INTERVIEW: Carlie Hanson

Carlie Hanson interview: “Music has saved my life”

Carlie Hanson is one of the most candid lyricists in pop music today, and she is only twenty years old. A sonic trendsetter for Generation Z, Hanson is penning lyrics well beyond her years, tackling pervasive societal issues such as drug abuse, and doing so with a maturity and vulnerability that has amassed her an inspired and dedicated following.

Before her nineteenth birthday, Hanson had signed a deal with Warner Records, toured with Yungblud, and released her dynamic debut EP ‘Junk’. CelebMix wanted to find out more about what makes this young artist so special, and so we picked up the phone to have a chat…

Your latest single ‘Stealing All My Friends’ is a deeply personal track about substance abuse written as a tribute to the late Mac Miller and Lil Peep. Why did you feel it was important to tackle this issue through your music?

I’ve seen people deal with drug abuse first hand, I’ve dealt with it myself, and I think it’s a very serious thing that needs to be talked about. I think it can be quite a hard subject to discuss openly but when I write music I want to tackle those things that are most difficult to talk about. One of my biggest inspirations, Lil Peep, passed away recently from overdosing, and then Juice WRLD and Mac Miller, and so it has been something at the front of my brain recently.

Being a young artist in the current music scene do you ever feel the pressures of drug culture?

The people I surround myself with are such good people and growing up I had a really good family. I had great parents, a great sister, great brothers, and my friends as well. Obviously, we were teenagers and we grew up in the middle of nowhere, and so I definitely felt the pressures growing up and just wanting to like experiment when you have nothing much to do in a small town, and you think that all there is to do is just get drunk and smoke and you can’t get out.

However, since getting out of there and obviously getting into music and surrounding myself with the right people, things have totally changed. I’m in such a great state of mind right now and I’m trying to do good and push people on the right track. That’s why I wanted to do music to talk about stuff like drug abuse and release songs like ‘Stealing All My Friends’.

And what would you say to artists who glorify drugs in their music?

I definitely have done that in past songs and I will probably continue to do that in songs that I release, but, there’s a part of me that’s like, ‘this isn’t the only thing to do’. There are people like Juice WRLD and Mac Miller that struggled with drugs and they were releasing music because it was the only way that they could talk about their pain, and that’s one part of it, and that’s honestly how I feel sometimes as well, but then there’s another part of me that’s like, ‘this probably isn’t the best thing to be putting into peoples minds’. We also need to talk about the other side of it because there are so many things we can do to help ourselves. So I guess it comes down to what aspect you want to talk about when writing songs.

There is a beautiful cover out there of ‘Stealing All My Friends’ by an artist called Chandler Leighton. What sort of feeling does it give you when other musicians cover your music?

That was really crazy. It blows my mind every time. I used to be the one that was singing other people’s songs- I still do some of the time. Justin Bieber is my biggest inspiration so I just tried to do what he was doing when he was younger and just post covers all of the time. It’s crazy that the roles seem to be reversed now. I’m the one writing music and people are covering my shit. It’s very surreal and super inspiring.

When you started out, did you feel like you had something to prove as a young artist?

Hmm, interesting question. I mean the only thing that I really wanted to prove is that I could get out of the town that I’m from and show people that didn’t really believe in me that I could do it. I remember when I went to LA for the first time when I was still in school, and then I came back and I was telling people about it and they were like, ‘Oh, that’s cool…’ but like not really believing it and saying it’s not really going to lead anywhere. To be honest I didn’t believe it either because it’s just not something that happens. So the thing that I wanted to prove is that I could make it out of that town and really do it!

A lot of artists stand by the whole indie approach to music. Why did you feel signing with a major label was the best move for you?

Watching Justin Bieber become the star that he is and watching his documentaries, I always thought that I have to get signed by a record label. Like, that’s the first thing I need to do even though I hadn’t put out any music or anything and didn’t know what my message was or have any of my shit figured out. However, once I got my team we all figured out together what the best route would be for me to go, and honestly it’s props to them for showing me and helping me to understand what is going to be the best thing for me.

What is next for you?

Yeah, so I think I’m going to drop another two or three singles before I put out another EP which should come out around fall time. I’m not ready to put out a full album yet, so I just want to put out another project of like six or seven songs first and I’m really excited about it.

