Lynne Hanson: Heartbreak Poet from a Sleepy Government Town
Lynne Hanson: Heartbreak Poet from a Sleepy Government Town
Lynne Hanson is a Canadian singer/songwriter who has toured the world, presenting her own imaginative brand of gritty Americana folk. Ms. Hanson’s brand new album is entitled Just Words, a dynamic collection of emotional artistry that will dazzle the senses. Perceptive and passionate, Just Words is sure to enrapture all who give a listen to the vibrant tapestries found within. Lynne has provided support to the likes of Steve Forbert and Albert Lee, and plans to tour extensive throughout 2020 and beyond. Highwire Daze recently caught up with Lynne Hanson prior to her European Album Release Tour to find out more about the critcally acclaimed Just Words, what to expect from her live performances, and other topics of intrigue. Read on…
Where are you based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
I’m based in Ottawa, Canada, though these days I don’t seem to spend a ton of time at home as I’m on the road a lot. Although Ottawa is sometimes referred to as being a “sleepy government town,” there is actually a really amazing music scene here. Toronto seems to get all the attention, but there are a lot of great acts coming out of this city.
What was the name of the very first song you wrote, how old were you at the time, and what was that song about?
The very first complete song I ever wrote was called Justice Rules when I was about 13 years old. I can only really remember part of the chorus, but it was a terrible song from what I recall. I’m pretty sure it was a teenage attempt at a protest song that grew out of a poem I wrote for an English class in high school.
On now on to present day, is there any overall story or concept behind the new album title Just Words?
I pay a lot of attention to words, so the album title, which is also the title track, is meant to be ironic. Words can be very powerful, and I think we don’t always realize just how impactful they can be, either as a means to bring about positive change or as a way to bring other people down. Whether it’s nasty comments on social media, or the barrage of images and messaging we are exposed to on a daily basis through the internet and other forms of media, it feels like the modern world at times has become one large, unsupervised schoolyard. As an artist, I don’t want to come across as preachy, but I did want to call attention to the issue in a way that might connect with people. I think this theme of needing more kindness has come up a few times, and I think the intensity of how we chose to produce the song in the studio, and the fact that it’s the title track of the album, speaks to the intensity of my personal feelings on the topic.
Select two songs from Just Words and what inspired the lyrics.
Long Way Home – The question I get asked the most is whether my songs are about me. I always say half are autobiographical, the other half are the lives of the people around me or even lives I imagine. However Long Way Home WAS me. In September, I celebrated my eighth year of sobriety, and so I have made the long walk home from the pub or a party alone with my thoughts and sometimes a few demons many, many times in my lifetime. For me this song is really the heart of the album.
True Blue Moon – True Blue Moon was written in response to the Jacques Brel song Ne Me Quitte Pas. I read in an interview that he didn’t consider it to be a love song, but instead an example of how far a man would go because of love. This song was from the point of view of the woman who sees the romantic poet for a temporary lover and not capable of longer lasting love. It’s supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek song about that out of control feeling that we can sometimes have when we fall head over heels in love, and at the impossibility of that romantic fairy tale feeling actually being something that can be maintained over time.
What did producer Jim Bryson contribute to the overall recording process?
I chose Jim Bryson to produce my album because I felt he could help me to achieve the sound I was looking for by including elements of a more contemporary “indie” sound while still staying within the Americana genre that I’m most comfortable with. He has a real knack for layering sounds without being too slick, so his albums don’t sound too produced. He’s also a wonderful keyboard and piano player, so was a real complement to what guitarist Kevin Breit was bringing to the table. I also think we had a really great working relationship, which allowed me to trust his ideas in the studio and really give over to trying something new.
What could one expect from a live Lynne Hanson show?
I’ve been called a “heartbreak poet,” and I really love sad and edgy songs. I think my live shows offset that, as I’m really just myself in between songs. I love stand-up comedy and would secretly love to do that in addition to being a musician. Plus I like to climb on things, so overall my shows tend to be fairly energetic and sometimes a little unpredictable.
Have you ever played out here in the Los Angeles area or plan to do so in future days?
I’ve played in New York City, Nashville and Austin but have never played in Los Angeles. It’s definitely something I hope to have the opportunity to do at some point in my career!
What was it like being on tour with Steve Forbert and where did the tour take place?
Steve Forbert is an amazing songwriter, so to get to watch him perform night after night was like watching a clinic on expert songwriting. He’s also a REALLY nice guy, so it was a real pleasure to get to hang out as well as hear him play. I was on tour with him in England and Ireland, and then did an additional date with him in London, England a year later when we were touring at the same time.
You’ve also opened for the legendary Albert Lee. What was that experience like and did you get to meet or hang out with him at all?
Opening for Albert was one of the serious highlights of my career. He is an incredible guitar player, but he’s also one of the sweetest people I’ve had the chance to spend time with in this industry. I have to admit that looking side stage and seeing him standing there listening while I was played solo was terrifying the first time, but he was so incredibly supportive. And the stories he told over dinner were unbelievable, to know who he had played with over the course of his career. It really did a lot for my confidence as a songwriter to have that experience.
If you could open up for any band either now or from the past who would it be and why?
Being on a bill with Patty Griffin is number one on my bucket list. Listening to her album Impossible Dream changed my songwriting. Her use of imagery and that soulful groove she has stopped me in my tracks. So if someone can make that happen, I would be the happiest songwriter around.
Tell me about your other project The LYNNeS with Lynn Miles, and how confusing is it when you are in a room together or on tour and someone shouts out “Hey Lynn!”
I’ve known Lynn for a long time, and she’s really played the role of mentor to me over the course of my songwriting career. She sang on my first album and produced two others. It’s more of a side project, but I really do enjoy it as we just seem to be able to write and perform together effortlessly. I think it’s probably the most natural music collaboration I’ve been involved in. In terms of the name thing, we called ourselves The LYNNeS because people would see us together and say, “Oh, hey, it’s the Lynnes.” I tend to refer to her as Other Lynn and she does the same to me… and stage crew usually resort to just using our last names.
What’s up next for you?
I’ve got a LOT of touring on the books for 2020 to promote this new album, but I’m already starting to think about my next project. In fact, I’m actually currently in Nashville for several co-writing sessions as I’m completing this interview.
Any final words of wisdom?
I’m not sure I have any real words of wisdom, but I do I feel the world is desperately in need of more kindness. So be kind to the people around you, but especially yourself. Oh, and don’t run with scissors. It really is dangerous.
(Interview by Ken Morton)
Lynne Hanson on Facebook