Psychologist makes music for the mind

Hanru Niemand

Psychologist Hanru Niemand spends his days listening to people’s thoughts and fears, which can be draining, but he uses it as a creative force behind his music.

The Durbanville resident is also an Afrikaans folk singer-songwriter who has just released his fourth album, Opgrawings vir ‘n Lugkasteel (Excavations of a Pipe Dream).

“One way that my day job affects my music is that I get to listen to a lot of life stories and many of those inevitably get stuck in the subconscious, I guess,” says Hanru.

“I tend to think of it in another way though, which is that my songs and my day job come from the same place, in a certain sense. I’m interested in the human condition and that leads me to write songs and poetry and to be interested in psychology.”

He says he often finds inspiration while working out of his Durbanville office. He’s been writing songs since he was 16.

“My songwriting process is a bit haphazard, I tend to start with either a tune or interesting guitar riff I happen to come by, and then one day a good lyric will pop up that fits well. This could take anything from 30 minutes to ten years.”

The new album, he says, will take listeners on a nostalgic ride as he tries to bring back the concept of a side A and side B, similar to mixtapes of the past.

“When we print some hard copies at some point in the future, the idea is that the listener should listen to the CD like in the old days – sit down, open the booklet, read the lyrics, and listen to the album from end to end. So the idea of two sides is an added bit of nostalgia. However, a listener who streams the album from end to end in one go is also likely to notice a sharp change in tone from side A to side B. Side A is just me and my guitar, and then on side B, a full band kicks in a big way.”

Hanru released his first album in 2003 and has since built a reputation. He has even had some of his music translated to suit Finnish and Russian audiences.