Singer/Songwriter Blair Hansen is probably an artist you have never heard of. She is quite possibly one of California's hidden musical treasures though…and she's still a teenager! This young woman's rich full voice and superb songwriting is certainly far beyond her years. I had the chance to catch up with Blair to find out more about her music, life, and much more. Here's what she had to tell me…
Mark Fisher: First off, let me say that I really enjoy your music. You have a great sound; I would have never guessed you were still in your teens!
Blair Hansen: Thank you.
MF: I noticed that you work very closely with your producer. Overall, how involved in the songwriting process are you?
BH: I'm very involved. I write all of the lyrics as well as most of the music. Sometimes I'll have a chord arrangement or something and I'll just know that there is something missing and I'll take it to Clay, my producer, and he'll say, "Ok, let me listen to it." Then I'll play it for him and he'll make suggestions as to what I could add to complete it. So basically I write all the music and lyrics and he gives me advice on things like chord progressions.
MF: Do the other musicians that record with you add their own parts or do you guide the general direction of the songs?
BH: I'm pretty much up for anything, so they just add their own musical techniques. If I have something specific in mind for a part of song I'll let them know, or if I don't think something sounds very good I'll ask them if there is something different they could do. For the most part, though, they pretty much have their own artistic input with what they do.
MF: Now the musicians who appear on your new songs are somewhat different from the ones who appeared on your debut CD, right?
BH: Yes. Clay is still playing the lead guitar and he also plays drums on some of the tracks. He does, like, everything! [laughter] We have a new drummer who will be playing on the new tracks with me. As far as the bass guitar goes, Clay and I played most of the bass tracks on the first album but we have a bass player now who is playing on some of the new tracks. For the new album everyone will get to play at least a little bit on it.
MF: I noticed in your bio that you have had a lot of vocal training. I'm always curious to know how much you feel you use that traditional training in your music. It seems like the rockier music gets, the more rules get thrown out the window. Do you adhere to your training most of the time?
BH: Oh yeah! I think that classical training is essential because it gives you the basis and teaches you the techniques that help you be able to do those things with your voice. I think that all the classical music and the voice training that I have done has really paid off with the music that I sing now.
MF: Your first CD has been out a while now. How was it received compared to any expectations you may have had for it?
BH: You know, at the time we recorded that, I didn't really have any expectations at all. I was just happy I was recording a CD and I thought it would be cool if people liked it or if they were interested in it. It wasn't really that big of a deal to me; it was more just like something I wanted to do for myself. I think that people really liked it, though, and that's really awesome for any musician. So I didn't really make the CD with any expectations but it was definitely cool to have people like my music and appreciate it.
MF: You're still pretty young and there aren't many kids your age who are into the kind of folk/adult contemporary sound you play. Who do you find your audience to be? Do you see many of your peers latching onto your music?
BH: Well, it's really funny because I think that R&B and hip-hop and rap and hardcore rock music and boy bands and things like that have really taken over the music scene and that's kind of where my age group gravitates to as far as their likes in music right now. So I think that my audience is mostly older people, maybe mid-twenties and older. Women seem to like my music a lot. Men like it as well but it seems like there are a lot of women. So I guess kind of middle-aged women enjoy my music a lot.
MF: In terms of winning fans over one by one which would be a better situation for you, being able to play live just for them or being able to give them a free CD? Which would win them over quicker?
BH: Playing live I think. I think that if I just handed them a CD it'd be like, "Oh, take a listen to this." But playing live I'd be able to sing to them and give them eye contact and I think that would make more of an impact than handing them a plastic covered CD.
MF: Do you feel that your audience relates to you on a lyrical level?
BH: I think so. I try not to use words like "he or "she" too often because I want everyone to be able to relate to the words and everything, you know. I think that people do relate to the lyrics and to my experiences. I write about things that most of us have been through.
MF: On the sampler of your new material, it sounds like your songwriting has evolved a lot since your first album. In what ways do you feel that you have evolved since your last album came out?
