Q&A with Hannah & Maggie: "We've Found the Joy in our Music Again."
NYC-based folk pop duo Hannah & Maggie have come a long way since they first started out. Currently the duo are just about to release their cound-funded fourth album, Oh No, which centers around embracing change even through pain and fear - something they seem to know quite a bit about. With each album, Hannah & Maggie have been through a different journey, and this time around, it was about finding themselves and deciding what is important to them, both as individuals and as artists.
With complete creative control and a clear goal for Oh No, Hannah & Maggie are more on top of their game than ever. You can find them celebrating the release this summer with a few tour dates lined up and read more about the album (out May 19th!) below!
Interview by Dom Vigil
What first inspired you to become involved in music? When did you know it was something you wanted to pursue?
As children, we had somewhat disparate musical interests. Maggie started more than one wayward middle school punk band, while Hannah was singing in any musical theater production she could find. By the time we met and became friends, singing a cappella at Smith college, we'd both already decided to devote a lot of time and energy to music. But the decision to pursue music is one we've had to make over and over again. It started to become obvious while we were still in school, as our friendship and our music got more intertwined, that playing together is something that makes us both really happy. To this day, that is the foundational truth of our music career. It's what we've tried to center, even as logistics and lives have gotten trickier.
How did you two come together to begin writing music together?
A fellow member of our a cappella group at Smith suggested that we should "jam" sometime. From there, our music kind of become a force unto itself. Once we started, in some form or another, we've continued playing music together in whatever way we can.
You’ve come a long way since the beginning, with three albums under your belts and a fourth coming out this month! What have been some of the most important lessons you’ve learned while creating music together?
The first, and biggest, as cheesy as it sounds, is that every mistake is a learning opportunity. There's been so much in our career that we've been forced to figure out as we go. For example, with our first CD, we thought once you had an album, you just uploaded it to iTunes and called it a day. We had no concept of PR or touring to support a release. So that's what we did. And, believe us, our mothers loved the album and raved about it to their friends. But they were the only ones talking about it. Now we know that the music is only one portion of what goes into releasing an album (crazy as that sounds).
With every CD, we've made monumental mistakes that have informed our future efforts. For that reason alone, we hope Oh No is our best record yet.
Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming album, Oh No? What inspired the songs on this release?
This album came out of a very turbulent time in our lives. As we were going through painful changes in our personal lives, it felt like the country and even the world, were threatening to fall apart at the seams. These songs are an attempt to reckon with that change, to find kernels of truth about ourselves that remain relevant, even in the face of pain and growth.
You recently released the title track from the album, which you’ve mentioned touches on the silver lining to heartbreak. What makes this a special song to you?
Well, the name of this track "Oh No," is a tongue and cheek acknowledgment of all the changes mentioned above: something we've said more this past year than maybe ever before. It just seemed like the right fit for the album title. It's also kind of a pop song and kind of a folk song, which is exactly us.
How do you feel that you’ve grown or evolved with the creation of Oh No?
Gosh, how haven't we?! A couple years ago, after we released our third record, "In the Company of Strangers," we were feeling kind of burnt out. We drove 13,000+ miles in two months, touring, and booked more gigs than was reasonable, following the release. It forced us to ask the question, "why are we doing this?" We realized that our overbooked schedule was sapping the joy from our musical endeavors. So, we stripped way back on the number of gigs we were playing and focused on the tunes. We gave ourselves all the time we needed to write and record, going about the whole process in the more thoughtful, purposeful way than we ever have. We hope it's obvious, when you listen to these songs, that we've found the joy in our music again.
You guys also crowdfunded this release! What drew you to that route?
There's just nothing like having complete artistic control over what you make. This has been our experience with crowdfunding. When it works, which it did in our case luckily, you get the money you need, without having to sell your soul to a person or business who wants to exert control over your art.
With the album out this month, you guys have a few shows lined up as well! What are you looking forward to the most on this upcoming run?
Probably our home town shows in NYC and Northampton, MA. There's nothing like a hometown crowd. That said, we don't get to Boston or DC as often as we'd like, so that's exciting too!
Do you have any other big plans for the rest of 2017?
Maggie's still got some more grad school to get through before they give her a degree and Hannah is trying to get her first novel published. Those things will probably be keeping us busy!
Weds, May 17, 2017 Washington, DC Vinyl Lounge @ Gypsy Sally's 7:30 PM
Thurs, May 18, 2017 Northampton, MA The Parlor Room 7:00 PM
Fri, May 19, 2017 New York, NY Rockwood Music Hall, Rm 2 w/ Aly Tadros 7:00 PM
Thurs, June 1, 2017 Burlington, VT Light Club Lamp Shop 9:30-11pm
Sat, June 3, 2017 Bethlehem, NH Highlands Inn 8:00 PM
Sun, June 4, 2017 Nashua, NH River Walk Cafe 7pm-9:30pm
Tues, June 6, 2017 Cambridge, MA Atwood's Tavern 10-11:30p (or longer - one set)
Sun, June 11, 2017 Maplewood, NJ The Able Baker 6:00 PM
Sat, August 5, 2017 Stockbridge, MA Kripalu
Sat, August 12, 2017 New Haven, CT Barbara Shiller House Show 7:30 PM