hongjoin: The Musical Journey Unveiled – ‘I’m So Far From You’ Concert Interview Exclusive!

At only 21 years old, hongjoin is a rising local musician constantly evolving his sound and pushing his musical boundaries. Just named SPOTIFY RADAR Singapore Artist for 2023, the singer has also recently opened for a sold-out Matt Maltese show.

hongjoin is back with his second EP, F(OOL). F(OOL) is the abbreviation for Fall Out Of Love, but it is also a wordplay on being a fool for love. With recurring motifs of different seasons throughout the year, it represents the emotions of longing for someone out of reach. 

And that’s not all; hongjoin will also be holding his first-ever concert — I’m So Far From You — in Singapore at the Gateway Theatre Black Box on 22 July 2023! An exciting point in his music career! But how did it all begin? Keep scrolling to get to know more about hongjoin and his musical journey.

How does it feel to be back home in Singapore?

It feels great! This is where I grew up, so it was nice to catch up with old friends and meet my family again. Music-wise, I’m also glad to be playing shows for my listeners in Singapore again and linking up with all the talented musicians I have shared this journey with! It feels nice to stay connected to my roots and be so loved in my own country!

I noticed your fashion style leans towards the vintage aesthetic; how do you think it resonates with your music? 

INTERESTING HAHA! I think it’s pretty obvious at this point that my fits are just the same few pieces I love in rotation, and they are pretty old-school styles of clothing. With regard to my style resonating with my music, I guess you could say it’s a “throwback nostalgic vibe”; If I had a choice, I would have loved to grow up in the 90s. 

As basic as it sounds, I don’t wear flashy clothes. I’m not sure if I have a very interesting fashion style, but I definitely enjoy wearing thrifted clothes; it’s like giving an old piece of clothing a second life, and then I grow attached to them.

When did you decide to start a music career, and why?

This whole music was never planned, actually! I didn’t grow up with a bunch of musical instruments, and I’m not classically trained. But I have always loved it so much growing up, and I always liked to be surrounded by music as a listener, self-learning to play the guitar so I could play my favourite songs. It was only till I started posting my music on social media platforms that I picked up some online traction. I then put out my first song on streaming platforms at the end of 2021, and it was well received, and I haven’t looked back since! 

As an Asian kid, I’m really lucky that my family is supportive of me chasing this dream, and me pursuing this music thing is really because of the lovely community that I have built; it would really not be possible without the listeners! I find music so interesting and rewarding as I get to connect with people all around the world. I wouldn’t have been able to do so if not for my music. To me, these experiences and genuine connections that I get out of it are worth more than what money could bring.

My favourite part of making music is definitely bringing my songs to a live setting and getting to meet the listeners that you have impacted with your music – it’s like a safe little space that we have all built together, and this will always drive me to keep going.

What challenges did you face in the early stages of kickstarting your music career?

hongjoin: Matt Maltese
hongjoin opening for Matt Maltese

To me, it was the whole DIY Process. I wasn’t connected to the music industry; I was just doing my own thing and had no idea what the industry entailed. I make my own songs, and although the learning curve at the start was extremely hard, I just kept experimenting and trusted the process, and over time got better at my craft! Up till today, I still am learning something new every day, but I think we all have to be really bad at something to become good at it eventually!

There’s always gonna be someone with something to say about your creative works, saying it’s not good enough or it’s not done right, but honestly, just remember to have fun doing it and fall in love with the process! I love what I do, and it’s always a fun challenge to get better at your craft!

I heard that you work closely with fellow musician zzzat. How does he play a part in your musical journey and vice-versa?

I got to know him through social media when we both didn’t have any songs and just did covers online. We naturally became friends after the first few jam sessions and got along so well. 

It’s cool to see how far we’ve come since those days; we are so involved in each other’s musical process. We work on each other’s tracks, and he also plays in my band; I try to bring him along as an artist in whatever shows I play because we share the same listening base, and everyone who listens to me should listen to his music!

What’s the reason behind choosing the multiple alternative genres for F(OOL)?

hongjoin: Concert
He definitely owned the spotlight

Post ‘Petrichor’ era has become one of my favourite music phases! Petrichor was the first musical project that I put out, and it was mainly folk-acoustic tracks, as it was all I knew how to produce then. I do, however, listen to diverse styles of music and didn’t want to just play shows that involved my acoustic guitar. 

