Hunter deBlanc may be on your radar for his alternative covers deeming him the “Pop-Punk Piano Man.” From Yellowcard to Senses Fail, he’s covered it all. In fact, he even performed a punk rendition of Billy Joel‘s iconic “Piano Man” at Emo Nite in 2019.
Inspired by mid-2000s pop and punk, he covered Drive-Thru Records‘ most famous musicians in a video series. Now, with these artists in mind, deBlanc is ready to burst onto the scene with original songs. He teamed up with label alumnus and Hellogoodbye frontman Forrest Kline to deliver the follow-up to “That’s Not Me” with his new single “Do What Feels Right.”
Alternative Press had the chance to chat with deBlanc and Kline to see how this eclectic, synthy collaboration happened. Check out the full interview and brand-new track below.
Hunter, how did you create this collaboration? What made you recruit Forrest for this particular track? Forrest, what drew you into the project?
HUNTER DEBLANC: So early on during the quarantine, I had done a series of themed livestreams. One of them happened to be a Drive-Thru Records cover set. And, of course, I covered a Hellogoodbye tune. At the same exact time, I had started working on this “Do What Feels Right” as well as a few others with producer Taylor Jordan, aka Teej, out of Canada, who I linked up with randomly after stumbling upon a few of his posts on Instagram. Bouncing back and forth between doing these nostalgic cover sets of emo/pop punk and simultaneously working on my own tunes, which are more indie-pop/rock songs, I had this idea to try to reach out to some of the artists I grew up listening to for features on these new songs I was writing.
I found myself writing parts specifically for these artists to sing as featured guests almost from the inception of the song. Forrest is one of those artists whose style has continued to mature throughout the years, and with the funky, indie-pop vibe of Hellogoodbye’s last release, S’only Natural, I knew that Forrest would be a perfect fit for this song.
The lyrics to the bridge that Forrest sings are actually an homage to “S’only Natural” because I thought it was clever to tie it in with the overall message of this song—that it’s only natural to do what feels right. The bridge was actually the first thing I wrote for the track, and I immediately could hear Forrest’s voice singing it in my head. But yeah, very cool to work with Forrest. I remember jamming the demo to “Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn” in my first car back in high school. Very nice guy to work with. He’s a real hello good guy!
FORREST KLINE: Aw man, the song “Do What Feels Right” is funky and sexy, two of my interests. I’d seen Hunter kill it over the years, shred piano and serenade, so when he reached out, I was happy to whistle a tune for him. I was able to connect so well with the words he wrote. Hunter hadn’t told me it was an homage. I love it.
What feelings or personal experiences, if any, shaped the lyrics and melodies for “Do What Feels Right”?
DEBLANC: In the second verse, I start with the lyrics “I don’t wanna wait for the sky to fall down,” which is what I feel like I’ve been doing all of 2020. It just feels like we’ve all been waiting for the world to end. This song is my way of saying, “I’m tired of waiting for bad things to happen,” so this song is my “something good.” The next part that says “When I hear the trumpets playing that sound/I wanna be on the floor dancing” is a nod to Steve Winwood‘s “Wake Me Up On Judgement Day” and is just my way of saying that no matter what, I’m just going to keep making the music that feels right to me, even if it means releasing a dance song in the middle of a pandemic.
What was the easiest part of putting this song together despite the pandemic restrictions? What challenges, if any, did you face during the songwriting process?
DEBLANC: So, I actually had an entirely different batch of material ready to go before the pandemic, but because of the way that 2020 was unfolding, none of the material felt right, pun intended. So I scrapped all of those songs and started from scratch. I normally get to a certain point in a song production-wise and then take it to a studio to do stuff like actual drums and vocals. Because of the pandemic, there were a few studio sessions for this track that were done via Zoom, which is already the biggest pain in the ass for meetings. But it was even more frustrating for trying to mix a song, especially when the audio is lagging like crazy. Also, the second biggest challenge was getting all the parties involved to check their emails in a timely fashion, myself included.
KLINE: Collaborating on creative things is better, well shit, more lovely in person. I miss it. But since Hunter wrote a lovely tune, I didn’t have much to struggle with. I was probably the email guy.
DEBLANC: Forrest was indeed “the email guy.”
What can we expect next? Are there any other collaborations or projects in the works?
DEBLANC: I’m in the process of finishing up a few other songs that I plan on dropping sporadically early next year. My next song, “I Hope The West Coast Treats You Better Than This,” will be out on Jan. 1, starting off the new year. Hopefully we’ll have finished filming the music video for “Do What Feels Right” by then. It’s a pretty over-the-top concept, and it’s been pretty difficult to film so far, but it’s coming along. I’ve also reached out to a few other artists regarding features on the upcoming singles, but I’ve only had a few actually respond. Most declined. Maybe this interview will spark some interest. I hope they eventually respond because I wrote these parts specifically with them in mind. So if you’re reading this, just do what feels right!