FYIG Chats With Singer/Songwriter John Wort Hannam

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.
 
I’m an Alberta songwriter born in the year between the Summer of Love and the summer that Hendrix played Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York.  I’ll let you do the math.  I’ve been writing songs for about 18 years.  It is the most joyful and frustrating thing I do.
 
How did you get your start in music?
 
I was given a mixtape when I was in university.  It had a lot of solo songwriters on it, mostly Texas and US songwriters – Robert Earl Keen, Guy Clark, Loudon Wainwright III, and Townes Van Zante.  Some of those songs rearranged me on a DNA level.  I had never listened to music that way before, pulled in, taken by the way they wrangled their words.  I remember thinking, “I wanna do that”.  I got a degree in teaching at that university and then taught grade 9 for six years but always on the back burner of my brain was the drive to write songs.  I quit teaching, bought a guitar and started going to local open stages.  One day someone offered me some money to come play.  It hadn’t really occurred to me until then that I could make a living writing and performing.
 
How would you describe your musical style?
 
I try to write a good story, fictional or real.  I like sad songs and silly songs equally.  Someone once told me I’m a short-story writer disguised as a songwriter.  I’m a lyrics guy who writes lyrically driven acoustic music.  When I hear another artist’s new song, I hear the words first.  Melody second.  I hear the chord progression, instrumentation, and production on the third and fourth listen.  So yeah, words.  I like words and beautiful melodies.
 
What can audiences expect from your latest album “Acres of Elbow Room”?
 
 
It’s roots music that probably sounds like it was made in Western Canada.  It is a full band recording but it’s still very stripped down and sparse.  The only voices and instruments (guitar, upright bass, drums, and keys) on the record are the ones you would hear if you saw the band play live, no overdubs of instruments or guest performers.  
 
The album was nominated for a 2019 Western Canadian Music Award (Roots Solo Artist of the Year).  What was it like to hear that news?
 
I’m always excited to receive news like this.  It’s a pat on the back, really.  It’s something that says, “Keep going, you’re onto something”.  
 
You’re in the middle of a Canadian tour. What’s the audience experience like at one of your live shows?
 
There’s a lot of undergarments on the stage when the show is over.  (Just kidding, that one pair probably belonged to the bass player.)  Actually, I usually get comments like, “I didn’t think I liked folk music but I like what you do”.  Really all I hope is that I can connect on some level with the audience.  If I see toes tapping or smiles or tears I know that I’m on the right track.  
 
What’s next for your career?
 
I have some touring to finish out 2019 and then I’m going to make another recording in the spring.  Steve Dawson of Black Hen Music has agreed to produce the record.  We worked together on two previous recordings (Two-Bit Suit in 2007 & Queen’s Hotel in 2009) and I’m excited to visit that Dawson sound again.
 
What advice would you have for aspiring musicians?
 
Don’t stop making art.  You will be discouraged.  You will worry about finances. You will feel the highest highs and the lowest lows.  You will doubt yourself.  You will see others succeed where you can’t but don’t stop making art.  That act alone will make you a better artist than the one your were when you woke up this morning.
 
 
What’s your life like outside of music?
 
I have an old house and a lovely wife and a beautiful child.  I chop wood all winter to keep the wood stove going and like to rescue old, rusty, discarded, vintage pedal bikes and tear them apart and put them back together.  I have a good life and each day I get closer to finding that balance between being a musician and a human.  
 
Let the readers know where to find you online.
 
Instagram: @johnworthannam
Twitter: @johnworthannam