A prolific performer who has shared bills alongside the likes of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Hannah Wicklund hails from South Carolina and first launched her music career in 2006, initially with renditions of classic songs from such legendary artists as Janis Joplin before gaining a loyal following through constant touring and a growing online presence with her group the Steppin Stones. Having previously released a ten-track album of material honed through years of touring, Wicklund has now returned with an EP entitled The Inbetween, a collaboration with sibling Luke Mitchell that builds on the sound of its predecessor.
Hannah Wicklund talks about her experiences touring the world and the recording of The Inbetween.
With blues having undergone countless changes through the decades how does an artist approach this type of music in a way that keeps it fresh and exciting without losing the classic blues sound?
To be honest, I have never really categorised myself as a blues artist. It’s obviously an influence of mine, but when I look at the direction my songwriting is moving in I think the classic blues sound will stand as purely inspiration, as opposed to an aspiration within my music.
Is there a specific era and style of blues that has moved you the most and what kind of emotions would you say your own style conjures up in the listener?
When it comes to being moved by the blues, BB King was my intro to it all. I was lucky enough to see Buddy Guy and BB King play together on Hilton Head at a tiny venue, about twenty-feet away. I remember picking up on the dirty jokes here and there and feeling a whole range of emotions that night. The goose bumps I will never forget. As for the emotions I stir up within my listeners, I have no idea, but I’d hope they are left feeling inspired.
What is your guitar of choice and is there a specific brand of equipment that you are loyal to?
I’ve been playing a Tom Anderson guitar through an Orange Rocker 30 for fourteen years now, since I was nine-years-old. I couldn’t be more loyal, grateful or happy with my equipment and family at Orange and Anderson.
Your new EP The Inbetween is being released on vinyl, are you pleased to see this format finally making a comeback in an age of digital downloads and do you have a large vinyl collection of your own?
I’m so happy that vinyl is as mainstream as it has become these days. It truly brings back the experience of listening to the record as the artist intended, which I think is brilliant. My childhood music room had an impressive record collection thanks to my dad, which is a habit I have continued since leaving the nest.
With the EP having been recorded in your parent’s home and produced by your brother, has music always played an important role in your family and how did you first develop an interest in learning an instrument?
Music has played a role in my family’s life for as long as I can remember. At a young age I got my first piano lessons, and that developed into songwriting early on. My older brother had a band from the time I was five-years-old and was writing and recording his own music shortly after, so he certainly inspired me to pursue my writing. When I picked up the guitar, I created the Steppin Stones six months later and so the snowball began.
With the current worldwide pandemic forcing many governments to initiate lockdowns, has your time in isolation proved prolific and under what circumstances do you find that you are at your most creative?
I wish I could say I was doing prolific work, but I’m really just getting through the days just like everyone else, I would imagine. I’ve been painting and writing, but ultimately taking advantage of the pressure being taken off for a minute. Decompressing as some might call it. When it comes to feeling my most creative, there’s really no rhyme, reason or logic behind it. I do know that I write my best when I’m feeling the most good or bad, though.
Does your political or religious beliefs play a significant role in your writing and do you feel that music should merely be escapism or is it a musician’s responsibility to educate their audience?
It is the musician’s responsibility to express themselves, I believe. For me, that does include my opinions on both subjects. I’ve been covering Ohio for ten years or so now and that song has certainly been a leading light in speaking your truth, no matter what.
The majority of songs centre around love and relationships, is this a common theme that runs through your work and do you tend to draw from personal experiences?
Life is mostly about love and relationships, so I find it almost inevitable that some of my inspiration comes from them. When I was younger I used to find love cliché, but as I’ve grown older I understand the sentiments more and more.
Is there a specific song in your repertoire that best personifies you as an artist and what is your main strength as both a songwriter and musician?
As an artist, Shadowboxes and Porcelain Faces feels the most representative of who I am. It’s ironic because that’s my most demure song and my electric guitar playing is very much my main strength, but as a songwriter I feel that song conveys the type of message I want to put out into the world; one of less judgement and more self-acceptance.
For those who have yet to witness your live performances, how would describe the energy of your shows and are you more comfortable on stage or in the studio?
The stage is where I feel the most comfortable, hands down. If it were up to me, I’d have a crowd in front of me every time I recorded in the studio, just to set the right vibe. The energy of a live show is unmatched and I certainly use the crowd to weave in and out of the jams in-between songs.
How close to your true self is your onstage persona?
I’d say pretty damn close, but I could certainly borrow a little bit of confidence from my onstage self to use throughout the other areas of my life.
Do you enjoy playing acoustic or electric guitar the most and having first begun with the piano, how often do you return to this instrument, even if just for your own indulgence?
Anytime I see a piano, I almost can’t resist the urge to sit down and play, even for a moment; it feels like a hug whenever I do. As for the guitar, electric has my heart for the way I’m able to express myself.
How directly involved are you with communicating with your fan base and in what way does feedback you receive online from your audience influence your future projects?
Lately I’ve been doing it all, which has certainly provided a real window into what the fans want. It’s nice knowing people are eager for new music, but I try to make decisions based on what feels good for myself.
Photoshoots and interviews are a necessary evil for an artist but how comfortable do you feel with the promotional aspect of the music industry?
The promotional side of the industry is certainly draining. Just like all things in life, there’s the good and the bad, but I certainly feel lucky that anyone is interested in talking to me at all.
How do you avoid repeating yourself and remaining fresh and inventive in an industry where people often say that everything has already been done before?
I honestly try and ignore that whole rederick all together and just create.