BH: I was definitely inspired to try new things with the new music and on the upcoming CD. I've just had a lot of new experiences. Just graduating high school and getting more mature has really made my music evolve. Also I have become more comfortable within myself. I'm not as afraid of my new music now.
MF: Going to college often opens up people's eyes to the big world that exists outside of their hometown. Do you feel that that has been the case for you so far?
BH: Not really. [laughter] Unfortunately I have been stuck taking all general education classes so far. For the most part, I'm not really all that interested in math or science, so my eyes haven't necessarily opened as far as education goes. There are a lot of older people in my classes, though, and that brings a new inspiration to me.
MF: Do you find that you are generally inspired by things you see around you or by things that happen specifically to you?
BH: I think it's a little bit of everything. I take in different experiences and things that I have encountered. I learn from the people I meet and the world around me. I just take it all in and write about it. It's a little bit of everything for sure.
MF: One of the new songs that I really like is "Fit." Can you tell our readers a little about the thoughts or inspirations behind that song?
BH: Sure. [laughter] That song was inspired by a woman I met at an open mic night in Berklee. I met her and we instantly clicked and we became friends. She is a WONDERFUL musician. We met and I really felt that everything fit together, but in the end nothing happened because she was a lot older than I was. The age difference kind of made us too distant from each other because we were both at totally different places in our lives. That song was inspired by her because I felt like everything "fit" together.
MF: Being a lesbian publicly at such a young age has to be kind of a tough thing. What bearing do you feel that has on your music? Obviously, by the way you described the last song, it does have bearing.
BH: I definitely don't think it's separate. I think that it's just who I am. It's not really a difficult thing for me. I have known people who have gone through really bad experiences with it but luckily I haven't really had any horrible experiences or anything. Loving another woman and things like that have definitely given me inspiration to write love songs. I think that it's just who I am.
MF: Do you believe that being public about it handicaps your music? While some claim it does and others claim it doesn't, it's pretty obvious that lesbian singer/songwriters are almost always relegated to gay/lesbian magazines and outlets, especially at the independent artist level.
BH: Well, I come from a really conservative town. [laughter] Like I said earlier, I try really hard not to place the words "he" or "she" in my songs and when I explain songs live, I use words like "person." I mean, I guess it would be nice to say, "Yeah, I wrote this song about a girl I was dating." I play a lot of festivals and other venues like that and I guess I don't really want to offend anyone. I personally don't know why it would offend anyone but you know people have their differences and I want to respect that as an artist. So I guess I just leave it kind of unknown and leave it up to them to find out if they want to find out. As of yet, I don't think it's necessarily a handicap. It does get annoying after a while to not just tell the audience and be honest with them. I just hope everyone can enjoy my music.
MF: What are your goals for yourself as an artist? What do you want to accomplish with your career?
BH: You know, I don't really know where I'm going with my music. It would be absolutely wonderful if it really takes off and I could make a comfortable living from it. It's not a huge priority for me to make a lot of money from it. It would be great, don't get me wrong, but it's not that big of a deal to me as long as I can get my music out there and inspire people. Hopefully I can bring something to people that they have never really heard before or present them inspiration through my music. If I can do that then I have definitely achieved my goals. I want to make people happy through my music. I would love to make enough money to someday open up a music school for people who don't really get the opportunity to play music in their lives. I guess you'd say some people aren't that privileged. I think that music is really important and plays a big role in everyone's lives and it's really sad to me that some people don't get the opportunity to be able to experience that like I have experienced it.
MF: First and foremost, would you consider your music art, entertainment, or therapy?
BH: Really I'd have to choose all three of them. Writing music is very therapeutic for me. I get out what I want to get out. It's also definitely my artistic expression. When I go out and perform I like to entertain people with my music and with the things that have inspired me. So, yeah, definitely all three of those things.
MF: Thanks so much for your time. Do you have any parting thoughts?
BH: No, I think that about covers it. Thank you!
For more about Blair Hanson, check her out on the web at www.blairhansen.com