As you can tell, Hojean is proud of his name. He’s proud of his Korean heritage. And he’s proud of the journey that brought his music to where it is today — and he has every right to be. Hojean is entirely self-made. He makes his songs from top to bottom in the comfort of his bedroom, and he wants his music to take Bedroom Pop to a whole ‘nother level.
“The whole thing about me is, I like being comfortable, you know? I want my listeners to be comfy. I don’t want to be mysterious or anything, I don’t want to be someone I’m not. My music is comfortable. It feels like home. It could be a journal for not only me but for a lot of listeners too, a journal you have laying in your house somewhere. It’s just fun and personal.”
Comfortable is exactly what I felt while interviewing Hojean, and he is as genuine as he is laid-back. Pick Up Your Phone alone amassed 20,000 streams in only 2 days. That, and his 377,000 follower count on Spotify, speak volumes to his potential.
Oh, and he has 2.8k followers on his Twitter (that is near impossible to describe with words). Just look, I guess?
Being raised in Georgia, Hojean’s experience of not quite fitting in is integral to his sound. The obstacles he’s faced have helped him embrace not only his creative side but also encouraged him to recognize what makes him unique. Music has always been a safe space for Hojean, and he wants to make it a safe space for his listeners too.
“Growing up I basically just stayed home, played a lot of Xbox, you know, stuff like that. And I really discovered more about my creative side. I’d draw a lot, learn a lot of these things I now use as assets in what I’m building now. I first moved to a really really country side of Georgia, so there were a lot of rednecks who wore boots over their jeans and cowboy hats and stuff. I even tried dressing up like them to try to fit in but it just wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t me. So, I’d say growing up as a Korean-American in Georgia was quite lonesome but at the same time really important to discovering myself. As much as I hated being alone at that time, looking back I’m just really glad to have had that time to truly find out more about me.”
Hojean’s most ambitious track yet, “Pick Up Your Phone”, has finally come to fruition — and it’s a big testament to his ability to pull inspiration from the most unexpected places.
“I made it because I was watching Men in Black. I guess it’s just whatever I feel at the moment. I just started watching Men In Black 1, and I don’t know, the concept of them trying to contact aliens… you see these aliens and the agents calling each other through these phones. And I was like, “That’s so sick.” I completed that track that day, just from that one movie. If you hear the song, the beginning is exactly like how Will Smith’s MIB theme goes. So once I get big, I have to show that to Will Smith.”
What is even more impressive than the song is the music video. There is so much work and ingenuity behind the visuals. The video, filmed in only 4 hours, is entirely produced, directed, funded, and built by Hojean himself. It really is like a home video. Shrouded in nostalgia, the close relationship between Hojean and his best friends highlights the track in a way that couldn’t be manufactured by a third party.
Even the MV’s hallway background (which also emulates MIB) was built by Hojean, spending days setting up the lights and walls in the guest bedroom of his house. This project is the definition of homemade, and trust me when I say that it is made with a lot of love and care.
“It was so so stressful making the PUYP video. Before even shooting it I’d lose sleep thinking about everything that could go wrong; “What else can I do?”, “Am I missing something?” It was definitely thrilling to film it and everything, but there’s so much anxiety involved. It’s coming out of my own pocket, out of the money I’ve made from music. The camera, the boom mic, everything.“
“I decided to film it myself because I’m such a huge film head. If I’m not listening to music you’re most definitely going to catch me watching movies cause I love movies. So I wanted it to be perfect, and it paid off in the sense that I can lay down in bed, watch the video, and be like, “I did pretty good”. My friends liked it, my family liked it, my manager loved it — that’s a good pay off for me right there.”
So what’s the meaning behind PUYP? It might seem like the standard boy likes girl, boy calls girl, etc narrative but in reality, there’s more to it than that. It isn’t about a certain person, or even a certain relationship.
“‘Pick Up Your Phone’ isn’t directed toward anybody. I’m not really a relationship chaser, so instead of chasing relationships in real life, I’ll just chase a relationship in my head and then I’ll write about it.“
The song is also a very timely one, and that isn’t coincidental. COVID-19 has altered the very fabric of how we communicate with loved ones. Not only is it harder to talk and connect with those you’re already close with, but creating and maintaining new relationships with people you don’t know very well (but want to know more about) seems almost impossible. Hojean’s lyrics recognize the importance of technology in human connection these days.
“PUYP is not just about wanting your crush to pick up their phone for a quick call. You know people be talking on their phone from like 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. Thats such a crazy way to be connected now. They say Facetime talks after 12am really connect people — stuff like that, you know?“
It’s no surprise that his music is taking off. Hojean puts his entire heart into his songs, and has creativity in his blood. He has the talent to make it, but more importantly, he has the passion.
“I knew from the start that I was so creative. I knew I couldn’t waste it. I want to live with creativity and die with creativity. Eventually when I realized that music was my creative passion I knew I had to, just, keep going for it. Something hit with music. I wanted that to be my forever.“
Hojean has never shied away from investing in himself and his talent, and in an industry that is too often dismissive of Asian artists, self-confidence makes all the difference.
“Originally, I wanted to become an actor. When I was young I would reenact scenes of Leonardo DiCaprio because I was obsessed with it. Eventually I realized, “man, not a lot of Asian faces in the media”, and so I kind of just dropped it. Isn’t it crazy that can be a thing for a lot of Asian people? That they can feel discouraged because they don’t see enough Asians doing something? That’s a prime example of that. I felt that way with music too but the fact that I kept pursuing it anyway told me that music is the one for me.”
“I want to get big enough to where my face can just remind a lot of Asian people, “Hey, look at his eyes, look at his nose, look at his lips, look at his skin color. I could definitely do that because this Asian person is doing it right in front of me.” I feel like with a lot of Asian artists that’s deep down one of their missions. Whether they know it or not, if they blow up they’re going to be inspiring a lot of other Asian people. That’s definitely a big part of my journey.”
Hojean treats his fans like family, and he’s always open to interacting with his supporters.
“Every time I get a new DM, I try to answer as much as possible. I feel as if I’ve gotten lucky so many times, and if it wasn’t for my fans… I mean, where would anyone be without a supportive group of people? I can’t really explain it but it’s just cool to know that they’re always there to check up on you and support you and all that.”
Hojean’s humility speaks on his character. He truly is so genuine and I’m happy to have interviewed him at this point in his career as he progresses to new heights. Whether it’s blowing up on TikTok (he just got verified), performing in support of BLM, or collaborating with talented international producers (hi Loto), Hojean has a lot under his belt. His plans for the future are even bigger.
“To aspiring producers and artists, in those times when you feel discouraged and like you want to give up, just know that those feelings are only in the moment. Just know deep down that you’re gonna get back to it. Keep on pushing. As for me, down the road I hope I can make everyone happy, make myself happy, and secure the bag for my family. Family is a huge thing. I feel like I could give my mom way more down the road and that’s what I want to do. Who doesn’t want to see their mom super proud?”