Through the eyes of a child, my father had a fascinating lifestyle. He and his friends would put on some fly-ass clothes, smoke a lil' herb, talk a whole lot of shit and chase beautiful women. He would often take me along with him. And, I loved it. I loved watching him take a lady into the back room, loved seeing the door close behind him, and I loved listening, straining with all my might to hear the strange sounds that followed. Sometimes, after they'd finished, I would sneak into the room and wonder what in the world could have caused such a smell - a heavy bitter mix of sweat and perfume. But, I loved it. I loved sitting in the corner of a smoke filled dope house, tapping my feet to the music while my father and his friends cussed each other out over a game of cards. It seemed to me the beat of the drums urged on their behavior, and drove the alcohol that flowed through their veins out of their bloodshot eyes.
One of the things I did as a kid was read Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim novels. I was reading your bio and caught on to your father's story, you want to touch on that for a minute?
It's interesting to me how similar everybody's story is, I'm sure a lot of people grew up watching their parents party and have a good time, sitting around with their friends. You know, and not all of it was illegal activity or seedy activity, some of what it was just innocent fun and I think that's cool for a child to witness. Not be a part of it, but to see a little bit of that. It'll definitely spark your imagination. And that's pretty much how the music came about, being able to witness grown folks having a good time and just trying to figure out why that was, and what made it so much fun for them.
Is that time an inspiration for your music?
Yeah, that's the first memory I have of being able to putting music to a particular situation. I've always heard music in my head. I've always sang and did that kind of thing. That was the first time I was able to apply the music to something.
You said your father was a part-time painter, part-time pimp, and he used to take you out with him. Where did you live at the time?
In Ohio. I was actually being raised by my mother, but when I would go and visit my father he would just take me around to see his girlfriends or hangout with his partners. Sometimes if the action was getting a little too intense he would send me to his room. I had to sit in there and wait. But other times, if he thought it was safe enough for me, I got to sit down and watch them play cards or just smoke or just dance a little bit.
So they're playing music the whole time?
Oh yeah, they were playing a little bit of music. Sometimes the atmosphere just provided it.
I know with my parents.. with my father, he would get together with his people and they would have the little thing, you know, with the albums laying all around.. covers here and there?
Since you were the only kid there, would you be spending time checking the album covers out?
Yeah, cause during the day he would go to work, to his real job. He was a factory employee for a long time, he does landscaping, my father does all kinds of stuff.. But during the day he was usually gone and I was just there. If I was staying with him, I was there with his mother.. my grandmother. So I spent the entire day just going through records, playing them, listening to them. I can draw to. I'd be drawing, coming up with album covers for myself.
Is that when you started imagining yourself as being a musician?
Oh yeah, definitely. When I first got a chance to see that Prince record, man. I started putting two and two together.
How did you learn to play instruments?
That was the next step. It was a natural progression, cause I knew that somehow this music got laid down. And I just started figuring out, 'Okay, they used this bass guitar or they used this saxophone.' Naturally I started asking questions and my mother enrolled me into some saxophone lessons, and I still remember going to the store and getting that saxophone, which we rented for the class. So that was the foundation.
I see you're playing the guitar now, how many instruments do you play?
After you gain a basic foundation you can probably dabble with any instrument, you know.. So I can mess around with pretty much any instrument. With the exception of like violin or something.. (laughs) But even that I could probably make a sound out of it. You give me six months or a year, I'd probably be alright. Not to disrespect the years of training that people put into their instruments, but you can make a sound out of anything it don't take long.
When it comes to being involved with music, the kids of the past two generations tend to do the hip-hop thing. You never went that way.. where you wanted to rap or DJ?
Nah, I didn't, man. I guess because there's something that just never appealed to me about that. I dug the clothes, and some of the music I dug, but I just never applied it to what I was into. I guess because it was such a strong influence from the Ohio Players, from the funk days, and Prince. I was so into playing instruments and singing and coming up with melodies, I don't know, I just never looked at hip-hop like that. But.. when I got to Atlanta, I thoroughly enjoyed doing hip-hop for other people, like making tracks, seeing what they put on it. Even then I always felt like there was something missing. The melody is for me, man. That's a large part of what I do.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Dayton, Ohio and then I moved to Texas for a little while, and then I went to Atlanta to go to school.
