After years of writing and recording, Van Hunt officially entered the music scene with his self-titled debut album in 2004, and fans around the world immediately gravitated to his funky rock-edged soul. Fast forward to 2011, and the diversely talented musician is still going strong with the release of his latest funk/punk/metallic-infused album, What Were You Hoping For?.
Despite all the years of long hours in the studio and touring, Van Hunt doesn’t let his work affect being a good dad to his 7-year-old son. As he recently set out on yet another tour to support his new album, Van took a few moments out to step into the UrbLife.com Parent Trap.
How would Van Hunt feel if his son wanted to get into music? What are some things he learned from his single mother about parenting? What are his thoughts on disciplining children? How does Van discuss girls with his son? Read on for the answers!
What are some important things that you learned from your mother about parenting that you have been able to take on as a single parent yourself?
Van Hunt: There really aren’t any excuses for not providing your child with everything that they need. My mother never allowed herself to blame the absence of my father for anything that I could or could not have.
Since your father wasn’t present, what are some things that you do with your son that you never got to do?
VH: It’s hard to think about because my mother didn’t allow for excuses. I didn’t allow myself to have any excuses as a child without a father. I don’t feel that I missed anything. I did everything that I wanted to do. My mother had brothers who I would hang out with.
As far as being a father to my son, it is a lot of fun! I can’t imagine anybody not wanting to explore the opportunity to be a father, if you should decide to have a child. I also think that decision shouldn’t be made by everybody. It’s a wonderful opportunity. I’m really enjoying it. I really don’t look at it as giving my son something I did not have. I really do enjoy being his father.
Is your son aware of what you do? Does he really get it yet?
VH: Yeah he’s very much aware. He’s always surprised when someone comes up to me and recognizes me. He’s a little perturbed by that actually. But he gets it, and he likes pulling up the computer and seeing my website and reading things that people say about the music. He digs that part.
What are you starting to teach him about girls at this age?
VH: It’s the opportunities that he gives me to teach him about girls, because evidently some friends of his taught him that whistling at a girl was appropriate. I taught him the difference between women and dogs. You’re not trying to get her to fetch a newspaper, so there’s no need to be whistling at her. Then he was cool. That was one thing that I taught him.
Kids are having and learning about sex at much younger ages. How do you feel about having “the talk” with your son? Do you know what age or are you just going to play it by ear? How do you feel about the school teaching your son?
VH: I try to set boundaries for my child, but you can’t protect your child from all of the influences that they’ll experience. I just wait for him to provide the opportunity. I want him to feel comfortable with talking to me and I feel like he does feel comfortable with telling me what he sees and how it makes him feel.
Sex is one of those things that [creates a sensation]that he may not be accustomed to. Whenever he feels or sees something that’s stimulating in that way, he talks to me about it. We just rap about it, and I let him understand that there’s a difference in having a relationship with a person and having a conversation and learning about this person, and having sex with a person.
There’s a different level of responsibility and you need to be responsible for that person’s emotions. The reason why your body at age 15 is ready for sex, but emotionally you are not prepared for the responsibility of a developing relationship.
What are some things that you are trying to set in place for the future to keep him from running the streets?
VH: It’s very simple for me. You’re either going to be your best, which certainly does not involve doing drugs, being a follower, and doing things that you know that your father won’t approve of. You’re either going to do your best or you’re not going to be in my house.
It’s really that simple, and I always tell him, “We have until the age of 18 and then you and I part. You’re going to go to college, you’re going to take all of the things that I taught you, and you’re going to apply them to this very harsh world. That is why daddy is a bit of a strict disciplinarian now. I’m tough on you because the world is going to be tough on you. You waste your time in the streets; you’re going to be doing that on somebody else’s dime not mine.”
I don’t spank my kid, but it’s only because I spanked him until the age of 5 and he understood that that’s what’s going to happen if you step out of line. So he stopped stepping out of line. Then he began to understand me, and then we began talking. I felt that I could talk to him whenever he stepped out of line. That has worked and I enjoy not having to spank him.
What if your son turns to you and says he wants to be a rapper or a singer? What are you going to do?
VH: For trying to rap, I would need to know what he sees in that and where he’s trying to go. I’ve listened to a couple of rap songs in my life, but I see that element of the music industry as completely different that actually playing music or singing. If he wanted to sing, I would make sure that he’s taking lessons and learn how to sing and how to play the piano.
Be all for formal education that will teach you the foundation and the fundamentals of the art and the craft. Then you can branch off and be as expressive as you want to be once you have the basics down.
Tell us a little about your new album and what it represents for where you’re at today in your life and career.
VH: The record lyrically is ‘me’. The things that I have experienced. I really want people to interpret the lyrics for themselves. I think that’s part of the joy of experiencing a collection from an artist. I initially came up with the record because I moved to L.A. and I made a big change in my life. Started taking picture, photography.
My friend was like, “Man you enjoy taking pictures of these discarded items, old couches, even discarded people…” While I wasn’t trying to make any statement, I did find it intriguing that all of these unaddressed issues in our society have now collided onto the middle class. That’s really burdening. I asked myself, “What could these people be hoping for? What did you think was going to happen when you didn’t address the issues?” These are vital issues and there was a loss of stability.
When you talk about our generation, I think that our parents were the last to really practice modern stability, where you had doors opened for people and said ‘thank you’. Engage in going to the museum, checking out the art and culture, which is something that you can’t measure, it has nothing to do with money or power. It’s simply an enriching experience that is art and culture. That was really a part of it. I wanted the record to represent what I thought this culture should aspire to.
Find out more about Van Hunt’s new album and tour dates on his official site VanHunt.com
Follow him on Twitter @VanHunt and Like him on Facebook/VanHunt
Listen to Van Hunt’s new single “Eyes Like Pearls”