Belgian Funk Rock Instrumentalist Niels Hanne Talks New Music & Virtual Collaboration With Nashville Vocalist Katie J

I can honestly say I wish I knew more about Belgium. It seems like a lovely place.

But alas, the first few things that come to my Yankee mind are Belgian waffles and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Shameful, I know.

Niels Hanne is a funk rock instrumentalist who happens to call Belgium home, and like many, is utilizing the wonders of technology to maintain his passion of making music in these ever-strange times. Hanne, a guitarist and drummer, connected with vocalist and songwriter Katie J, who lives 4,394 miles away in Music City, and together the two make some steady driving soul-rock songs. Despite the hurdles and uncertainty, they have dialed into each other’s sonic strengths, and make it happen.

Songs like “Moving Forward” and “Sweet Escape” deliver pulsing vibrations with every chord strike and note, and together, with a sea of separation between them, the two seem to have a legitimate chemistry. This seems to be the beginning of what could be a fruitful and badass long-distance musical relationship.

We shot some questions across the pond to Niels regarding the songs, how he got connected with Katie J, and more.

So where in Belgium did you grow up? 

In the city of Hasselt. Hasselt belongs to the Dutch-speaking Flemish region in Belgium. 

Who or what inspired you to pick up an instrument and start playing? 

I always loved listening to music. Both my parents always listened to a lot of music and my dad was a musician too. At some point I started to sing along and I just had fun with it. Later I had some friends who had a band but they didn’t have a singer. So I ended up singing for them. I bought my first guitar when I was around 18 or 19. My biggest musical inspiration are the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But I also listen a lot to 70’s music and Metallica, too. 

How would you describe the Belgian music scene? 

Hard question. It’s just a small country, but we do have some nice festivals and venues! 

What is your songwriting process like? Is it more structured, or do you find yourself jumping out of the shower to scribble on a notepad a lot?

Yes I can be doing anything and get an idea when I write music or lyrics. I guess that can sometimes be annoying to other people, haha. 

So in listening to your songs “Moving Forward” and “Sweet Escape,”  they’re heavy on the rock, the funk, and soul. What artists would you say most inspire your sound most?  

Red Hot Chili Peppers, 70’s bands like Grand Funk Railroad, Ten Years After, Melvin Harald and the Blues Notes, Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, and many more. 😮 

So how did you get hooked up with Katie J? 

I found her online. I was searching for a vocalist, and I contacted her and asked her to sing on the song that later became “Sweet Escape.” And to be honest, I just love her voice without knowing the lyrics I always feel when Katie sings. 

How hard is it to develop chemistry and make music with someone thousands of miles away?

I thought it would be really different having been playing music in bands, and mostly created music while jamming. BUT now I can create my ideas and send it to Katie, and she doesn’t need much info after that. 😀 She nails it pretty fast! 

Do you play all the instruments in the tracks? 

I have played all the instruments outside of Katie singing. Arnaud Krakowka helped me with drums. But for the next album, I will have more help. 

What other releases have you had this year, and what might you have in store to close out the year? 

I’m in the studio (Hook Studio) at the moment, and there will be a new album in 2021! On this album, Katie will do vocals and lyrics, Arnaud [Krakowka] once again will play the drums, Joey Howard will do the bass parts, me on guitar, and it will be produced by Pieter-Jan Theunis and mastered by Dan Shike. 

In the realm of reason, what do you hope 2021 will have in store for Niels Hanne musically or otherwise?

More airplay, to connect with more people, and do more things like talking to you guys! 😀 Who knows!

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