[Exclusive Interview] Hojean Speaks on New Music, Fandom Name, and Inspirations


Hojean is an independent pop, r&b, and indie artist with a strong passion for music. Hojean is self-made and self-produced, while sometimes collaborating with other producers and friends. He completed a successful U.S. tour last year, hitting major cities such as Phoenix, Atlanta, Seattle, LA and recently performed at the 2023 Head in The Clouds festival in New York. Hojean says his passion for music is something he was born with and couldn’t imagine living without.

Glow Ngwe: Tell me a little bit about your writing and producing process? Where do you pull inspiration from and how does it come together into a track?

Hojean: Yeah, a lot of my work just comes from being in a room by myself, like playing guitar for a while, seeing chords that I like and then using those chords. I kind of just bring it into whatever program I'm using to make music. I hum a little bit, and then I just kind of build an instrumental around it. A lot of my inspiration kind of comes from things that happen around me. It used to be like I would watch a lot of movies and be like, ‘I kind of want to write something around the feeling of this movie’ but these days it's kind of weird--just walking outside and just seeing a certain color palette within the world really inspires me to write something. I can’t explain it that well but sometimes I just see things and it's so much prettier than I would imagine so I kind of just try to write when I'm feeling motivated from nature.

GN: What is one song that you wrote that you feel most proud of?

Hojean: I would say some of my tracks from my second EP that I haven't announced yet. Just because I was going through some stuff in the process of making it and I’ve had a lot of close friends tell me things like ‘this might be like your best project yet.’ And it's fully produced, mastered, mixed by me. There are a lot of songs there that I feel super proud of.

GN: Can you tell me a little more about what fans should be expecting from your Second EP?

Hojean: My next EP I think is definitely a little more experimental in terms of my own production. A lot of the songs that I produce myself all have like, the Hojean kind of sound to it. But I think this new one--there's a lot of different inspirations that come in, a lot of new sounds and like a lot of new song structures that might make my listeners be like that’s a little interesting. I think it'll be really fun. There’s some cool The Weeknd kind of r&b in there, a lot of Prince inspired stuff in there, a lot of sad stuff in there but it's gonna be a cool second EP. I think it's a sound that I'm definitely trying to go closer into. And hopefully when it releases, producers or people with music industry kind of ears will be like, let's try to push that sound out with Hojean and create this world with him. So that's what you should expect, super excited about it. We’re trying to release it very quickly but right now we're just trying to build around it. I don’t know how long that’s going to take but hopefully people stick around to listen to it.

GN: How would you describe your sound so far as an artist? Is it fair to call your sound an RnB, Pop, Indie mix?

Hojean: Yes, definitely. Growing up, I always just resonated more with those genres anyways. So it kind of made sense that I kind of ended up making music like that. While I do love bands like New Edition or like, Shai, I would also really love Elton John, and Wham. And these are just two completely different genres, you know? I have fun knowing that I can produce both and I give myself a lot of ups for being able to do that.

GN: Do you see yourself branching off to different genres in the future or is this your safe space?

Hojean: Yeah, I would love to! I've been at home in Georgia working on a lot of hip hop, kind of beats, but I haven't really done anything with it. But it's just like me and my friends. I go on discord, share my screen and build beats. We just kind of have fun with it, you know? So I would love to experiment with more in the future.

GN: So why music? Where does this passion come from?

Hojean: I don't know. It's something that I just resonated more with, and not to disrespect anyone that has a job at a cubicle or an office space. Me, personally, I just don't know if I would be happy there. I kind of just love the attention of creating things and having people react to it and liking it, you know. And I get very honored when people even remember my songs because they took time out of their own day to like, memorize lyrics and stuff. So, I think that's something that really motivates me and gives me the drive. The things I build people are paying attention to, I love that.

GN: Was there a time where you had the epiphany that music could be your career?

Hojean: You know, that's a really good question because if we’re being honest, I don't think there was a point where I was like, ‘oh my God, I got to do this.’ I think it kind of just came naturally. I know me and I do get quite lazy in certain hobbies that I develop but this was just one of the hobbies I never got lazy doing and I never stopped. I just realized with music I never really swayed away from it. I just want to keep doing it. In a weird way it feels like I was kind of born with it because I've never done something where I just consistently wanted to keep going.

GN: You went on tour last year. Tell me a little bit about that experience and how it felt for you seeing people who love you and your music up close?

Hojean: It was super dope! I was really nervous but it ended up being great. It was very tiring, I can’t lie (laughs). Because I'm an independent artist, I’m not under a label so everything we we did on that tour was independent. I was booking the Airbnbs, we had really close friends of mine drive--my drummer was driving from time to time too. My best friends from Georgia came through to help carry stuff--and of course everyone got paid (laughs)-- but at the same time it was very tiring to having drive, load up all this equipment, perform get home at like 2-3am wake up at nine because of Airbnb check up times and then just like repeat it. But I think at the end, I think we can all say it was very worth it no matter how tiring it was. Because at the end of the day, I was performing in front of people that I love. You know, everyone got to come through and sing with me, I got to experience a lot of cool things I've never got to experience before. I've only ever been to Georgia and New York in my entire life but with that tour, I was able to go to all these different states and see all these different things with my best friends so it's super worth it.

GN: So you actually don’t have a fandom name yet. Do you have anything in mind?

