Posted On 18 May 2017
The phrase “oh no” is typically associated with a feeling of grief, but Hannah & Maggie are changing that with their new album. The NYC-based folk pop duo is known for their genuinely charming sound and a remarkable stage presence to match, and their fourth studio album is sure to entrance both new and long-time listeners. Leading up to the release of their beautiful crowd-funded Oh No album, due out on May 19th (TOMORROW), the pair is eager to share the first single from the project.
“As an artist, the silver lining to heartbreak is the idea that, although painful, it may be a catalyst for new creation,” shares the duo. “That this song came out of such deep sorrow, but can make us so happy to perform it, we think speaks to the value of art in general.”
Bright-eyed and bolstered by a rapidly growing fan base, the award winning NYC duo has set out to make the world of singer-songwriters a more cheerful place. Although they’ve been favorably compared to Simon & Garfunkel and The Indigo Girls, these ladies have an undeniable originality and a sound all their own. Their efforts to blend the folk music they were raised on with a modern-day melodic energy prove successful time and again. With three studio-albums and a few barnstorming national tours under their belt, Hannah & Maggie show no signs of stopping (unless there are ducks crossing the street). Their live shows are toe-tapping, knee-slapping spectacles of crystal-clear harmonies and heartfelt acoustic arrangements that leave you wanting more. For all those interested in making your ears happy, look no further.
Learn more about Hannah and Maggie in the following All Access interview:
What are some words you would use to describe 2016 for you and your music? What were some of the highlights? What are you most excited about for this year?
We were in the studio here and there throughout 2016, and every time we returned to the recording booth, it was so interesting to see how different these songs felt, in light of changes in our personal lives and the world. It was a harrowing year, filled with change on both a personal and national scale. Our musical friendship was an important touchstone to which we could return again and again for strength and hope. We’re so excited to put this music out into the world.
Growing up, did you two always want to be musicians? Can you recall the moment you both realized that you could really make music together and be a duo? How did you first meet each other?
H: We often tell this story on stage about one of the songs (The Land & The Sea) on our first album. The first time I heard Maggie sing that song, I cried like a little baby. That was a telling moment for me, because when a song can make me cry, that’s a really special thing. When she gave me a recording she’d made, I sang along with it maybe 50 times on repeat, making up a harmony. I thought what she was doing was so magical and I wanted to be a part of it. As for whether I wanted to be a musician growing up, the answer’s no. I wanted to be a musical theater actress though, which isn’t so different.
M: I learned how to play the guitar at summer camp when I was nine and ever since then I have tried to keep music an active part of my life. As a teenager I was always running around my neighborhood trying to rope other kids into starting bands with me. As I got older I realized it was a social activity as much as it was a way to create something and I really appreciated that. It wasn’t until I met Hannah that I realized music could be a way to move through the world (both literally and figuratively). There were times during our national tours where would be driving through the desert or up a mountain or along the coast and I would suddenly realize that the only reason we were seeing such spectacular places and meeting such supportive people was because of our music. I never expected it to bring so much into my life, and I’m so incredibly grateful that it has.
I’m curious to know how you think that your sound and really who are as a band have changed since your first album was released? Does your forthcoming collection definitely reflect that growth? If it has, how has your music-making process changed over the years?
We’ve done so much growing and maturing since our first album was released. Over the years, we’ve made many mistakes in our music career and learned lots of things the hard way. With this album, we’ve tried to take our time, be patient, thoughtful, and true to our vision in a way that we never had the luxury to do before. Our first album, we recorded in a single week. Our second took two weeks. Our third took a month. This one we recorded over the course of an entire year. We like to think the songs have in some way been impacted by that patience.
What was the inspiration for the collection’s first released single, “Oh No”? How do you two go about writing a song? Do you work separately or together on them? Is one of you better at the lyrics and the other the music?
