Interview

HANA

When one of the world’s most innovative pop-stars takes to social media to endorse one of your songs it must feel like some sort of serious validation. This happened to HANA just last year when Grimes told her fans about ‘Clay’, the first single from the L.A-based singer/songwriter, who had, after years touring as Hana Pestle, left behind the life acoustic troubadour lifestyle, got free from a controlling relationship, met a new man (producer BloodPop) and started a whole new part of her career.

The guitar has been forgone for computer programs and new production methods that allows her natural feel for good melody to be matched by lush synths and soft beats, making for interesting, listenable pop music.

Just before she left to go on tour with Grimes, we caught up with HANA to talk about how she’s got to where she is and, finally, feeling fulfilled.

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Tell us a little bit about how you got started. There’s this quite romantic story of a girl shipping out of Montana and moving to LA.

I graduated high-school and a week later I moved to Los Angeles. I was doing singer-songwriter kind of stuff, just me and my guitar for, like, six or seven years. I kind of got into the university circuit which was not something I’d ever heard of before. Basically, I got a college agent and he just booked me at a ton of campuses around the States. It pays pretty well and you don’t really have to guarantee that anyone really has to be there because it’s just an event for the school – you just show up, play, then you leave! It was amazing actually because I was able to just write and really hone my craft. And, I mean, I played about 500 shows, so I got a lot touring experience and really got a sense of how much hard work [the music industry] is but also how rewarding it is at the same time. Then at the end of doing it for however long I was pretty burnt out, just because it’s very separate from the ‘club’ world – you know, people weren’t coming because they were my fans, it was just that there was something going on [on campus].

Were you recording at that time as well?

I was, yeah. I would bring out EPs and do a little promo in the college towns [for them] but I think there was just a disconnect for me where because I was touring so much, it was really hard for me to record. I was just at a point where I really wasn’t that stoked for the music I was performing and I just kind of got stuck.

How do you feel you were treated at that point in your career? Did it become a bad experience?

At the time I didn’t realise I wasn’t happy, just because at the beginning I was so overtaken by how excited I was by everything. I was just excited to play anywhere, excited to record anything and I had producers I was working with – and I’m still so thankful to them to this day – but I think that because they just took my songs and produced them in the way they thought made sense, I never had a heart to heart connection with the production of the songs. I think a lot of people don’t, technically, know what production is but in my mind that is the difference between my old stuff and my new stuff. I’m so involved in the production side now and all of that stems from me working days or weeks on songs.

Did that change your songwriting process?

Yeah, I think so – it’s actually made it easier to write. I used to sit and write stuff over guitar and piano (which I still do sometimes) but I think it’s easier for my mind to get to where I want the song to be going when I’m also in control of the sounds and the production as well. With ‘Clay’ I got the chords, then I got the perfect sound – that key sound you hear at the beginning – and then I just started recording different top line ideas and melodies. Then when I had something I felt really good about, the lyrics just came immediately – it was crazy actually – then I was just able to build the rest of the song around it. It’s honestly made writing more fun because I get more instant gratification whereas before I’d just have this crappy recording of my guitar on my phone which I’d think was OK. Now I can get down in about a day the general idea of what I want a song to sound like in the end. It’s pretty cool.

Are there any regrets with the way things went in the beginning of your career or are you happy to have had that initial foundation?

I used to regret a lot and as you can probably tell the EP is only really about one specific relationship. I used to talk about regret a lot about it with friends and family… But I think in the end I’ve just come to the realisation that I wouldn’t have come to this point if I hadn’t gone through all that. So I have to, at the same time as write all these sad songs, be thankful for [past events] and know that they’ve helped me appreciated this part of my life so much more.

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