We had the opportunity to speak with Hannah Wicklund, of Hannah Wicklund & the Steppin' Stones. Her music is a mix of alt-rock and blues that just sizzles. Hannah Wicklund's talent is so evident that she pops to the listener both as a guitarist and as a vocalist. Her guitar-work is ripe with blues licks that evoke memories of Jimi Hendrix. Her vocal work is also a big reason for the greatness of her work to date. Her voice is powerful, unlike most any female singer I have heard on the scene today. It evokes comps to Janis Joplin, and that is not a comp that I make lightly, she is the real deal. We were happy to speak with her about her music and her album Hannah Wicklund & the Steppin' Stones (that was released in January of this year).
1. How did you come to pursue music and how long have you been at it?
I started playing piano and I was like, three years old. And my parents got me into it pretty young. And my first the first time I ever made money plan was when I was six. So I don't know if that counts as the start of my professional career. I only had a tip Dharma is playing in between my brother, my older brothers band. And I mean, 90 bucks. It was great. Yeah. Um, for six years old, I, I probably spent it on a lot of bullshit. But then I started the band when I was eight. But we didn't start playing out as a band until I was nine. And that To be honest, I consider that, the start of my career.
Because I started I putting everything in from day one. I mean, even though we were young, we were still practicing two or three times a week for like, four hours at a at a time. We started playing out shows we played out consistently by the time I was 12, I was playing multiple shows a month and then it just progressed, you know, like a snowball from there. My dad was my chauffeur, like every single show with me up until I was 16. I couldn't get to the shows without him. And he, you know, he did the sound but he was cool. You wasn't like an obnoxious dad. He was very, very cool, and he was in a band 35 years ago in Hilton Head, South Carolina where I'm from, so he has a huge love for it. And we did like 1200 shows together. So he was about as supportive as humanly possible.
I was very fortunate to be from a place from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. So there's, you know, a million restaurants and a million festivals and just lots of opportunity here for musicians. I mean, given I was playing cover cover music and, you know, until I got on the road, all my gigs for three or four hours long. Sure. So, you know, I mean, there you hit that, that's the trade off, but I had more gigs that I knew what to do it so it's really great.
2. Could you walk us through your process of writing music?
I've always written my own music. I actually I went through and I found like, one of my first journals and a song from when I was four years old. When the band started, I think I think I recorded my first EP in my brother's garage, when I was 12. I had done a solo EP when I was much younger, before the band started. That was me playing an original song that I'd written with my brother. But that was before the before the Steppin' Stones. When I was like 12, and we put out our first EP, we started just adding in more and more original music. So it kind of shifted over the course of like, four or five years. We basically just started doing the original music and it just kept going from there. As always, just kinda like, once we finished one project is like, 'All right, when are we gonna get back in the studio and started planning ahead'. So I released like, three full length albums and two EPs with the band.
For the process, it's honestly a toss up. I mean, sometimes I'll have the lyrics first. And sometimes I'll have the riff first, or sometimes it happens harmoniously, which is my favorite. I mean, it's honestly, it's completely different each time. But I still have my song books, except I've got like, 20 of them by now. And that's a pile.
3. What artists have inspired you in your career, either musically or vocally?
"Well, I love guitar wise and song writing wise, I love Jimi Hendrix. He's kind of, like, full package, I love everything about Jimi Hendrix. Tom Petty's a huge influence mainly in his songwriting aspect I mean he's the best he's my favorite song writer. The Racounters are my favorite Jack White project. And so I'm sure there's there's definitely some jack white influence in my music and somewhere. Then I love jazz, Janice (Joplin) and Stevie (Nicks) and all the usual suspects and classic rock."
4. Do you have any favorite music gear (guitars, amps, effects pedals, keyboards, etc.) that you love to use? If so, what’s the story on them?
