THERE ARE Van Hunt songs with pretty obvious origins, be it Curtis Mayfield's '70s soul or Prince's rocking '80s funk.
But then there are Van Hunt songs that have come about from odder places. Days before the Grammy winner returned for a two-night acoustic stop at the Apache Cafe this weekend, he explained:
Birds and squirrels: " 'Hopeless' [performed by Atlanta Grammy nominee Dionne Farris] probably has the wildest story behind it. It's the one that always comes to mind. But I was living with this guy who owned a studio —- Victor Reid. I was basically sleeping on his couch. And one day when he was getting close to fed up of me being on his couch, I got up, and jumped on the Rhodes [piano] and just looked out the window. I saw this bird and squirrel, and at first, I thought they were playing. But they were fighting. And just looking out at them, and you know, just Georgia in spring —- I love Georgia in spring —- made me come up with the chords for 'Hopeless.' And it was that song, financially, that got me off the sofa.
"And you know, the more I think about it, I think that bird was playing and the squirrel was dead serious. It was pretty wild."
Airplanes: "Actually, a lot of songs come when I'm looking out the window, but it's usually on the plane. I always have a window seat, over the wing, because some girl told me that was the safest place to be if a plane is going down. So I've been doing that for like 10 years. Anyway, this new song, 'I'm a Star for You,' came on the plane. And I think 'Dust' [from his self-titled 2004 debut] did, too. That's my space, the plane."
Lauryn Hill: "OK this is the weird one —- maybe even weirder than the bird and the squirrel: Like Lauryn Hill's story really moved me. You know how Lauryn Hill and D'Angelo were hot around the same time? And disappeared at the same time? Well, maybe because I'm a man, and she's a woman, I just felt protective of her. I thought she had the wrong man, and was sabotaging her career. And deep down, I probably had a hidden crush on her, too. I've never even met her. But I wrote 'Character' [from his second CD, 'On the Jungle Floor'] for her to sing. But because she hasn't done anything in like forever, I did it."
> THE 411: Van Hunt with DJ Mafioso afterward. $15 in advance at ticketweb.com; $18 day of show. Doors open at 9 p.m. July 4-5 at Apache Cafe, 64 Third St., Atlanta. For more information, call 404-876-5436 or go to www.apachecafe.info.
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