F(OOL) is an experimental EP that showcases me figuring out my sound as a musical artist, and it was also made to exist in a live space! We’ll get to groove to smooth tunes, moshpit to rock songs and cry to headbangers. Honestly, I don’t even know, F(OOL) is just a compilation of songs I loved making, and there’s no particular genre that I tried to stick to. I just know that I enjoyed making these songs because they tell a story that I hope people relate to, and they are truly me!

Of all the songs in your latest album, F(OOL), which would you say is your favourite and why?

Oh no, I am emotionally attached to every single track because they were the few I handpicked to live the EP! My favourite song to play with a live band would be “dear abbey” because it’s a super upbeat song to vibe out to with a live crowd, with a message in the song that I feel so strongly for! I wrote about distance, growing up, and sibling love. I feel like we have a lot of songs about romantic love, but this one is so special to me because it’s something different!

Do you plan to try out other music genres or your style?

I find it really fun to experiment with different styles and still find a way to make it feel like a hongjoin song! At the end of the day, it’s the lyrics and message that really make a song stick with you, and I try my best to make that the main focus of the track, regardless of the genre or production that goes on behind it!

What can fans expect next?

New music! Always! But most importantly…collaborations?

What are your go-to inspirations behind your music?

hongjoin: Promo Visuak
His music captured actual hearts instead of paper ones.

I think all my listeners know that my favourite modern-day artist is Charlie Burg, and my favourite band is VALLEY! And I love their tracks so much because it feels so nostalgic, and they always have a good message that they try to send with their music. I’m also very inspired by the songwriting of older bands like The Beatles and Oasis because their songs are the ones that I put on replay whenever I need inspiration. Simple but so beautiful!

What is the inspiration behind your latest album, F(OOL)?

It’s about distance, transitions, and growing up! As someone who has literally moved far away from home, it was a rough period personally, and this EP is just me expressing my thoughts, hoping people would relate to it.

What was the songwriting process for your latest album, F(OOL), like?

F(OOL) consists of a bunch of songs that are very dear to me, some I wrote years ago and some pretty recently. But they are all a part of me nonetheless; I tried my best to make these songs as open-ended as possible by saying things without actually saying them! These songs could mean something to me and mean something completely different to someone else, and that’s honestly really cool to me.

Lyrically, what kind of story or emotions are you trying to convey in F(OOL)?

Definitely nostalgia and acceptance that things turn out the way they do. I’m also just a normal 21-year kid navigating my way through life, and I feel moments of happiness as much as I do with sadness, so this EP contains songs that embody all these different emotions. 

Also, being honest with yourself and admitting that sometimes things are your fault and the other party is not always the villain — I think it takes some self-awareness to accept that, and I hope these songs help us find it within ourselves to understand it.

How do you feel about your first-ever headliner concert, ‘I’m So Far From You’?

hongjoin: I'm So Far From You Concert
Not only will there be one, but three talented musicians at the concert!

I feel super happy to be able to play in front of my crowd again! I organised this concert so all my listeners could gather in one place and experience it together; it was a lot of work behind the scenes handling all the administrative parts of the show, but the 22nd of July is the day where all our hard work comes into fruition and that we create a safe and enjoyable environment for the fans and listeners.

What is the story behind finding rhyu and getting her to open your concert?

I have always been in awe of rhyu’s music, and I got to know her around a year ago. I love the jazz influence in her songs, and she is definitely an artist I would keep an eye on! I really hope that my listeners can discover her music if they haven’t already and support her in whatever way they can.

What else can the audience expect at your concert?

There’s only one way to find out!

hongjoin: Concert 2
Fall in (not out of) love with his music

If you didn’t get the chance to watch hongjoin perform his songs live, don’t worry, as F(OOL) is now available on all major digital streaming platforms for everyone to listen to at any time and anywhere. 

For those keen to check out hongjoin’s upcoming I’m So Far From You concert, you can still grab tickets from Eventbrite!

Visuals courtesy of The Linch Agency Pte Ltd, Thomas Nguyen and Nathan Ng.

Sharleen Nadya Shahriman

A socially awkward introvert who's obsessed with fictional characters.

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