It’s one thing to see a rising singer-songwriter and perhaps not feel as much immediate emotional connection or hear precisely relatable thoughts in their music. It’s another, to take that initial feeling of slight disconnection, decide that any music from that artist isn’t going to resonate, and determine that individual’s music isn’t worth as much attention or exploration. This kind of disparity isn’t new. However, it’s certainly having a revival, as music listeners of older generations see someone like Zoomer Carlie Hanson and might resist finding out what she or her music is all about, simply because of a difference in length of time lived and a subsequent assumption that Hanson’s perspective and experience must be lacking.
Where this line of thinking
falls so short, is in its failure to take into account that everyone’s life
unfolds at different paces and gains development markers from a plethora of
different experiences. It’s easy to highlight Hanson’s streaming numbers,
purchase orders, social capital, and net worth, as indicators of establishment,
as she unveils her newest EP, DestroyDestroyDestroyDestroy. However, in
terms of experiential maturity, Hanson is under no pressure to prove anything
with this release, as the Wisconsin-to-Los Angeles artist already came into
this chapter of her budding career with plenty of personal insight, independent
of realizations she’s had since becoming a popular public figure.
If nothing else, DestroyDestroyDestroyDestroy, is a marker of further mental and creative liberation for Hanson – a designation she seems keenly aware of with her decision to share songs driven by visceral emotions, devastating realities, and frustrated perceptions of herself and the surrounding world. To that end, it might just be prudent of the public to look beyond Hanson’s age, aggressive EP title, and bold fashion aesthetic, to consider how Hanson feels about life and the depth of her feelings about what she has lived through, regardless of how recently said events occurred.
Hanson spoke with American Songwriter ahead of today’s release and shared her thoughts on generational disillusionment, what it means to be an adult, her hopes for the future of the music industry, and more.
American Songwriter: How do you see music listeners from outside of your demographic? When thinking about how people older than you feel or think after encountering your music, what comes to mind?
Carlie Hanson: It’s so interesting when I talk to like, older
people, especially like when I come home. I live in LA now, and I’m originally
from Wisconsin. I lived there my whole life up until I was 17. So like, when I
come back home, and like, even like talking to my family, and like, my mom’s
friends, or my older sisters, friends, or whoever it may be, it’s so
interesting, People are always like, ‘Oh, you’re so mature for your age!’ and
‘blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,’ and whatever. And I guess like, people are
always telling me, about me now. And I’ve never really thought too much about
anything that I’m doing here (in Los Angeles). Like, I’ve grown up and whatever
so now people are like, analyzing me a lot. And so it’s really interesting to
understand what people have been saying to me and the way that people for the
most part, have responded to my music. It’s overall been like really inspiring
and very sweet.
It’s made me understand that I am very in tune with who I am as a person. I guess I never really knew that until people were telling me that all the time. And I think that just comes with like, where I grew up – I kind of had to just like center myself a bit. And like growing up in a small town, you get kind of lonely and you don’t really have a lot of outlets, other than what you make for yourself, I guess. So I don’t know, I’ve just always kind of been that way. And it really, I guess that shows in my music. I’m very like headstrong on what I’m talking about. And like, I really know what I want. At the end of the day with whatever topic it is that I that I may be talking about.
AS: Conversely, if you could strip away knee-jerk reactions, what, most of all, do you wish people would consider about you as a person?
CH: It’s just so f–cking weird (to think about). Guess
what I mostly want to like just portray and show through whatever I post online
(is that) I just want people to feel like I’m being 100% true and real to
myself because it’s really honestly kind of hard to like fully get across who I
am as a person just through like a picture and a caption, and whatever and like
on my (social media) stories, you know?
I try as best as I can to just like show people that it is okay to be f–cking goofy, or weird, or (that) it is okay to like, get real for a second and talk about whatever it may be.
But overall, I just want people to know that it is okay to be completely yourself and (that) you don’t have to portray and like a completely different person online to like, make somebody else happy or whatever the reason may be. But yeah, I just want people to know that I’m a normal real person and I am goofy and…also, maybe not. Maybe sometimes I want to be f–cking sexy and post like, a hot picture and like be inthat way. I just want people to feel like they can do whatever they want and not feel weird about it because it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. Everyone’s going to scroll past and forget about it anyways and move on.
AS: It’s understandable, but I’m sure also somewhat frustrating at times, for your age to be repeatedly pointed to as a factor of shock and uniqueness, in relation to the success of your already very active music career. That being said, given some of the very intense experiences you have been through in your life thus far, if not age, what would you say defines growing up?
CH: “Growing up…it’s different for everybody, I grew up in a small town and with two sisters and older brother. You know, just like trying to figure out what, I guess not my purpose but like, what I truly wanted to do and what I wanted to do with my life.
So like, I guess growing up is really just like, finding yourself while going through all these questions, experimenting with certain things and like, finding out who your real friends are. And there’s so much that you’re going through in like, middle school and high school – there are so many internal questions that you have. Like, ‘What am I going to do in my life after high school?’ And then also like, ‘Do I want to go to that party later and hang out with these people?’ There’s there’s so many different things. There’s like a million other things going on in your head.
