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Hiimhii Used to Struggle at Karaoke, so He Decides to Write His Own Songs

Despite his late entrance in the music scene, Hiimhii and his trusty ukulele has quickly won the hearts of many Vietnamese indie fans with his mellow, contemplative compositions.

"Don't call me a singer"

Hiimhii, also known as Hoàng Hải, is a Hanoi-based independent artist. Hiimhii began singing in 2017 and has since made a mark in the scene with singles like 'Được Không?,' 'Lỡ' and'Lam' that he published on personal YouTube and SoundCloud pages.

Hiimhii's music is difficult to put in a neat genre because he experiments with many different influences, including indie folk, pop, swing, and even hip-hop. Regardless of the genre, listening to a Hiimhii song is like sipping coffee in the early morning: calm, relaxed, delicate, and sincere. These emotions are also what one would feel across his debut album “Chưa Ra Đời,” which was released in 2021.

Several times during our talk, Hiimhii says he does not want to be referred to as a singer-songwriter or an artist. He shares that he isn't sure why he makes music; it certainly is not for the money, nor that he can compose as a profession.

Hiimhii’s first song was born when he realized how...bad he was at karaoke: "I enjoy singing, but I’m just so bad at karaoke. Taken aback, I started learning how to play guitar and realized that if I transpose the chords, my singing is not half bad. But still there are parts of a song where I just can't hit the high notes. So I began to write songs that suit me best.” And just like that, Hiimhii started composing, as natural as an instinct.

'Được Không' is Hoàng Hải's first upload on SoundCloud. 

Hiimhii believes his music journey is all about experimenting: in composing, in raising funds for an album, in completing the production process himself, in singing at every venue, etc. Hiimhii also did a stint as a back-up vocalist and manager for music trio Quyếch when they worked on the album "Quyển Trời.”

According to Hiimhii, it was an interesting experience to work with Quyếch. Thanks to it, he was able to share the stage with those he used to admire from afar. "I try a lot and sometimes it's a little too much. However, I'd like to see just how far I can get. And if I fail, I can look back on my journey and see how I could change from the ashes of the past, whether I will slumber, keep flying, or be reborn as something new."

The “Unborn” album and the days before turning 22

The debut album “Chưa Ra Đời” (Unborn) was released online at the end of 2020; the CDs came in early 2021. The album mostly consists of pop tunes that he mixes using the ukulele, piano, and guitar with a soothing and mellow tempo. When listening to his rustic melody, one’s worries seem to fade away.

“Chưa Ra Đời" came about from a vote on Hiimhii’s Instagram. Afterward, he launched a crowdfunding campaign to record the album. After a year of work, including days of “mental meltdown,” the album was released with nine tracks, four of which were old songs that are remixed: 'Được Không?,' 'Lam,' 'Lỡ,' and 'Vô Lí.'

"The album has nine songs; on the album cover I arrange the names in three rows and three columns," he explains. The layout is because he visualizes the songs as squares on a Rubik's Cube so that “no matter which order you listen to them, there’d still be a coherent story.”

The songs in this album are glimpses of Hiimhii’s life from the ages of 17 to 22. "It's a film that takes me back to when I was a child who was pampered, to a time of petulance, then to when I faced the first struggles in life. And, of course, my thoughts, my personality, my life have changed since."

In the album, we meet 'Được Không?’ again — the first song that Hiimhii shared on SoundCloud back in 2017. In the original version, 'Được Không?' reflects a boy's feelings for the girl he loves. Four years later, the lyrics are still about a boy in love, but the tempo is slower and more mature. Meanwhile, 'Lỡ,' one of the most popular tracks, maintains the endless grief of a shattered romance to the tranquil melody of a piano.

'Chưa Ra Đời' is the title track of Hoàng Hải's debut album.

'Chưa Ra Đời,' the eponymous song of the album, has an indie folk vibe to it. Hiimhii shares that this creation is the result of his own “calculation” during the production process. "If I were to characterize the album in three words, they would be accessible, innocent, and deliberate. Those three words are expressed clearly in the song." This song was written last, after he had finished recording the other eight tracks. Wanting to capture the spirit of the whole album, Hiimhii tried to put all the titles of the other tracks into 'Chưa Ra Đời.' But halfway down the road, he was stuck. And that's how 'Chưa Ra Đời' was born, or rather, “unborn.”

Hoàng Hải performing 'Lỡ' live.

New challenges ahead

Hiimhii is now working on various plans, including new singles and longer projects. In the near future, he will take part in a song which he wrote for Lê Cát Trọng Lý's upcoming album “Cây lặng, gió ngừng.” "So far, this is the most memorable experience for me. I’ve never imagined that there would be a chance like this," Hiimhii shares.

Fans always think of Hiimhii with an ukulele. He explains, since the ukulele is small and cute, he frequently has it with him in moments of spontaneous inspiration. On the other hand, Hiimhii says music is still an experiment and he does not wish to be associated with an image or an attitude. He knows that in 10 years, five years or even the next month, he might change. And of course, the vision of Hiimhii with an ukulele will also be replaced.

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