Last spring, we rented a little cabin in the Berkshires so we could spend a whole weekend preparing for our time in the studio. Studio time is expensive so we wanted to makes sure all the songs were done and ready to go. Oh No was a song that really came together over the course of that weekend. Maggie had written a tune with many of Oh No’s component parts, but in a completely different arrangement. We tore the whole thing up and put it back together like puzzle pieces. That’s often how our process works: one of us will do the bulk of the writing, then we’ll come together for a joint editing process that includes adding harmonies and other instrumentation. Maggie is definitely queen when it comes to lyrics, but we both do a bit of everything.
You have toured a bunch throughout your career so I would love to know what’s been a favorite or a few favorite shows that you’ve had in the past? What do you think makes a great performance for Hannah & Maggie?
Some of the most special shows we’ve played have been house shows. In fact, if we had to choose a favorite venue, it’d probably be someone’s living room. It’s such a luxury to play unplugged and be able to look your audience in the eye. A great performance, for us, is one that feels personal and intimate. Music, more than anything else in our lives, has enabled us to form many lasting and meaningful connections. Even when we were on the road for two months, we only stayed in a hotel three nights. People have extended so much generosity our way, inviting us into their homes, feeding us, even including us in their weddings. It’s been the greatest joy of our time together.
Where do you think you two are happiest- in the studio recording, on stage performing or elsewhere?
H: Do we have to choose?! The things in life that make me happiest seem to be the ones that fly by the fastest. When we get up on stage to perform, I’m always astounded before the last song, that an entire hour or two has gone by. The studio is exciting, but also more draining, because you’re making a lot of creative decisions, listening to things over and over, and often standing in a small room for hours at a time. But it’s so magical to hear the tracks as they start to fill out.
M: I have to say that the studio feels like home to me. I can get very overwhelmed by the live performance aspect of touring and playing out. It’s so wonderful to be on stage but there are so many factors beyond your control (live sound, who shows up, whether you’re sick that day). There’s something really special about the patience and intention that goes into recording in a studio. We don’t get many opportunities to slow down in life and really think about what’s going on around us. Studio time is very much that time for me and it always feels like a little gift.
When you aren’t performing or recording, how do you two like to unwind from it all and enjoy life? Do you find that that often still includes music?
H: I spend a fair amount of time writing. I finished a novel last year that I’m working on getting published. Beyond that, I do enjoy music in my spare time, though I’m embarrassed to say I don’t go to as many concerts as I could, living in New York. I also like reading, yoga, and anything that involves being in the sun, preferably surrounded by trees.
M: I’m learning that I have absolutely no idea how to relax. I really enjoy being outside and climbing through the woods, but more often than not my time away from music is just as hectic as our touring schedule can be. I’m working to find a way to balance that out a bit more.
You’ve got a few dates coming up this summer. Where are you excited to play at? Have you played at all these venues before or are there some new ones?
We’ll be toodling all over the Northeast this spring/summer and are extremely excited to visit lots of new venues. Of course, we’ll be back at our favorites Rockwood Music Hall in NYC, and The Parlor Room in Northampton. But it’s always fun to off on new adventures.
Who are some of your favorite artists? Who would you all love to work with in the future? What would be a dream collaboration?
Oh gosh, so many. We love Brandi Carlile, Joni Mitchell, The Tallest Man on Earth, Iron & Wine, Phox, Barnaby Bright, The Stray Birds, Krystle Warren, John Mayer, Sia, Robin, and more and more. We’ve seen Brandi Carlile in concert more than once and always dreamed of working with her. We also used to joke, if we could choose a third for our band, we’d be Hannah & Maggie & Adele. Though, her name would probably have to go first…
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people take away from your songs?
Unfortunately, we live in a time when the value of art is being questioned and threatened on a very large scale. As an artist, when you’re struggling to pay rent, or squeeze a music career between grad school classes, sometimes you ask yourself, ‘why am I doing this?’ For us, the answer we’ve come back to again and again, is that our friendship and our songs nourish us in a tremendous way. As we struggled through the last year, music was something that kept us going, that helped heal us in a very real way. We hope this album can do that for others.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about this band or your music?
Just gratitude! It’s been a crazy ride and we’re so lucky to have such enthusiastic and supportive company as we go.