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NewTracks New Artist: Hanbee

NewTracks New Artist: Hanbee

Blue skies, grass greens, happy-day whites and sad-day blacks, tiny cartoon flower figures and giant ladybirds all cavort in the charmingly simple music video for Tāmaki Makaurau artist Hanbee‘s single Buttercup. The ranunculus bulbosus flower is said to represent joy, youth, purity, happiness and friendship. The Korean-Kiwi artist says we shouldn’t have to shine all the time, and her song is all about a world where we can feel just the way we feel – blue, green, happy, sad, tiny, great… NZ On Air picked a Buttercup for their NewTracks compilation this October.

What’s your given name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My full name is Hanbee Jeong, and I am a Korean-New Zealander. I was born in Korea but my family immigrated to NZ when I was a year old, so I grew up in Auckland for most of my life. I play the violin, piano, and am working hard to be better at guitar – it’s a work in progress. 

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

From year 7 – 9, I attended a private art school called Corelli School Of The Arts, majoring in violin and piano. With weekly concerts and an education system focused on the performing arts, I think I was able to build a balanced foundation in understanding music and performance. 

Any previous projects might we know you from?

I originally started releasing music as a band called BLEE that I formed with a friend in Korea. It stands for Bee, my nickname, and Lee, my friend’s surname. I wrote a song called Dip with my friend and made a music video containing footage of NZ’s beautiful summer beaches. 

What’s the background story of how Hanbee came to be? 

As mentioned above, I started off as the band Blee but wanted to release music that could show more of my own thoughts and sounds. Although my solo career started in Korea I was able to connect with NZ’s local artist Hans. who featured in my single Cozy. Since then, he has become directly involved with my solo work – offering musical insight and endless support. 

How has your writing (or music) evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

My music started off with simple and somewhat subdued sounds and progressed into experimenting with different layers and instruments. I was fortunate to meet Tez [Terry Shin], a talented producer based in NZ who made it possible for me to explore and add new sounds to my music. 

How and when did you come up with the name for the new project?

As I belong to two very different cultures (Korea and NZ), I have felt quite lost at times in terms of cultural identity. When I first decided to start releasing music as a solo artist I wanted to find a name that could really just be me. Although having an English name is quite common for immigrants, I have only gone by the one name – Hanbee, wherever I was. So without further deliberation, I decided to stick to my birth name, Hanbee to represent my music. 

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

As my releases were all digital, I have to admit it was hard to grasp the fact that my songs could be played anywhere. I think the first time I heard my song play in public was definitely a huge realisation that my music was officially out. After that, getting an opportunity to work with an artist – that I’d been a huge fan of – was also a big highlight of my journey.

What makes Buttercup stand out for you as a single?

I think Buttercup really stands out for me because it captures the moment and sound that I wanted to create – not too bright, not too sad. Fortunately for me, my team – Tez (producer) and Edenbyeden [Jun-woo Wang] (sound engineer) – really stepped up to balance the sound and form the texture that I wanted. 

What is the story behind Buttercup?

Buttercup is all about a world where we can feel the way we feel. Accepting that we have both our good and bad days, no one should have to feel sunny all the time!

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

My favourite moment of Buttercup would be the chorus because it’s really the most uplifting part of the song. Also, I genuinely enjoyed adding harmonies and background vocals to this section.

Who did you record/produce the single with and where? 

Buttercup was co-produced by me and Tez, with lyrics and vocal recordings done by me in my bedroom studio. One funny aspect about it is that the whole songwriting process happened online over Zoom meetings, as I was in Korea while Tez was going through lockdown in NZ. 

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

The message is pretty simple – to find peace with your emotions, however they may be, because we all have our ups and downs, sunny and rainy days. Also importantly, to apply that understanding for others and have compassion for each other’s feelings too.  

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

Although my idea of a good single is based on how well the music expresses my thoughts and moments, I always try to make sure that it can be relatable for others too. Usually, I ask some of my peers for feedback, which allows me to hear my music from different perspectives. 

Who else is in your team?

At the moment, I am independent with a manager who works very hard for me…

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

I definitely have some more music on the way with Tez, as well as some collaborations with other amazing artists, so please stay tuned! 

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

With such amazing artists in the local music scene, this was probably the hardest question to answer. My choice of three groovy tunes are:

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? 

As I have just started out, I haven’t applied for any funding just yet but am very keen to apply, as NZOA provides so many opportunities for growth. 

Who did you make the video with?

I made the music video for Buttercup on my own, and had so much fun drawing all my Buttercup friends! 

Any last words?

The smallest things make all the difference. I hope my music can offer something to people – no matter how small it may be. I’ve always admired and respected the work of NZ Musician, so I’m incredibly grateful to have this opportunity to share a little about me and my music – thank you!