Lynne Hanson simply can’t be placed into one genre box. She spills forth and refuses to be contained; her brash, gritty Americana can speed down a dusty back road in Oklahoma, but then a jazzy flavor or some slightly quirky indie-hipster turns are enough to cause her to defy categorization. It’s delicious and sublime, and we’re in love with her tasty new album, “Ice Cream in November.”
Vents Magazine sat down with Hanson to talk about the new record, and we took a deep dive into the song, “Hundred Mile Wind,” including its inspiration, and the writing and production process. We chatted about her shifting sound on the new songs, the impact that the pandemic and different inspirations had on her music, and what’s next for this amazing artis
Hi Lynne, welcome back to VENTS! How have you been?
Thanks for the chance to chat! Things are good. I recently got back from the US and the UK after playing my first live shows outside of Ontario, Canada in over two years. Also, I’m super excited about the new album release.
Your new album, “Ice Cream in November,” is fantastic. Can you give us a bit of background about the album overall and the songs on it?
The new album is a departure for me on many levels, so I’m really glad you like it! I actually never really set out to make a new record given I never really had a chance to tour “Just Words,” which came out in February 2020.
When I started collaborating with Blair Michael Hogan at the beginning of 2021, it was to try and shake off a pretty intense case of writer’s block, and I had only intended to write a few songs to submit to my publisher. Blair is a great musician, and he’d been creating instrumental tracks in his home studio. He posted a few clips on social media, and I offered to add a vocal melody and lyrics to one of them, and things just snowballed from there. I’ve always been the type to write with a guitar in my hands, so having a track of music to build from really helped get me out of my creative funk as I wasn’t starting from a blank sheet of paper.
Once the writing pump was primed, we went into a pretty intense period of co-writing for about four months. I also found that the songs kept moving further and further from what I would consider more “typical” of the kind of songs I’ve written in the past. Self-engineering/producing the album ourselves also added to that sense of being able to try new things without considering that I might be straying into new territory stylistically.
“Hundred Mile Wind” is my favorite song on the album… it caught my ear immediately. It’s got a really cool vibe. How did you come to write and record it? What was the inspiration behind it and/or what is it about?
That song is one of the more Americana-sounding tracks on the new album. It was inspired by a windstorm I got caught in while on tour in Oklahoma. There were a hundred mile winds that day, and I almost got blown off my feet when I got out of the car to fill up at a gas station. There was dust in the air, and the area we were driving through had a really gritt,y broken-down feel to it. I wrote down the title as well as the line, “I like fast cars, I like old things.” That was enough to get things started for lyrics. In terms of the sound, I’m a huge fan of guitar players like Buddy Miller and Jason Isbell, so I wanted this track to be guitar-driven, but with a few sprinkles of pop, which is where some of the pads and keys came in.
What was it like writing and then recording this song?
The song is a co-write with my friend, Jessica Pearson. We were in lockdown in Ottawa, Canada, where I live, so meeting indoors was not allowed. It was a nice, warm day out, so Jessica came by, and we sat outside on my back porch to work on the lyrics together. I already had the music and vocal melody and sections of the verse and chorus, and this was definitely one of those writes that made sure a song got across the finish line. Recording it was a little more involved, as I really wanted to capture the darkness of the lyrics but not just default to a singer-songwriter approach to the production. In particular, I didn’t want a straight train beat for the groove, and while I knew it was going to be guitar-driven, I wanted other textures to give it a more contemporary sound and not be too acoustic.
How do you feel this song fits into the overall album? What do you hope its message is?
This is definitely one of the grittier songs on the album. As far as the message, for “Hundred Mile Wind” I was really drawing on some of the landscape that I’d traveled through while on a tour in the southern United States. I had taken photos of the desert, broken-down gas stations, abandoned buildings, and rusty cars while I was on that tour. Those images played in the background of my imagination as I attempted to paint tiny fragments of the existence of the characters in the song. I think ultimately the main character is a strong, tougher-than-nails woman, who went on a crazy, romantic ride in her youth and lost a little piece of her heart along the way. She definitely met her match and blinked, but it was worth it.
Do you find that you gained more inspiration while on tour with regard to songwriting, or did being at home during the cause a flurry of writing for you? Can you give examples of songs inspired on the road and others inspired while you were at home?
I definitely get a lot of inspiration from traveling that I bring home and incorporate into my songwriting. There’s something about being in different cities and meeting new people that stimulates that creative spark. Even if I don’t write entire songs on the road, I’m constantly jotting down lines in my phone, and I probably have a hundred notes in there. And while I used a few of those lines in songs like “Hundred Mile Wind” and “This Heart of Mine,” the lack of travel or going ANYWHERE meant I was pulling most of my inspiration for this album from what felt like the ether.
I also got a lot of inspiration from the people I was co-writing with. All of the songs on this album are co-writes, and nine of 12 are co-writes with Blair Michael Hogan. A good amount of that collaboration was done remotely, with Blair sending me musical ideas he was working on. I also actively used recording software to rearrange parts during the writing process rather than at the pre-production stage. At some level, I think this really freed me up to concentrate on one thing at a time, and the vocal melodies and lyrics were a little more adventurous as a result.
It seems like you are expanding your sonic palette a bit on this album but still keeping your Americana roots firmly in place. Tell us a bit about your musical explorations on this record.
I co-engineered and co-produced the album with Blair, so we did a lot of pre-production before we started tracking for real. Prior to making this album, I’d always recorded in a commercial studio. Without the pressure of time being money, I feel like I really had the opportunity to explore in a way I haven’t prior to this, from extensive demo’ing and pre-production, to experimenting with parts, sounds, and instrumentation on every track.
At the same time there was the temptation to endlessly tinker with songs to get them to be “perfect.” It was definitely a challenge to balance those two sides of recording. All in all, I have to say that I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished with this album, and I think the unique skill sets that both Blair and I brought to the project made this a unique collaborative process.
A related question: which artists inspired you most when you were working on this album? Do you think they impacted what it sounds like at all?
Being at home definitely changed a few of my habits. To start, I was learning how to use recording software for the first time, and there were long stretches where I would disappear down a rabbit hole and come out the other side thinking. I wanted to try a few of those production techniques that I’d seen used in a video.
And like a lot of people I had periods where I would binge-view series on some of the video streaming services. I signed a publishing deal in December 2020, so I would actively listen to the soundtrack to see what kinds of songs were getting placed in what kinds of shows.
And my practice routine also changed. Rather than rehearsing or touring with other musicians, I was alone in my music room. So I would stream a playlist and practice guitar to those songs just to keep myself from getting bored. Blair would also send me album listening suggestions. The one that probably had the biggest impact was The Killer’s “Pressure Machine,” which I absolutely love.
You have a lot of tour dates planned this year. Can you give our readers a rundown of your overall tour plans in 2022?
It still feels weird to talk about touring, but I had US tour dates in March, UK tour dates in April, and I have a month of European dates in May. I’m sticking close to home in June for a bunch of album release shows, and then on to the East Coast of Canada in August. We’re just starting to work on dates in the Midwest for the fall, and possibly western Canada. I’m also hoping to make it back to southwestern US in Spring 2023.
What else is happening next for you?
One of the habits I’ve picked up over the past two years is to really focus on the present moment and the things that I can control. We’re still working out what normal is, so in the short-term for me, it’s really about getting the new album out into the world however I can.
Artist website: https://www.lynnehanson.com/