Hojean: Actually, I don’t know. I don't think we've ever figured it out. I've heard a lot of different ideas, but all of them to me just sound not good (laughs). So I think we’re still working on that, it's under construction.

GN: From your debut album until now, how do you think you’ve grown as an artist? What have you learned about yourself?

Hojean: I definitely have learned that I do enjoy creating music alone sometimes. As cool as it is to meet these new producers and writers and collab with them, ultimately, I feel like it's a little more convenient just for me to be in my own room and kind of build off my own thoughts. Not that there's anything wrong with working with other producers and writers but sometimes when you're doing work with other people often, ideas get thrown at you and your ideas get pushed to the side. But I mean, there's nothing wrong with that, I think having ideas thrown at you is a fantastic thing. Just for me, it’s sometimes kind of hard to think about all the things I want to fully produce when there's a writer singing out loud to himself and the producers playing music at different times, and I'm trying to write my own thing. I think being in my own room and just producing music has been super, super nice. But at the same time, I think working alone, there's a sacrifice of not meeting a lot of cool people that you can be friends with, you know, because there have been times where I've met a lot of cool producers that I'm friends with now and I'm like totally happy I met them. I think it's a double edged sword in a way.

GN: Who would you say your biggest influences are?

Hojean: Growing up, just being in my dad's minivan listening to the radio there, it would always be old r&b and pop. So I feel like a lot of my inspiration definitely does come from a lot of the r&b makers back then, which my music would not be here without them. So I would say a lot of the 90s r&b people like Jodeci, I used to listen to a lot, there’s D’Angelo, Prince. I love Elton John. I definitely love Frank Ocean, I mean, he as a creator is insane. His music will always speak to me so it's always nice to listen to him whenever I get uninspired. But yeah, I would just say a lot of r&b artists have really inspired my music. 

GN: Is there anyone in the industry right now that you would like to work with in the future?

Hojean: I would love to work with Kaytranada, Toro y Moi, I’d love to work with PinkPantheress, Aminé. I'd love to get into a session with any of them. They're all just very talented and their artistry in their crafts is incredible. And that just kind of like the direction I want to head into as well. I want to be kind of where they are, you know, so if I could work with any of them, that would be so sick.

GN: How did growing up Korean in New York and Georgia shape you as a person and bleed into your music?

Hojean: I think being Korean and growing up in New York, in like a non-Korean area, I definitely did feel super isolated, when we moved to Georgia too. Yeah, growing up in New York and Georgia has definitely been a very, very interesting time in my life where I can easily say I definitely did not have a lot of friends. And I was definitely hungry to be somebody just so I can get these people to notice me. But I think in doing so, I kind of discovered that I don't want to be like anyone else, I don't want to have to act any kind of way just to impress people. And I think in being so lonely growing up, I think it gave me time to develop who I am as a person. You know, a lot of the time I would just, like, draw, do something creative and I think that made me into the best person I could be. Like, I'm not doing something I'm not happy with because I want to fit in with people. I think being lonely just gave me a chance to be creative and I think that's exactly what I did. So, for me, growing up not having a lot of friends, I'm not very upset about it. If anything, I'm kind of glad it happened.

GN: Why did you choose to go by your Korean middle name, Hojean, rather than your first name, Justin?

Hojean: I don't know, I think the name Justin would not work for me (laughs). I do like the name but when there's like Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, you know, how can I fit into that? So I just kind of went on using my Korean name, which I'm actually very happy I did. I grew up not liking my Korean name at all but when I started using it, I wanted to make it a staple. I actually tried making fake names for myself (laughs), which I don't remember now, and it just didn't work. So I just went with my middle name, which I don't regret. I think doing that was probably the best thing for me.

GN: In the past, you have said you were considering leaving school to make music your full-time job, tell me where you are on the decision now. 

Hojean: Yeah, this is now my full-time job. And I'm very, very grateful to even say that. I just kind of didn't like school. I mean who really does like school (laughs)? I just kind of wanted to just focus on music. So I got my Associates, I didn't finish the other two years and I think I think it all worked out. My biggest priority is to get my mom into retirement and I'm just very grateful to even be able to make the money that I make just from music. Making money off of a passion is such a powerful thing. So when I’m tired or feeling unmotivated, I just think about the listeners, I think about my mom and I think about how if I were to drop music now I would have nothing else. 

GN: You are known to be very comfortable on stage in terms of performance and style. In a way, you dress how your music sounds. Is that a vibe you resonate with?

Hojean: Maybe there's a correlation that I'm just not aware of. Everything I wear is super oversized and baggy and I don't know why. It feels very comforting and it feels like a big hug you know? I think it's kind of nice to just go on stage and just dress like I just got out of bed. Although I am trying to up my style a little bit more, I just want to make it a little more fun!

Meanwhile, Hojean is wrapping up his "To Cherie with Love" Asian Tour in Indonesia on June 3. Keep your eyes and ears on Hojean to find out what he's doing next! 

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Glow Ngwe

Glow Ngwe is a Cameroonian-born writer based in Washington D.C. She has written for Teen Vogue, CNNStyle and has won two Student Production Emmys for her work as a journalism masters student at the University of Maryland College Park. Glow has a strong passion for dance and is a member of the DMV area K-pop dance team, Konnectdmv. Through her interests and passion in fashion, dance, culture, and more, she hopes to embody her name, "Glow," in the lives of those on--as well as off--line. Follow her on instagram, tik tok or twitter @gloworldd.


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