend a lot of time rehearsing so I kind of want to show off to be honest.
WCT: You are releasing your first live CD. What went into deciding what to play at the concert and the live album?
Van Hunt: With the live CD we were just anxious to get back out on the road and show people a good time. We pulled together songs from the older records and just a few songs from the new record.
For the concert I collected all the reviews from the last show, what people loved about it or didn't love about it. We shaped this show to be a little more inclusive. It has a lot of this new record and the older stuff in it. It is still funk, rock, punk, a little jazz, a little classical all mixed in. It is a lot of fun.
WCT: Your sound pulls from many different styles, [like] Prince.
Van Hunt: I wish I could pull a little more from modern music but it becomes more difficult to do that as things become more and more fragmented. It is harder to find music nowadays. There is so much music that is not on the radio. There are so many fewer magazines now. You used to be able to comb through the newsstands to pick up the buzz about music but now it's very difficult to do that. So many magazines have gone under.
WCT: The business has changed so much over the years. That is what I like about listening to your music is that it seems about the artistry and not about top-10 singles.
Van Hunt: I feel like we make songs that could or maybe should be top ten singles or certainly have some commercial potential but it is very difficult when the business model for that costs so much money now when I am trying to get a song in front of a lot of different people.
WCT: You were on Blue Note Records and now you are working independently, correct?
Van Hunt: We are doing all of this on our own. It is a lot of fun but obviously a lot of work. I would have preferred to work my career within the major label system because I feel that system could have worked but now I prefer things the way they are now.
WCT: Randy Jackson is still your manager?
Van Hunt: He is executive producer on all of my records. We are still really close but I have a day-to-day management team Red Ghost Music who helps me out.
WCT: Is it funny to watch him on American Idol?
Van Hunt: I don't watch American Idol. I don't even need to. I can just have dinner with him and have a good conversation that way.
WCT: Did you work with Lenny Kravitz?
Van Hunt: I have never worked with him. I wrote a song, "Mean Sleep," with Cree Summer, and she took the song and he produced it. I have never even met him.
WCT: What inspired your song, "Cross Dresser?"
Van Hunt: That was one of those tunes that came together so quickly. I don't even remember what the inspiration was. I know that when I started coming up with the lyrics that it was going to be about heartbreak. It is a tongue-in-cheek way of saying this guy was heartbroken so he starts wearing his ex-girlfriend's clothes as a way of making himself feel better about the loss. When he did that, he unknowingly started a counterculture.
WCT: You are performing tracks from this album at Lincoln Hall.
Van Hunt: I am looking forward to coming to Chicago. I have loved it since I was 8 years old.
WCT: You are from Ohio, right?
Van Hunt: Yes, but I have a lot of family in Chicago so I will come there and visit. I have always had a ball there. I am probably one of the few people that probably likes the weather!
WCT: There is a table at Lincoln Hall for you to meet fans. Do you sign autographs after?
Van Hunt: If the tour manager feels like I haven't overexerted myself onstage then she will allow me to go out and hang after the show. To be honest, I try to hide all of my sweat from her and change my shirt! She feels that if I don't get enough sleep then I will be too tired for the next day but I love meeting people after the show. I am a silly dude. I am really a stand-up comedian in musician's clothes!
WCT: What else are you doing fun for your birthday today?
Van Hunt: Going to rehearsal!
Hunt hits Lincoln Hall March 21. Check out lincolnhallchicago.com for ticket information and details.
For more of Van, visit www.vanhunt.com .