Meet Jamie Hannah, the Opera-Trained Pop Upstart Signed by Boy George

Jamie Hannah
Niklas Blaze  

Jamie Hannah

Pop singer Jamie Hannah has a unique voice in pop music, one that can easily span a downright stratospheric 4 octaves. Hannah, 22, is a classically trained operatic countertenor, a multi-instrumentalist, and the newest queer singer-songwriter signed to recording legend Boy George's namesake label.

This February, Hannah arrived on the scene with his debut single "Sound of My Youth," an opera-inflected, radio-ready pop song about the singer's struggles in life and love. Produced by longtime Kylie Minogue collaborator Benny D, the song is an excellent freshman product from a young star with range in spades.

Boy George tells Billboard in a statement that Hannah brings “a fresh look and sound to the music market, as well as to our LGBTQ community. I've never heard a voice like his before, and I believe his music will pierce through!”

Now, Hannah’s emotionally raw acoustic version of “Sound Of My Youth” is being accompanied by the young singer’s very first music video (premiering below). Directed by Heini Susanne, with creative input from Hannah himself, the video makes atheviewer feel like they are looking in on something extremely personal and passionate -- and as Hannah puts it, “very ethereal. Very me.”

Billboard spoke to Hannah about his musical inspirations, his training at the Royal College of Music in London, and what it’s like to work with a legend like Boy George.

What were your inspirations for this music video?

I wanted to make this video feel completely organic and naked. Instead of hiring models or something, we utilized my friends from the music industry to make it as truly "Jamie-esque" as possible. I felt like this was a great way to start, because this is what I'm used to -- it felt like home. I'm not going too out of my comfort zone in this video with choreography, or having my hair dyed blue. The styling encapsulates my experience: very British, with organic musicians, lots of open shots, lots of light, very ethereal. Very me.

How do you think your classical training as an opera singer and musician sets you apart from the more traditional pop stars of today?

My methodology is different. I use different ornamentation, different suspensions, different harmonies. Even my influences are very different from the majority of pop singers. Bach in particular. And that’s a result of my training. When I begin writing a piece of music, I can approach it from a classical, learned way before I even start to think outside of the box.

Do you think this gives you a leg up in the industry?

A lot of pop musicians have unique voices, which is great -- but that’s often because they have little to no training. They haven't studied music. But I know exactly how my diaphragm works, how my breathing works, how to maximize my vocal talents to the best of my ability. And I think you can hear all that in my songs. You can literally hear that I've been classically trained, but that’s just another part of who I am as an artist.

How were you introduced to Boy George, of all people?

I was working with my producer (Benny D) for quite a while making music, and he’s actually a close friend of George and has collaborated with him in the past, so he sent some tracks I had been working on over. George told Benny he loved my voice, and after a lot of back and forth, we got to meet briefly in London for lunch. We just got along really well, and the rest is history. It’s been great working with him and his label’s team, he’s so supportive!

It seems like it would be a nice thing to have a leader in our community supporting you like this.

Definitely! We do clash sometimes, and I’m not a pushover. We have different opinions on things, but that’s fine, it’s part of the process.

You’re only 22, but does it already seem like you're on the precipice of success?

Success is relative, isn't it? I’m always striving to do more, but I don’t think I can call myself successful just yet! I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my upbringing, and I’m happy with how things are going, but I don’t want to say I’m a "success"... yet!