Ottawa-based Americana//folk singer-songwriter Lynne Hanson has always made stunningly gorgeous music, and she has two new singles - "Hold My Breath" (out now) and "Shadowland" (out October 29th). With these new tunes, her self-described "porch music with a little red dirt" has taken on a veneer of vintage-rock in addition to the Americana and country flavors of hers that we love so much, making for some really tasty treats for the ears! Roughstock sat down with this award-winning artist to chat about her brand new music, what prodded the songs into being, and the importance of being genuine.
Roughstock: Hi Lynne! Thanks for joining us today. We love your new singles, "Hold My Breath" (out now) and "Shadowland" (out this past week) so much. Both of them are right up our readers' alley. Tell us a little bit about how you came to record these two songs. Are they from a forthcoming album or EP, or are they stand-alone singles?
Lynne: "Hold My Breath" is a stand-alone single, while "Shadowland" will be on an album I'll be releasing in early 2022. This is the first new music I've released since I put out my album, "Just Words," in February 2020. I didn't write much of anything for the first 10 months of the pandemic, and to combat probably the worst writer's block I've ever had, I focused on learning to do things like recording and making videos, which I'd never really had time to do with my previous touring schedule. In January, my pal and bandmate Blair Michael Hogan sent me a few instrumental tracks he'd written to see if I could write lyrics to them, and we ended up writing 10 songs together, including "Hold My Breath" and Shadowland." Getting into a recording studio over the past year and a half has been challenging in my area due to stay-at-home orders, so we decided to record all the parts ourselves, with the exception of the drums, which were tracked remotely and sent to us. I never would have attempted this prior to The Pause, and we really benefited from the skills of award-winning mixing and mastering engineer Phil Shaw Bova, who also played drums on the tracks.
Roughstock: We especially loved the song "Hold My Breath" immediately. What is the story behind this song? Why did you write it?
Lynne: I was in the middle of a tour with my band in Europe in March 2020 just as the pandemic was declared, and we managed to get a flight home to Canada the day before the border was closed to international travel. At that time, I never thought it would be a year or more before I might see some of my friends again, including some of my bandmates who live in different parts of the country. It was pretty chaotic as we made our connection back to Ottawa, and I remember commenting to Blair that we never even got a chance to say goodbye as we were being ushered off planes and into buses to make our connections. I wrote the line "I'd have held onto you a little longer" in my phone and forgot about it till I started working on "Hold My Breath." The rest of the song was really a product of the months that followed, but I didn't want this to be a "pandemic" song, so I really tried to focus on our need for kindness and personal connection in the lyrics.
Roughstock: What kind of a vibe were you going for on this song when you recorded it? Do you think you ended up with a song that sounds like you expected it to sound? If so, how so, and if not, what's different about it?
Lynne: I wanted the production to reflect the emotional build of the song and to also have a really organic mix of old and new sounds. More than anything, I wanted it to feel powerful, and something that people would want to sing along with. So we really put a lot of thought into all the parts and how they work together to bring the listener along on that same emotional journey I was on when I wrote the words. One of the benefits of being so involved in the recording process is that we were able to experiment with parts and instrumentation ideas without the studio clock ticking. I also think Phil Shaw Bova did a fantastic job of pulling everything together sonically so that it sounds really cohesive.
Roughstock: Tell us the story behind "Shadowland." What inspired you to write this song?
Lynne: This was a real stream of consciousness co-write. Blair Michael Hogan sent me an instrumental track that was probably eight minutes long, and so I imported the music into my recording software and cut it up and rearranged it into its current form. Then I walked around my music room with the music on loop, singing out a melody, and over two days the lyrics emerged. It's pretty common for me to "see" the images in my head that I describe with my lyrics... kind of like writing the script for the movie playing in my head. Because I didn't really have a clear idea as to what the story would be, this song ended up being a lot more freestyle rather than a plot that you can follow.
Roughstock: Were these two songs music-first or lyrics-first songs for you? Which way do you tend to write in general, music or lyrics first?
Lynne: I write almost exclusively on guitar, and so the development of these songs was very consistent with how I write songs when I'm not co-writing. I tend to play a progression and sing out my lyrics as I write them. So I'll get pieces of lines that I'll repeat and refine as I'm playing guitar. When it's more of a topline process like for these two co-writes, I get to skip a step and jump right to melody and lyrics, so for me that actually speeds up the process.
Roughstock: How do "Hold My Breath" and "Shadowland" fit into the overall vibe and themes of your music?
Lynne: On my last album, I had started to stretch out more with my sound, and I think these two songs are a continuation of that trend. I always want to be growing as an artist, and because of that I don't want to keep making the same album over and over again. The one constant for me across my catalogue though is attention to lyrics, no matter what the topic of the song might be or the style. So while some of the sounds might be a little different for these two songs, that attention to detail in the words really is consistent with my songwriting modus operandi.
Roughstock: You have a cohesion to your sound that is so organic and natural. How did you settle upon the Lynne Hanson "sound"? For the Roughstock readers who are just meeting you for the first time now, how do you describe your music to people who haven't heard it before?
Lynne: My music definitely falls between the cracks of a few genres. A little too tough for folk, and a little too blues for country. So I settled on "porch music with a little red dirt" as a way to try and capture that down-to-earth side that also has a little bit of swagger to it. I think as a human I'm pretty genuine, and I really don't have much of a filter. I'm not trying to be or sound like anything other than myself, for better or worse, and I think this honesty is a big part of the organic nature of my sound.