When do you think you’ll know that it’s time to drop an album?

When I feel that everyone is really watching. I mean there are a lot of people watching right now but I feel like this next EP will really make people think, ‘why wasn’t I watching her before?’. I mean, I don’t wanna sound like conceded or anything but I really feel like these songs are the best that I’ve written so far, and after this, I feel like that’s when I can really go into album mode for my first real piece. I think it’s definitely going to be after this next EP.

What is it that gets you excited about new music?

I mean honestly, I think that it’s super rare for me to find new music and have it inspire me. I feel that I’m the type of person who kind of sticks to what I’ve listened to my whole life like Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Nirvana, Tracy Chapman, and Justin Bieber and I will just kind of stick with it.

Although, a couple of months ago one of my friends got me into checking ‘new music Friday’ which is something that I’ve never done before. He got me onto that and really going through different playlists which is a new thing for me. There is this artist that I found recently called 070 Shake and she has been like the biggest inspiration for me. I don’t know what it is about her, just like her whole thing I really love. The music is just unlike anything I’ve ever heard and her voice is just so dope. You should definitely check her out if you don’t know her.

And what do you hope excites people about your music?

I just want people, especially lyric-wise, to hear what I’m saying and really feel something from it. I hate listening to a song that doesn’t have any real deep meaning. I mean I know there are songs that you just want to shake your ass to or whatever, and I mean I have those too, but I really want people to listen and think of a memory or a scenario in their head and just like imagine and feel something.

You tend to find that a lot of artists have either a big political or social message attached to their lyrics. What sort of category do you think that you fall into? Or are you just having fun with it?

I would like to think I’m someone with a message but of course, there is going to be music that I put out that you can just put on and you don’t have to think too hard about it. Yungblud is somebody that I really look up to because I think that he does so well. I mean he has this huge following that is all just like punks, LGBTQ+, and just like amazing fans, and I remember going on tour with him and thinking this is exactly what I want. That’s something that I really hope continues to grow with my fan-base.

You mentioned the LGBTQ+ community, which you yourself are a member of. It was about two years ago when you came out, right?

Yeah, I mean I’m so bad with time but it was about 2-3 years ago.

And how was that experience for you?

My older sister is gay and I remember when she came out to my mum when I was still in high school and I don’t really think my mum understood it at first, and so to tell her that I was also interested in girls was definitely scary for me. I didn’t know how she was going to deal with it. Even to this day, and I hate to say it, but I’m even nervous to kiss a girlfriend in public but it’s just something that you have to overcome. It’s new to me, but it needs to become normal.

Do you feel like you are able to help others through the process now that you have a platform in which to do so?

Oh yeah, of course. When I had my first headline tour in Europe that was when I was really actually helping people because girls would come up to me in the meet and greet and be like, ‘you helped me come out to my mum and my dad’, and hearing stories like that, it doesn’t really resonate with you at first. I mean I tweeted to the world that I came out to my mum and I kind of did that for myself to be like, ‘okay, this is real, I’m going to let everybody know’, but I never really was thinking that this could help somebody else, so when fans were telling me that I was like, ‘woah, this is real, and it’s really resonating with other people and actually helping people’, and so I really hope that I can continue to help like that. My song ‘Back in My Arms’ was the first time that I properly mentioned my love for a girl and I feel that song has really resonated with people and really hit their hearts, and so I want to continue doing that for sure.

Do you campaign for LGBTQ+ equality through other means or is it primarily your music?

I’m still trying to figure everything out for myself. I mean I don’t really know what my label is or if I even want to label myself at the moment. I just want to be there for my fans and just grow and learn and try to always put it into my music and figure out what the hell is going on with me.

We have had a wicked time, thank you! Just to finish things off, can you tell us how important music is to you?

Wow, that’s a big question. Music has saved my life. It’s the most important thing to me in the world. I mean without music I wouldn’t be standing in the middle of Utah right now, because if I go all the way back to it, it’s music that got me here. I’m going to go off on a tangent right now because I’m staring out at a mountain. Music has saved so many people’s lives and it has helped me cope so much with my anxiety. I just want to help people with my music and that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. I don’t care about anything else. Music is the best thing on earth and without it, I would not be here.

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Written by Alister

I am a journalism student at Robert Gordon University. Follow me on Twitter @ross_alister