I've got three brands I love and luckily I just in the last few months got endorsed by all of them which is really cool. I play Tom Anderson guitars, they're just amazing. I've been spoiled by their necks because the play-ability on those things are incredible. I've been playing them since I was nine years old. So, I like I said, I got spoiled and Leon so those are the really the only guitars I like to play live. I've been extremely loyal since I was nine to my Orange Rocker 30 which when I was younger, I played a combo but now I've I've graduated to the stack. And then pedal-wise, Keeley is my go to pedal maker. Early on, I used their modified blues driver yeah but I recently they just gave me their new version because they're not doing the blues driver modifications anymore and that's kind of like their call to the blues driver and I love it it's um it's just kind of like an enhanced version to me that's way more like bottom and then more in the tone so I love that pedal. I also use a T-Rex, which is my favorite reverb and I'm a Carbon Copy delay kind of girl.
My original Tom X was a rosewood which is kind of what I learned to play on but I hated maples when I was younger but now I love the maple neck it's just no no a little more a little more solid, to me it's little chunkier seems a little faster to so yeah. Playing different guitars they make make you play differently. And I am I like I've been home writing my writing just writing and I've been playing a lot of my SG which I don't really bring out live or anything but I find myself playing way more singular notes on that guitar because it just the sustain and just like the growl It's so cool. It's so awesome. guitars are like different personalities you put on
5. Can you describe the vibe at your live shows? Also, what do you enjoy most about a venue when you do a show?
My favorite thing is whenever it sounds, good you play good. So definitely that and the sound guy when the sound guy is not a deck it's so much fun so much nicer. With the live show, it's a lot looser or jammy. I love just riffing on a lot of my solos and a lot of my extended drawn out stuff. It's all you know, it's improvised and it's just kind of like every night it's different. So it's really fun to feed off of the crowd, that's kind of my that's my favorite part of the show aspect is you know coming out strong, I always like to open with just a random jam so the first thing that I play the first thing that we're introducing people to on stage, it's kind of just like laying laying it all out on the table and in a sense um and I feel like it sets the tone for the rest of the show. I've got my structured songs and I've got the songs that I do play the same every night yeah within reason, but it also kind of opens up the door to you know people coming and experiencing a different show every night what's that's really important for me for someone is I've now played 2500 shows, so they need, I need some differentiation in my life and that is my favorite way to get it so to be honest the live show is really just more about just like putting it all out there and it being different not always being planned. I've been using more of the hired gun way of things (with my backing band) for the last year or so just until I find my forever band. So I only use a setlist when it's necessary for the band I'm working with to feel comfortable.
But yeah, I know it makes some musicians very, very uncomfortable. But I love it.
6. What is one thing that you want the public to know about your music?
That it's completely authentic to me. I mean, that's something that I think is really important. And what I've noticed about the music that I gravitate towards the Tom Petty's and the Jimi Hendrix and the Janis Joplin's, there's a lot of substance behind their music, it definitely has a deeper meaning. And it means a lot to, to them. And, so that's what I have to offer with my music is it's really just a very clear representation of who I am and how I'm feeling at any given time. I hope anybody who listens to my music feels something.
7. Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like for the followers to know about?
Yeah, I'm actually gonna be recording my, my brother. He's got a band called The High Divers, who are awesome who you should check out. My brother and I, he's gonna record and I'm kind of just gonna do a stripped down version of a handful of the songs off of my latest record. So it's gonna be just kind of like focusing on the song a little bit, and just kind of showing them in a different light. There's definitely stuff that's coming up, but it's mainly in the song writing department.
FMI on Hannah Wicklund & the Steppin' Stones, visit: https://www.hannahwicklund.com. Also, check out her new album titled Hannah Wicklund & the Steppin' Stones. Also, you can follow her on social media (Facebook @hannahwicklundss, Instagram @hannahwicklund, Twitter @hannahwicklund).
Be sure to check out Hannah Wicklund & the Steppin' Stones, keep it tuned to Alt Revue for all things alt music.