But now, Hannah is branching out on his own and is back with a new single for 2020, “Secret Paradise” (premiering exclusively below). The track marks Hannah’s official departure from Boy George’s tutelage, and sees him taking on a newer pop sound while retaining his singular vocals. The fast beat and an ever-upward tone give the track a decidedly contemporary, danceable, and ripe-for-remixes vibe -- uplifting pop sung by a trained countertenor has never sounded so good.
Billboard sat down with Hannah to discuss “Secret Paradise,” disrupting pop music, and creating your story after working with an A-lister.
Let’s get right to it! “Secret Paradise” — what is it about?
This one I wrote a long time ago. It actually came from a feeling of isolation, of keeping a very big secret from the people you love. I was in a relationship but I couldn't really tell anybody about it because I wasn't out at the time. So although the lyrics are about that, I twisted the song to be more of a celebratory track. Like a track of celebration of a previously deceiving love saga, now allowed to live freely because, of course, now I'm out of the closet. It's about feeling obviously meaningful things like love and compassion and trust and kindness for and with someone. But keeping it from your family, the ones you grew up with, because you don't know how the hell they'd react. It's a pop song that's meant to be something that people can confide in and feel hopefully inspired by.
Seems relatable for most LGBTQ people growing up.
Most definitely, especially that first relationship. No one ever knows how your family and friends are gonna take it. But when you're young, you don't realize that in the great scheme of things, it doesn't matter. Most people don't actually give two s--ts!
The track is definitely a very "now" pop song. Are you excited to be moving into a more pop music space?
Yes! It's nice to be able to channel the kind of music that I've been wanting to create since day one. I was put down an alternative route while I was working with George. Not a bad thing at all, and I'm very humbled by the fact that I got to work with him. However, I am now really utilizing, as they say, the best bits from classical music and pop music. I'm excited to be singing this new kind of pop!
So speaking of this new sound, how are you finding your sound these days? Who are you working with?
I was lucky enough to work with a number of writers signed with Disney and Universal Japan. Being able to take their strengths and come up with something special together, so cool. I did some stuff in Sweden with some writers. And I’ve been working with Sonder, who works with Lana Del Rey! So I’m finding it all over, and making it my own.
So with the release of “Secret Paradise,” you're officially stepping out on your own, sans Boy George. What does that mean for you, and how are you feeling?
Well, George has a small, private label which he releases music on. But he and I have always been more like friends, and he's been a huge supporter for a long time. So there's not really that much that I'm walking away from. ... I still get to have my really great friend in him. It was always more like releasing music with a friend. You know, he actually posted something on his Instagram the other day and I was taken aback by it. He was like, "Jamie is a bright young star!" I didn't think I was still on his radar! But it was very kind of him.
In terms of finding my sound, I feel like there aren't many artists that can say they've collaborated with incredible artists like him, like George. So it's always going to be difficult to step away from that and create my own narrative and my own path. But I've been very lucky with the people that I've been working with and I feel confident with the music that I'm making and I’m ready to do this.
Do you have some tricks to staying confident and staying positive?
I do a number of things to find my inner truth. That's probably a very pretentious way of saying that, but finding your identity really is so important. Of course, if you're queer you've been going contrary to your truth for a long period of time, so it's even more vital to figure out who you are.
I had an illness in my family recently, and when something so serious turns on you like that, subconsciously you start to reflect on what your priorities are. So I've been doing a lot of meditation, trying to make time for myself. If you can, it’s great to take personal days occasionally, to recharge. Drink water, eat healthy, do your laundry, and just allow your body to revitalize. It’s during those down times when I find the confidence in myself to take a bigger step, to say to myself, "I've got this."