Juno-nominated singer Shawn Hook opens up about love, Bieber’s comeback + more
There’s a reason Shawn Hook was been nominated for a Juno Fan Choice Award this year. The B.C.-born singer songwriter has a way with singing, uh, hooks that stick. His catchiest tracks of late—”Sound of Your Heart” and as his new single, “Relapse”—bring to mind the suave tendencies of Justin Timberlake and yearning top notes of Justin Bieber. Yet songs such as “In Over My Head” and “Bad Girls” bring Hook outside of the usual boy-to-man pop terrain and showcase an artist that is looking to shake the Billboard formula. We talked to the man behind the jams.
When and how did you first learn about music?
I was a Royal Conservatory student but I didn’t graduate—I only went up to the third grade. By the time I got to high school, I got into jazz music and started writing my own music. I just felt like I didn’t want to take 3 months to learn how to play one song; I had too many ideas to keep myself boxed into the classical music genre.
What is your octave range?
Now my range is about 4 1/2 octaves but it didn’t start off that way. I didn’t even know what a falsetto voice was until I started taking lessons with a vocal teacher. He got me to focus on it with songs by Radiohead. My goal was to hit as many notes as possible. Now, I can definitely hit them. My most comfortable range is the one that I didn’t even know existed.
How many instruments can you play?
Piano, guitar, synth, base and…trombone. The last one, because I used to be in a disco cover band.
Who would you love to write and record a song with?
Sia. I’ve been a fan of hers since she was with Zero 7. She has an emotional approach to her melodies.
After putting out 3 albums, your music is really blowing up now. Do you think its better you got this attention later now as opposed to when you were a kid?
Yes. I’m developing as an artist. I don’t have a gimmick. I don’t have a viral video. I don’t have a celebrity endorsement. Everything seems to be based on people actually downloading the songs on Spotify and iTunes. This way, I think it gives me more credibility as a writer and singer. I want an audience that will want to come back for the right reasons.
You broke Guinness World Record for standing on an exercise ball for more than 3 hours. Do you still train as rigorously as you did then?
I’m at the gym 4 times a week. I don’t train as crazy as I used to—which was 6 days a week and some days I’d work out twice a day. Now I’m at a different stage in my life. I’m into yoga, biometrics and Pilates. I incorporate that into my on-the-road workout.
Analog Love is all about nostalgia. What song brings up the best and worst memories about your relationships?
Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.” It’s so relatable and it resonates with me. I’ll listen to the Killers’ record with “Have Mercy, Isabelle” if I’m going through a breakup.
What sounds do you see yourself experimenting with in the next album?
Some of the new songs might work with just piano and vocal. That’s one thing I learned from “Sound of Your Heart Beating”—there’s not a lot of production going on in that song and its doing well. But I’m working with Ryan Tedder from One Republic so he’ll be a great influence.
You sang with Elton John at FASHION CARES; what do you think he does onstage that is worth noting?
He’s a captivating showman and an incredible piano player. He also made me realize how important banter is between songs.
Do you see someone like Justin Bieber as being a lesson for pop stars your age?
Yes. Whoever came up with the comeback plan for Purpose was a genius. Especially the move to work with Diplo and Skrillex. I like the fact that he didn’t follow a trend or go after [producer] Max Martin—since most of the pop music being recorded and made now is by Max Martin. In that respect, Justin broke his own mold. It reminds me to be open to other directions in music—ones I’m necessarily used to.
Your signature look so far is black shirts, Chelsea boots, leather jacket… why?
I’m a pretty classic guy. I like classic fashion inspirations, James Dean and Jared Leto. I like guys who push it but I feel more comfortable and confident in black. I like well-fitted suits. I was just in London and I bought one from Paul Smith. They are super expensive but they are on point. To mix it up, I bought some nice red Chelsea shoes too.
Who in pop music do you think is winning at the fashion game?
Obviously Lady Gaga. I did a show with a band called DNCE [at the annual Tinder Ball] and their style is all over the place but it works. I have to give them props for being so eccentric. The bass player looks like he wears a lot of Moschino by Jeremy Scott—he looks almost cartoonish and [DNCE’s lead singer] Joe Jonas plays with his hair colour… he’s definitely come a long way since the Jonas brothers.
Your music has been on so many scenes on TV… what is your favourite scene/TV show that used your music/song so far?
I think the most impactful is having my song used for [Jennifer Lopez’s new TV series], Rookie Blue. The Bachelor is using my song too but it’s ironic because that show is about finding love and the song they used—”Sound of your heart”— is about losing the love of your life.
Who’s career do you admire?
Bono from U2, Bruce Springsteen and Elton John— those artists are legendary because they’ve maintained their artistic integrity. I hope to one day be in that position.
In your video to “Relapse,” you are cast as Archie-type choosing between two Betty and Veronica-type women. Are you more of a Betty or Veronica kind of guy?
In real life, Veronica, all the way. Brunettes are more my style.
Drake keeps singing about his love for good girls but you sing about your love of “Bad Girls.” What is it about being with a wild spirit that works for you?
It pushes me out of the comfort zone. I want to be with someone who does that. That way, I generally have a good time. Sometimes it’s not good for my well-being but it keeps things interesting. That song is about shameless fun.
What part of being a performer gives you the most pressure or anxiety?
The only worry I have is doing making sure I’m doing my best. I gotta make sure my voice and my game is always on. It’s overwhelming. I can’t afford to slip up. I’d beat myself up if I showed up to a radio station and didn’t give it my all.