Interview: Hannah Aldridge

Hannah Aldridge is the sort of artist that others hate and secretly wish they were; beautiful, gorgeous voiced and one hell of a song writer – if you want it dark, and probably somebody will die, which I do. From Muscle Shoals, Alabama, she writes gothic roots noir that is brutal, yet delivered with a glint in her eye, a winning smile and a knife behind her back.

So Hannah, headline slot at the UK’s premier Americana Roots festival, an album that is glowing with praise, meeting Robert Plant.. this tour seems to be going great?
So far it’s great! I always just feel grateful to get to do this job on any level. I try not to take it for granted even when it feels desperately difficult. It is humbling that people like something I poured myself into whether it’s Robert Plant or the fan that shows up in a Hannah Aldridge shirt and knows all the words. It makes those days that are hard just a little easier.

You’re doing it all in a VW Beetle as well?
Yes! I couldn’t resist the urge to do a tour alone across the U.K. in a VW Beetle. It’s a tight squeeze but so fun.

What struck me on the Saturday night I saw you was the adoration in the room, you’re properly loved by your fans.  That the same in the US?
The US is always a territory that is a bit more daunting with regard to building a huge fan base. You pretty much have to have a label behind you there to reach everyone’s ears. The way I see it is that if you put the time into organically growing a fan base somewhere by playing show after show then you cultivate a real fan base because those fans have a personal attachment to your success. In the US it’s  harder because the territory is huge and the market is saturated. It’s hard to play every city frequently. I have been virtually independent my whole career and in that way I have found it much more manageable to spend my efforts in Europe so I think I have generally had a bit of an easier time reaching the fans here.

You’ve a son how’s being on the road v’s being a parent?
It’s hard. It always has been and always will be. I’m lucky to have a situation where his Dad is very supportive and keeps him when I’m on the road but it does feel a bit like I have to split time between the two things I love. There’s always a guilt factor to that.

What do your parents make of your chosen career?
They are like any other parents. They probably would much prefer that I’m a doctor. Haha. Being a songwriting like my Dad allows you to be home for dinner with a family in a way that being an touring artist doesn’t allow. They also know that I have always been a free spirit and do things my own way, so they don’t fight it too much. They just kind of shrug and hope I’ll make it home for Thanksgiving sometime soon.

Your songs, certainly when I saw you, all have dark tales attached to them, yet you’re such a happy, smiling outgoing person – is singing and writing away of removing the negative side of life from your everyday?
I am a pretty dark and negative person sometimes but other times I feel a little happier. I’ve found that it takes to edge off to joke about those dark thoughts I have.  I certainly have my inner demons that I struggle with. A lot of my songs are the dialogue in my head or my fears. I do think that there is a certain type of relief for me when I manage to clearly articulate feelings into a song. It’s like going to therapy and or talking to a close friend, but I’m talking to myself in my room with my guitar I guess. It’s a very stream of consciousnesses process for me.

There is a long time between records, you’ve had the songs on this record a while? I wrote most of those songs 2-3 years ago. It was long long process. Gathering the songs, then gathering the money, then gathering the people to work on it, then finding the team of people to help release it. It has been extremely hard to get this project moving in a cohesive forward motion. Partly because it’s a really ambitious release for me. I’m releasing separately in 5 different territories with tours behind them. I am already working on writing another one to avoid the long delay next time around.

You’re prolific? 
Gosh, I don’t know. I feel like I’m just weird more than anything. While other people are hanging out with their friends or family, I’m sitting with my guitar writing songs about Vampires and being sad about getting older. I think my son is more prolific than me sometimes. He really deepens my view on life.

You know when something is good? 
I do typically. If I want to sit and listen to the song over and over after I write it or if it moves me to tears while I’m writing it, I generally feel like I’ve gotten it to the standard I want.

Is it easy to finish a record, you know when it’s done, or is it never done?
It’s not easy. I have to trust myself that I did my part of it before I ever go into the studio. At that point I have to hand it over to the people that I carefully selected and let them do what they do best. If I micromanaged the record then there’s no reason for me to specifically seek out players or producers. I, for example, picked Jordan Dean to be a producer because I love his music and I love what he does, so I had to trust myself and him enough to let go and let him do his thing. That’s true for everyone that worked on the whole record.

Author: Rudie Hayes

Rudie is the weekly host of the syndicated radio show - The Horseshoe Lounge Music Session - playing the best American Roots and hosting terrific live guests.

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