Song-writing, Touring and Inspiration: In Conversation with Lynne Hanson
Titled ‘Canada’s own Queen of Americana’ by Folk Roots Radio, Lynne Hanson is a Canadian singer-songwriter currently touring in the UK, performing her stylistic combination of sonically moody blues and lyrically narrative country. Releasing her 8th solo studio album Ice Cream in November last year and currently writing her next record expected in Spring 2024, I had the chance to interview Hanson about touring, her writing process, and musical influences.
Johannah: How’s tour been so far?
Lynne: It’s going well, all the gigs have been good so far. We played in Scarborough the other night to a nice big crowd, so that was fun. We were also in Sheffield, and we were treated so nicely by the venue, it just felt really special. There’s always something positive about every show.
J: What did it take to find your musical voice and has it changed over your career?
L: When I became a professional musician, for the first five years I was touring with another songwriter, who was my partner at the time, and I would play rhythm guitar and sing backing vocals with them. That kind of got me started in terms of being a professional performing musician. I started writing my own songs after that, as a sort of offshoot from that original project. Over the years I’ve listened to other song writers and moved into different sonic directions and it’s kind of by osmosis that I’ve ended up where I am now.
J: You describe your music as ‘porch music with a little red dirt’, did you grow up with Americana, or was it something you found later?
L: Somebody gave me Car Wheels on a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams in 2006, and that’s when I discovered Americana. It completely changed how I heard music, that record was by far the biggest influence on my writing style. Over the years I’ve listened to people like Patty Griffin and Jason Isbell, and they’ve greatly influenced where I’ve moved too.
J: Over the time, have you noticed your writing process change?
L: Majority of the songs I write start with music and then I develop the lyrics and vocal melody on top of that and that hasn’t changed, but I think my lyrical style has changed quite a bit. It’s a combination of being influenced by other writers, especially in Americana, and spending more time refining my craft. In the early days I would hear when a song was finished, whilst now I really make sure that every word is the way I want it to be and I am really paying attention to those details – that’s what I’ve found has changed.
J: How do you view your song-writing process?
L: When it comes to writing a record, I’ll set aside a certain amount of time to write, so it becomes a type of 9-5 job. I’ll sit down in the morning, and I’ll write until the day is over and even if I’ve gotten nothing, that’s just what I’ll do every day. When I’m not writing a record, I’ll just come up with song ideas – it’s a little more organic. I might just be fiddling around on the guitar, get an idea and then start working on a song.
J: When you’re writing, are you already thinking about how the album will look?
L: No, I never have any idea. I think the ideas sort of pile up in my subconscious and then when I start writing, they start coming out. I don’t have a plan necessarily, it’s just all of a sudden, I have a bunch of songs that work together and the couple that don’t are the ones that don’t get recorded.
J: Do you ever come back to the unrecorded songs?
L: For the record I’m recording now, that will come out in Spring, there’s a really great song we’re going to record that I originally wrote in December 2020, but I doubt it’ll make the record, just because it doesn’t really fit. So, a lot of the times if it’s not meant to be, maybe it’s a song for me, maybe it’s a song for someone else.
J: Do you do often do cowriting?
L: I do a fair amount, yes. There have been a couple American artists I cowrote for and they both released the songs on their most recent records, and it was nice to see that.
J: Do you find that it’s different writing for someone else’s work?
L: It becomes the sum of two artists, so whatever the strengths of that artist are, that’s what they bring to the table. If they’re a great instrumentalist, they can do things that I can’t necessarily do, or there might be a chord progression I would not have imagined and then it becomes something that’s in the song, so it’ll push it into certain directions.
J: Do you find that having so much music access ever affects your views on influence and inspiration?
L: It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the volume of music that’s out there, but with streaming I can curate who and what I’m going to listen to. I do tend to migrate towards the song styles that I write, because it’s what I like to listen to, but at the same time, because there’s so much accessible music, I’ll listen to styles that are not what I do, especially when someone recommends me something. I think it’s a good thing. It adds a freshness to the whole process and in a way stops me from writing the same record over and over again, which is not something I want to do.
J: When you write, and record music are you thinking about how you’re going to perform it live?
L: Sometimes the studio version can be very different to the live version: sometimes we might decide to have a different groove or direction. Most of the songs start with me playing it in real life and then figuring out how we’re going to produce it, so both versions of a song kind of exist together – it’s very much me and how I play the music to begin with.
J: In your narratives, are you influenced by personal stories, or stories around you?
L: A lot of the time, the songs are not about me. I mean there’s little pieces of me in every song, but for the most part, it’s what I’m exposed to that gets filtered through my creative lens and become these songs – they’re usually very general narratives.
Find out more about Lynne Hanson’s music and tour through her website Lynne Hanson. Her most recent album Ice Cream in November is available for streaming on all notable platforms.