Label: Self Released
Hannah Judson is an American living in Paris, well to be more precise, Hannah Judson is an American singer/songwriter living in Paris. It’s an important distinction because whilst there is a feeling that the French consider themselves culturally and artistic superior to the upstarts from the New World, there has always been scope to embrace artists of all nationalities and to take them to their heart, if not actually give them airplay.
Judson helps her case enormously by writing songs that walk on a number of different levels and also which capture that idea of an artist genuinely looking to try and understand the world that the people of her adopted country inhabit and how it differs from her own.
“Underbelly” has been out for a year or so in both the US and France, but is really only just starting to break into the consciousness over here, which is a good thing, because it’s a strong album in its own right before you even start adding the cross cultural dynamic.
At its heart, “Underbelly” is an album that runs the gamut between country and Americana, but as the name implies, it’s also an album that takes a glance at the life going on around the writer, at both a social level and a political level to create the impression of an artist with a genuine thirst for knowledge and experience.
The album is sung in English, but there’s some phrases that come across in the recording that let you know without any doubt, that Hannah Judson is the sort of artists that would do her best to go native so as to really express the best, and worst, a culture can throw at you..
The result is a very cosmopolitan album, one that does a really good balancing act to ensure that it stays fresh along it’s eleven track length. Judson herself appear to get a real sense of the world around her and turn the experiences into thought provoking, well thought out songs and whilst “Underbelly” my not be a full expose of life and love, it does sometimes venture into a world of discovery and thinking.
HJ with Pete and Maura Kennedy and Phil Cartwright of Horizon Vu Music.
Horizon Vu Music organized a great show at OPA (Bastille) on Saturday night with me HJ, Tarah Who? and The Kennedy’s. If you haven’t come across Pete and Maura Kennedy yet, I recommend more than a click and a listen, but you can start here. This talented
Hannah Judson, Maura Kennedy, Pete Kennedy, Phil Cartwright
and engaging duo from New York follow a rigorous touring and production schedule, fortunately for their loyal and large fan base. They were just coming off tour with Nanci Griffith in the UK, and came to Paris for a few days to play a show and soak up some beautiful days along the Seine.
Underbelly is now on regular rotation on New Driven Radio. The show airs Tuesday evenings 8-midnight (eastern time) on 89.1 WBCX and is streamed internationally at: www.Brenau.edu/wbcx.
Rebecca Nobrega and “Rebecca’s Creations…” is a regular column for HorizonVU Music. Rebecca was born in Toronto, Ontario. Her interests include marketing, design, and of course, styling. She keeps a close listen and watch on the Indie music and fashion scene . She loves working and always strives for success.
Hannah Judson is a musician who has not been sitting still. She has travelled widely, and has worked with a range of musicians, from classical, folk, punk and grunge. Like her music, her style draws on multiple influences. She is relaxed, calm and projects intellect, creativity, and openness one might associate with New England artists. Her original style reflects her personality – right on target. She is always providing her fans and listeners with something new and creative.
The themes of her songs are eclectic and are inspired by conversations, events in the news, or a book she is reading. She says, “The songwriting process is very similar to painting with oil paints. Oil is a sturdy, flexible medium, you can modal forms smoothly hiding the brushstrokes, or dig into it with a knife. You paint over mistakes leaving just a hint that you were ever there. And the mistakes turn out to be the freshest part. My songs are not music therapy, or specifically autobiographical. I reference things I know, people who populate my world, all the time, but the subject is not you and me literally. My songs tend to be little fictions.”
Just this year she released an album “Underbelly” produced by Michel Esquelin. This album presents a few different characters and perspectives, old, young some male. These songs were written in France where she currently lives, but many are influenced by her former life in the US. Right now, she is currently working on a project, “Leggy”, and is coming more from experience, observations and events in France. Leggy is scheduled for release in 2012. Hannah has a great number of fans and listeners. Those who attend her shows and listen to her music she describes as “good listeners, with a little edge.” Let’s take a look at Hannah live, performing “Ishmael”.
