Rising Folk: In Conversation with Hannah Scott
With heart-felt, hard-hitting lyrics and an effortless manipulation of powerful melodies, Hannah Scott has proven herself to be one of the country’s finest rising folk artists. Ahead of her performance here at St George’s next week as part of our Rising Folk series, we caught up with her to hear more about what’s next on the horizon.
What and what inspired you in your earliest days as an artist?
I guess I started to write music in my early to mid-teens, probably inspired at the time by love and unrequited love. Then in my teens and twenties, I wrote more love songs and, in my thirties, I’ve written more songs that tell a story and are inspired by other aspects of life generally.
And that began to inspire the sound that you wanted to create?
When I was 14, I wasn’t hugely thinking about sound—they were the early days of exploring and writing melody and words—and understanding how songs fit together. The sound came much later when my songs were good enough to be played to audiences. Now that’s just as important as the songs themselves but the crux of it is that if you’ve got a good song, there are many ways you can dress it and make it sound good.
What continues to inspire you today?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve written more songs about family members and family stories—anything and everything. I’ve written a couple of songs inspired by my grandmother who I lost at the age of 99—she was amazing and I could probably write a whole album inspired by stories from her life that she told me. So it’s more that kind of thing—growing older, settling down—I have two small step-kids so include themes of parenting too.
What guides your songwriting process?
So I have a list of themes and ideas—songs that I want to write in the future. It may be something that I sit down and start working on straight away or there might be something on the list that inspires me at another time. I generally sit down at the keyboard or with my guitar and play around and see what comes out. It may be that a lyric comes out that I work a melody around or it might be that I find a little melody pattern on the piano that I like and try to fit some words to that. When I’m writing alone, I tend to build the song up gradually. I’ve written quite extensively with a collaborator called Stefano Della Casa. The two of us will write the music and then I’ll take the music and write the lyrics. But when I’m writing by myself, the two generally come together.
Your latest EP, Ancient Lights, highlights your effortless manipulation of powerful melodies and ability to write hard-hitting and thought-provoking lyrics. Can you tell us a little more about the narrative of the EP?
Ancient Lights is actually a collection of older songs that I wrote in my early twenties and were recorded back in the day. When we went into lockdown, I started to stream and did quite a lot of live streaming on Facebook and Instagram, and I didn’t want to be repeating myself and playing the same songs all the time. So I went back to my catalogue and had a look at my old list of songs and thought to myself, “is there anything worth revisiting here?” I played a few of those songs during the
streams, and it was nice for me personally to practice those songs up again and go back in time a little bit. And the response was really positive! So I thought to myself, maybe these songs do actually deserve a second chance of being heard.
The EP is actually named after the house that I grew up in—this beautiful, old, timber building. My Dad named it because the windows were lead lighted—that crisscross pattern you get in old buildings. My Mum also did the artwork for the EP cover which is the window design. I just felt like it was time to give those songs a chance—a life once again—a chance of being heard.
From supporting Seth Lakeman, to appearing on BBC Radio Two and participating in the highly competitive Artist Mentoring Programme, you’ve already seen some incredible highlights in your career so far. What are you looking forward to over the coming year?
I’ve just started working with my new agent. I met Ant at Manchester Folk Festival last year, which was the very beginning of English Folk Expos Artist Mentoring Programme. I’d already come across his agency but we met and he’d already been really positive about my writing and the sound of my recording material and he was really lovely when I came off-stage. I’m really looking forward to working with Ant and seeing how that can really grow my audiences and career.
It’s also coming towards the end of the year so I’ll be heading into the studio to record what will be my third studio album and I’m really looking forward to bringing some of those songs to life in the studio. So just continuing to build and play live and doing the things that I love doing.
We can’t wait for your upcoming show here at St George’s next week! What can our audiences expect?
I’ll be playing solo so a mix of keys-based songs and guitar-based songs. Pretty much every show I’ve played recently, someone has come up to me and said I’ve made them cry so maybe a few tears in the audience! I like to think that I write music and tackle subjects that are objectively sad but have an uplifting message—thought-provoking and uplifting, as you say.
If you could choose one desert island track, what would it be?
I would actually choose a piece of classical music—Rachmaninov’s Rapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
Words by Louise Goodger