That might explain the lack of a hip-hop influence, I mean at that time it was more regional.
Well, yeah but hip-hop has been pretty prevalent in my life. For most of my late teens to adult life. It's been there, it just wasn't something that I was attracted to. Even as a child I was never into cartoons or playing with trucks and shit like that.
It was always music?
Always music.. girls. I was never one that was put off by girls. My friends would be like, 'I hate girls.' I always liked girls.
Did you think of doing music as a way to get the girls?
I didn't, but it was a nice surprise to know that they were into me for that. (laughs) But nah, I didn't. I've always been kinda oblivious to those premeditated kind of moves. That's not really my bag.
So you went to Atlanta to go to school?
Yeah. I got there in the mid-nineties to go to college.
During college is that when you formed a band?
I was trying to pay the bills first and foremost. That's how I got off into the hip-hop demos, doing production. I got a chance to meet a lot of the cats that were coming up out of there, as far as Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, and TLC. And then as I started meeting people I heard that this young lady .. Dionne Faris.. was looking for a song for a movie and a band to go on tour with her, and I would be on set. So I put together a demo, I went and auditioned for her band and pretty quickly from there I got my first single out on the Love Jones  sondtrack, it was called "Hopeless." And it kinda went from there.
And you got your deal from that?
Not my record deal, I got a publishing deal and started writing with some other people like Rahsaan Patterson, Cree Summer, and Joi. My record deal came through the work with them.
What direction are you looking to go with your music.. message wise, what is the album about?
Man, I don't really have a message other than it's an album full of really good songs. That was my only goal, to put the best songs on an album and put it out. The next album will probably be something a little more conceptual, but for me, it'll still be about the songs. You know, cause that's what I am at heart, a songwriter.
What kinds of things are you feeling right now in music?
Like new groups out?.. I like this girl named Peaches out of Canada, I like her a lot. I like the White Stripes. Another girl named Chan Marshall, she does a group called Cat Power, I like that a lot. You know, Nikki Costa. Tweet, I'll be glad when she comes out with a record. And D'Angelo, I don't know what's going on with that cat, but I'll be first in line when the next album comes out.
D'Angelo.. he puts out albums like every five years.
And he's on track to do that again. So I guess if that works for him.. but I would really like to hear some new product from him.
How would you describe your music to people, like your sound?
I call it classical American music. It's based straight up in the blues, which is the foundation for so much as far as R&B and Rock & Roll and into Metal and Pop whatever.. it's all blues based. And thats what the music is. I've got a little jazz and funk in there, you know a few flourishes of classical, but, you know, it's all American.
Who would you say is the audience your trying to hit?
I don't think there is a limit to it, honestly. I know that there are children that are into the music, teenagers who are into the music, college students who are into the music. I had a 65-year-old lady came down to a record store to see me, you know, it's all over. There are older white cats, older white women who come to the shows. Man, it's across the board. That's why I'm excited and I'm scared at the same time, cause there could be just that many people that tell me that it sucks. So far though the response has been wonderful.
I saw your video online.. is it on BET or MTV yet?
Nah, we're trying to let the people tell us which songs to really do a video with. Right now, I just want to get a couple of songs out there in the market and get out on the road.
I saw you at the Knitting Factory the other day..
Oh, you did? Ah man, they made me cut that show short.
It was cool. I thought you were headlining the show though.
Nah man, it was another cat. First of all they made us go on late. Then they made me cut the show short. So I was a little upset about that, but you know it was alright.
What do you want people to know about Van Hunt?
Well, right now.. that I'm evidence of a good songwriter in rebellion against this era. I'm trying to pioneer some new ground.. Bringing out the past through some kind of new invention.
Visit his artist site at Van Hunt.Com