Hannah comes from a family where music always played a part. Her grandfather was a tenor in a Boston choir. When the choir toured Europe, he met his soon to be wife on the steamship. She was a piano teacher. Between the two of them, “Music was the hook”. Hannah’s father was also a great influence, as he made a harpsichord and a lute, played medieval and Baroque music, and sang arias around the house. Just as important, her mother had a great record collection: The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, etc. Hannah played the violin and her father’s old clarinet, which she played throughout high school. In high school and college she took harpsichord and piano lessons. Some of her major influences as a musicians were people like Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Liz Phair, Laurie Anderson, Cat Power and Velvet Underground.
Travel has always been important to Hannah. In Vienna she “wrote her earliest songs, painted, learned German, drank coffee, and smoked, inhaling deeply.” She worked her way through Morocco, hitchhiked north through Spain, and ended up on her feet in Holland. There she had an epiphany in the Van Gogh museum that it was time to get serious. She moved to Boston and got a job with a book publishing company. After about 18 months working in a cubicle, she had another epiphany, and headed back to Europe, this time to San Sebastian, Spain. There she got a classical guitar studied Spanish classical guitar with a Basque teacher, danced in bars, and continued writing her own music.
The next stop after Spain was Chicago where she went to graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She bought her first electric guitar, an amp, and put together her first band, Salt Lick. “With Salt Lick I began playing out. Chicago was great for that as there are so many venues to play their music”, says Hannah. After Salt Lick, she played bass in a folk/rock band, The Bloomers. She was in an acapella act, The Blowpops, and then Sweet Bridget an alt/rock band, with strong musicianship and personalities.
After Sweet Bridget came her last band Kite Club, a trio, with electro/ punk songwriter Brian Burkhard and Leslie Santos, the drummer from Sweet Bridget. They made 2 records, releasing one of them before she moved to France in 2005. She started playing in Paris in 2009. Hannah has been working with several musicians including Michel Esquelin and Serge Bencissou, performing her her original music at numerous venues including a 16 week concert series at Les Décharguers in Paris.
Born in Brunswick Maine USA, Hannah Judson began performing in alt-rock bands in Chicago USA in the 90s. She played in major clubs, performing original music, and recorded with various groups. These years were loud and electric.
In the late 90s while expecting her daughter, she pulled out her acoustic guitar and wrote an album, much more pensive, quiet, & lush. She recorded this album “Apollo” with Brian Burkhart and together they formed Kite Club. This was a turning point in her writing, away from louder, more loaded songs, to a slower beat and more pensive exploration of the world around her. She has been in France since 2005.
Can you describe Hannah ?
HJ: Dumb blonde does not apply. Optimistic, creative, resourceful. Likes periwinkle, cowboy boots, wikipedia. I really like making things, and working with what I have. I keep a notebook, and collect words, ideas, metaphors, and images. I also have a digital mp3 recorder on my iphone, and I collect song ideas while I am jogging, and running errands. I am always working on new songs. Not all of them make it to a live performance, but the process is a lot like gardening. Ideas are planted, and you watch each one to see how it grows. And you do a lot of weeding.
Your last project?
HJ: This year has been busy. This spring I released my first CD in 7 years. I supported the release with a 16 concert series at Les Décharguers in the first arrondissement in Paris. I worked with 2 other musicians, Serge Bencissou and Michel Esquelin. We performed the songs from the CD, and also wrote a couple new ones along the way. We met a lot of people during the shows, and our set and working style evolved. I look forward to playing with the band again soon.
HJ: “Underbelly” is a series of songs I wrote in France, but many of them are looking back across the Atlantic. “Underbelly” meansthe dark, underside of something. I like the word because is also sort of feminine in a gritty way. The songs on “Underbelly” are both critical and romantic. They tell stories of places and events, both personal and in the news. Writing “Underbelly” was part of the process of understanding and letting go of my former life in the U.S.
HJ: I am writing another CD now. It is much more grounded in France. It is about love and food. Well, I haven’t written the food songs yet, so maybe it is just about love.
Outside of music, what does Hannah do?
HJ: I always have a book I am reading. I look at maps and plan trips. I grew tomatoes this summer, and now I prepare a tomato dish with every meal. I try to run a marathon every year. I have run 6 marathons so far. Although recently I decided I should run less and drink more. Life is short.