Joe Coyle 31/01/2011
GIITTV's Joe Coyle caught up with musician Hannah Werdmuller from Edinburgh, UK, who has been writing songs since she was 10 years old. Accompanying herself with guitars, ukuleles, a trio of clones, and whatever else she can get her sticky hands on, Hannah writes songs about death and love and toes and zoo animals, and is confused by the "Music Industry".
Pre-Apocalyptic Love Song is Hannah's debut album is available now from her website www.hannahwerdmuller.com and is a self released heady mix of diy acoustic folk and blues recorded at home, in the garden and on the beach.
Hi Hannah, how are you today?
I am busy busy busy! I've just ordered the first batch of CDs for my album, and have been spending an age doing all the album artwork and making hand-made outer sleeves for each one. It's time-consuming, but I like the idea that each one will be unique.
Where do you draw your influences and inspiration from?
My musical influences are pretty varied. When had my first songwriting spate at 13 I wanted to perform as Kurt Cobain on Stars in Their Eyes. My extended family has a tradition of getting together and singing traditional American folk songs, so I've always been influenced by that and people like Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, and later on lyrically poetic songwriters such as Ani DiFranco and Dar Williams. I also listened to a lot of Motown, soul and baroque music when growing up ... As for the urge to write, I feel most inspired when I'm in the middle of nowhere with nobody else around, so I can feel small enough to step outside of my own life for a bit.
Do you have set practice times or are you spontaneous about practice?
I don't really think of it as practising, I just play because I enjoy it and if I do it enough I get a bit better at it. I'll get home from work and pick up the guitar pretty much straight away out of habit. If I'm away from an instrument for too long I get a bit twitchy.
How can fans get your music?
My album Pre-Apocalyptic Love Song is available to download from my website, on CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon, last.fm and Spotify. As of January 2011 I'll be selling some special edition physical albums from my website and at gigs. I also share all my songs on Facebook, and some older ones are free to download on last.fm.
How important is social networking in promoting your music?
Oh man, I totally rely on social networking for gig and sales promotion. I'm on all of them, it's a bit overwhelming. Last.fm is good for introducing people to the music, and then I use Facebook a lot for promoting gigs and sharing my general excitement about things like new songs, press, and selling stuff. I've had gigs booked on Facebook, and I like using it to start conversations with people who've been listening to my music. Twitter is also a nice way for connecting with other musicians and bloggers, but I'm not glued to my Twitter feed.
The creative process or the product? Songwriting or Live shows which do you enjoy more?
Gosh, without either one I'd be a jibbering wreck. I used to be incredibly nervous about playing live, but it gets easier the more I do it. I still get nervous, but I try to use the nerves as fuel. For me, it's the connection I get when someone relates to a song that makes writing music so rewarding so I'd say I enjoy performing more, even though songwriting is a necessary outlet for all this music in my head so I'm not just singing at bus stops all the time like a crazy person. OK, so maybe I still do that.
How do you approach the craft of songwriting?
I set challenges for myself - I'll be taken by a character, a sentiment, or an idea, and challenge myself to write something that captures that. For instance, for Diurnal Migration I was determined to write a song about science, and picked diurnal migration because it's something I find interesting, and then tried to think of a suitable rhyme for 'photosynthesises'. Usually it starts with a little tune running around my head, and then maybe a lyric that fits it, and then the little tune will start to drive me a little bit crazy so I have to go home and work something out on guitar and find lyrics that work. I spend a lot of time on lyrics. I've only just recently discovered that having some time to focus on music really does work - I used to just have all these snippets that would rarely get finished, but devoting time to creativity is much more productive than just expecting it to magically happen.
How was the recording of your debut album?
At the time I didn't really know I was recording an album. I was given a portable recorder for Christmas and wrote a bunch of songs that I wanted to share with people, so I recorded them, and did a minor amount of production myself. I knew I wanted to release something but couldn't decide which songs to use so decided to put them all on and call it an album. It was all very DIY and simple. Most of the tracks were either recorded in my bedroom or garden, except for Caroline which was recorded on a beach in East Lothian. A lot of the tracks have birdsong on them if you listen closely.
How would you describe the album in 5 words?
Quirky smorgasbord of lyrical folk!
What is your favourite song on the album and why?
At the moment I'm quite fond of Daybreak as it's currently most relevant to my life. People have said it's depressing but it's really not meant to be. I started writing it after recovering from a horribly long-lasting injury, immensely relieved and a bit incredulous that I'd got through it. "Times will change and the day will break" was like this mantra to convince myself everything was going to be OK. I find the inevitability of change comforting - keep going for those long shots because sure, it might not work out this time, but everything changes and eventually something will.
What should people expect from your music?
Interesting lyrics and melodies, but without bells and whistles. I write songs with stories, each one is about something in particular. I call my music folk, but I think my songs vary broadly and I draw a lot of influence from other styles, even though it's usually just me and some strings. It's easier to categorise it as folk.
Which other bands and artists would you recommend to others?
I listen to a lot of local and lesser known musicians as often they're doing something a bit different but without major production, which I love. I'm really into The Banana Sessions, Caro Bridges, Stephanie Nilles, Ayla Nereo, Andru Bemis and Nicole Reynolds at the moment.
Describe a normally Hannah day
My day-job is a dog-walker, so a normal day involves a lot of walking in green spaces around Edinburgh. This is great because I can sing to myself without funny looks, if you don't count the dogs. After that I'll get home and play some guitar or ukulele and try to work out any unfinished songs, sing an untenable cover version of some 90s pop hit, and then go work on whatever project it is I've got on this week (this year, I've been a charity fundraiser, an environmental educator, a barbershop choir leader, a community performance group organiser, and a backing singer in the band Conscious Route).
And finally what are your hopes for 2011?
I hope to be able to pay my rent! Getting some banjo, upright bass, fiddle and drum action on some songs would be super awesome, too.