Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Van Hunt has been one of the music industry’s best kept secrets for almost a decade now. Starting his career writing songs for and with artists like Dionne Farris and Rahsaan Patterson, and coming into his own as an artist with his self-titled 2003 debut, the Ohio native (and current L.A. resident) has proven himself to be a singular talent that defies description. The fact that he isn’t so easily labeled might be a reason that he hasn’t broken through to mainstream success, despite his obvious talent, his close association with “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson, and stints opening for everyone from Mary J. Blige to the Dave Matthews Band. The Grammy-winner recently released a new album entitled What Were You Hoping For?, a Dirty Mind-esque collection of provocative, funk-etched rock and roll that reveals a wealth of influences ranging from Rick James to Iggy Pop (whose “No Sense of Crime” Van covered on his second album, On The Jungle Floor.)
Van’s choices for Desert Island Discs should give you a pretty good idea of his level of musical dexterity and versatility. Spinning from funk to jazz to classical to glam-rock, it’s not hard to hear elements from all of these albums in his work.
Miles Davis–Sketches of Spain: The strangest “jazz” record of the bebop era. Unfair and silly to categorize it, really. So consistently layered and foggy. It’s like having a lazy harbour town in your ear.
Sly & The Family Stone–There’s a Riot Goin’ On: I don’t know what else to say. Just work with it. Listen to it over and over again. Let it get into you. And then join us.
Johann Sebastian Bach–The Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello: The grandest collection of tunes and the finest example of compositional control. He wrote a career of music with one set of melodies — with one instrument. Space and reverb is the secret weapon.
Duke Ellington (with Charles Mingus & Max Roach)–Money Jungle: Duke Ellington with Max Roach and Charles Mingus supposedly pushing him in all sorts of uncomfortable directions. Duke makes it seem easy to restrain chaos.
David Bowie–Hunky Dory: David Bowie with “Changes”, “Life On Mars?”, “Oh You Pretty Things” and “Andy Warhol” alone one could outfit a career. It is difficult to make a pop record that is enjoyable and challenging all the way through. Other than Prince, no one has mixed the forbidden and the mainstream with such bravery — not with a laser toward mass appeal.