A South Korean hit song that has soared to the top of the music charts has an unexpected Vernon connection.
Gangnam Style is the hit song recorded by Psy, which has the most liked video in YouTube history and has reached the top of the U.K. charts, thanks to its catchy tune and its accompanying signature dance moves.
Vernon musician Matt Harwood-Jones, 19, has taken the popular tune, put his own spin on it and posted it to YouTube. Quickly going viral, his video has had more than one million hits.
“I love K-Pop (Korean Pop), so I saw this video and one day I was doing the dance and I was like, ‘hey I can do this on the drums,’ because the hand motions fit perfectly on the drums, so I incorporated the Gangnam style on the drums,” said Harwood-Jones, a graduate of W.L. Seaton secondary school. “I think the popularity of the video is that it’s just so funny so when I made my video, people also saw that I’m a good player — skill and humour are a good combination.”
But humour aside, Harwood-Jones takes his craft seriously. Accepted into the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, he was set to begin studies there, but decided to stay closer to home for the first year, attending Selkirk College in Nelson instead.
And now, instead of spending the next few years in school, racking up thousands of dollars in debt, the drummer just wants to get his name out there and make his living as a musician.
“I want to be a professional musician and I feel that YouTube is the best way to build a fan base. Over the past five days, I’ve had 1,229 subscribers.”
Working part-time at The Rice Box, Harwood-Jones spends the rest of his time in his home studio, playing, practising and making videos for uploading to his YouTube channel.
“I posted my first video about a year ago and this last one just went insane. I have a friend I play Starcraft with, he posted it on Reddit and it went to the front page and then it exploded. YouTube started to trend where they can see how much traffic you’re getting — I was totally shocked.”
Harwood-Jones plans on demonstrating a wide variety of genres in his videos and admits that while he’s happy to be living at home for now, his eventual goal is to relocate to a bigger city.
And, while he’s got a thing for K-Pop, his first love remains jazz, crediting his dad, Chris Harwood-Jones, for piquing his interest in the genre.
“My dad always listened to jazz and fusion, and one day I just really started to enjoy it, and just started listening to a lot of it and discovered some of my favourite drummers, and then I was full on jazz man. But I enjoy metal, too: bands like Periphery and Born Of Osiris.”
Doing most of his listening on iTunes, Harwood-Jones said there are too many drummers who cheat, using electronic drums and adjusting the sound after recording.
“But one drummer I really admire is Stef Broks, with Dutch metal band Textures. He’s really legit.”
Encouraged by Kath Raeber, founder of Our Kids Have Talent and Rarearth Music Festival, Harwood-Jones was in Grade 11 or 12 when he started thinking a career as a musician was a real possibility.
“Kath started encouraging me, she was really supportive, and made me think this really is something I can do professionally,” he said. “I’m lucky to be able to do this, it’s great living at home and since I’m not going to school during the day I can play while everyone is at work.”
Six degrees of separation: Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube by Scooter Braun, who has just signed Psy, who inspired Harwood-Jones’ latest video. He may not be seeking superstardom, but if the online video site leads to life as a working musician, it will have done its job.