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Van Hunt takes the Emergency exit after Blue Note's blowjob

The former Atlantan returns for two shows Independence Day weekend

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Van Hunt doesn't sound like himself.

Last year, he admits, he was devastated after Blue Note/EMI decided against releasing his untamed third album, Popular. In hindsight, however, Hunt suggests that given the opportunity to do it over, he would've tempered the characteristic defiance that's come to define his bitches brew.

"I think I would have made a different record," he says. "I don't think I understood that they wanted a particular sound. It wasn't like it was a foreign sound to my artistry. It was just one part of what I do. I think I could have made a record that would have made them more comfortable doing what they do — which is sell records."

Surely Hunt's foray into independent artist territory has nurtured his newfound sense of empathy for the business side of music. In May, he self-released a compilation of rarities, Use in Case of Emergency (VanHunt.com) that makes a fine, muddy mess of those pesky lines in the sand separating funk, rock and soul. He plans to follow it up with a new studio album by September.

Nevertheless, his major-label experience (with EMI subsidiaries Capitol Records and Blue Note) hasn't been a sour one. To the contrary, it's "been lots of fun," he says. "It's hard for me to believe that it's been only five years since my first record. It certainly feels like 20, with all the work that's been involved. [But] I'm really happy with what I've been able to do."

And while a Grammy Award and beloved debut album are nice, it's the little things that make Hunt smile these days.  

"Last week I performed at that McCafe Summer Concert Series here in Atlanta," he says. "I thought I'd be singing while standing next to the drink machine, right? There would be 20 people there. Ten of them might have known "Seconds of Pleasure," but wouldn't know who I was. The other 10 wouldn't know me at all. When I get there, there are 200 people standing around."

If it was anything like most of Hunt's Atlanta performances, his genre-defying set list was matched by an eclectic fan base. Among Hunt's favorites, "there's the guy with the lime green suit and derby," he explains. "Twenty years ago he was really into Prince. He thought he'd never hear anything even remotely like that again. As soon as I get on the scene, he's like, 'Oh, he kinda sounds like Prince. I'm into this.'"

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