But, there’s so much that you have to deal with at a young age. And I think that’s why. And also being in a small town, I think you’re not exposed to as much so you’re kind of just like, I don’t know. Yeah. A lot. And especially with like social media, once again, like, we’re seeing the world online all the time, so quickly, and then moving on.
And I think that has a lot to do with how like, a five year old has an iPad now. Like we’re growing up so quickly in the times that we’re in. So growing up is super weird now, is basically what I’m trying to say. And there’s a lot that you have to figure out in such a short amount of time, and I think it can be really…it can cause a lot of anxiety. And I think that’s what I was dealing with for a long time and still kind of (do) in every day; I have anxiety about certain things. And that’s really talked about through this project is just like just like, how I dealt with figuring out who I was, and how I dealt with, you know, what decisions I was gonna make about my life long term and, who I wanted to be friends with.
AS: You describe yourself, and clearly have actions to back up being ‘a no bull-sh-t person.’ All the same, even if you knew what you wanted to say and how you wanted to say it, how much freedom did you have to write the fiercely free-thinking and independent-minded songs that ended up on DestroyDestroyDestroyDestroy? As an artist representing and supported by a major label, what was it like explaining your lyrical style and-or the topical focuses that mattered most to you for this EP?
CH: So what I basically do is, I just go into session sessions with a producer, or another writer, maybe two other writers, sometimes but, it’s mostly just me and one other writer and producer. And I kind of just literally just let it all out, I talk about what I want to talk to them about, (tell them) what I want to say. And yeah, a lot of the songs (on DestroyDestroyDestroyDestroy) were very…I guess (they came about) during a time of like, kind of being angry, kind of like losing myself a bit in a way, and being kind of lost, but also growing up and like trying to do (things) and live on in LA on my own – like being an adult in that way.
And, yeah, I just kind of
said what I wanted to say and then whatever song would come out like, like,
“Stealing All My Friends,” for example, I know it’s a very like blunt and
forward song. And I would just send that to my manager, the parent at my label
and I would listen to what they had to say. But for the most part, I never got
any like, very harsh feedback. It was always just like, they really understood
what I was trying to say (and) what I was trying to do. And I mean, everybody
who I worked with, they knew what they were getting into. Like working with me,
they knew that I was going to be a very––that I am a very straightforward
person. I don’t sugarcoat what I want to say.
I think the one line (of lyrics) that got the most like, ‘Are you sure you want to say this line?’ (kind of reaction) was in “Ego” when I say. ’10 11 13 f-ck COP. It’s not that straightforward I guess when I say it like that. Cut basically I’m saying ‘f–ck 12′ because there’s no 12. ’10 11 13, f–ck C-O-P.’ But I (actually) didn’t write that song during when Black Lives Matter and the riots were happening. I wrote that song way prior to that, because that line just goes back to when I was in Wisconsin, me and my friends would always just be like, smoking weed in their car or whatever and saying ‘f–ck 12.’ Like it was supposed to be just like, you know, not taken so deeply at all.
But then by the time the project was going to come out Black Lives Matter. Had it come back up like it like it should have and, you know, police brutality was a thing and it still is. But yeah, that came back up and (the label) was like, ‘Are you sure you want to say this? You could get a lot of sh–tty feedback from it or whatever.’ But it never was intended to be taken like that. And when it was written, it was just like a ‘whatever thing.’ But yeah, that was the only line that people were really like, ‘Are you sure you want to say this?’ But even so, like, I always stick to my guns and stick to what I originally wanted to say. Because that was the most raw and real thing that came up that day. And I’m not going to change it for anyone.
AS: DestroyDestroyDestroyDestroy clearly tackles a lot of extreme emotions, as well as uncomfortable realities of society; it exudes an air of heavy discontent. While using music as an outlet for catharsis is common and often helpful for songwriters, what sort of songs would you see yourself feeling inclined to write if the kind of empowerment for change you are encouraging (such as in “Ego”), were to finally be realized?
So the thing is, I don’t do good. I don’t do well, writing about happy, good, sh-t. So that’s my problem. Like, this is why I really loved writing this project, because I had so much anxiety and I was feeling really because I one time, and I was going through a breakup, and I was struggling, being away from my family, my friends, and I was living on my own, I felt really alone at some point. You know, I was experimenting with drugs, and like, I just–there was so much I was I wanted to get out and talk about it.
And the thing is, I don’t like, I don’t want to say that I never want to get better, because then I’ll only write boring songs. But like, that’s like kind of how it is though. Like, it’s hard for me personally to write when I’m feeling good because, like, I did have this problem when I was in a really good spot in my last relationship. I was going into sessions with one of my good friends Skylar, and it would just be me and him and he’s just like, ‘What’s going on? Like, what do you want to talk about or whatever?’ And I would just be like, ‘Well, I don’t know, like, going really good. And my guys, I like don’t want to write another love song. And that’s like, the kind of place that I get in. So I don’t want to keep like, destroying myself like to make good music.
But that’s the thing. I just kind of have to like, figure out––I don’t know. It all just happened how it’s supposed to happen but I think it’s really funny that I struggle with that because I don’t know, it’s just really interesting.