HANNAH WICKLUND has seen all sides of the industry and the world of music. The rising guitar phenomenon, who’s still in her 20s, has played all around the world to audiences that grow steadily with each passing tour. It’s the kind of progression that every artist dreams of, and Wicklund is certainly living a rock and roll fantasy.
After spending a while playing covers around South Carolina and in Savannah with a rotating band known as the Steppin Stones, Wicklund has assembled a powerhouse band that allows her to showcase not only her guitar skills but also her knack for song craft and her show-stopping vocals. Ahead of her upcoming gig at Barrelhouse South on Thurs., May 9, we spoke with Wicklund about her life in music thus far.
How did you start playing guitar and getting into music?
Wicklund: Well, I started on piano when I was about 3 years old. That was my first instrument. I just had really creative, supportive parents who got me into music at the get go. But my brother had been playing music since he was young, so it was a very natural family progression. Then I started playing guitar when I was 8. I picked it up pretty fast, and fell right into singing and playing songs. About six months later I started the Steppin Stones, and the rest is history [laughs].
The cool thing is that is seems like in some ways things took off pretty quickly, but it’s also been a pretty gradual ride from there.
Wicklund: Yeah. Things take off quickly but if you have the wrong team around you, the music industry is not a friendly place for a young woman who’s alone without anyone looking out for her. So I’ve unfortunately been had many times, but like you said it’s kind of been a start/stop gradual ride.
So when you first started the band, were you writing songs from day one? Was that always the intention?
Wicklund: It first started as a classic rock cover band. I’d been writing songs since before the band started. My first songbook started when I was, like, 4 years old. So if I got in trouble with mom and dad, I’d lay in bed with my feet on the wall and just be making up songs [laughs].
When we started the band, being on Hilton Head if you wanted to play live you played what people wanted to hear. So upon starting the band, that was kind of the approach. And then we started recording - well, technically we did our first music video for a song called “My World” when I was about 9 years old. It was always kind of a gradual build bringing the original music into our shows. When I was 16 I graduated high school, and that’s pretty much when the band flipped and started pursuing original music full throttle.
Let’s talk about your influences. What were some of your biggest musical inspirations early on and how do you think that has evolved over the years?
Wicklund: Tom Petty has always been there, but initially my influences were also people like Janis Joplin, AC/DC, we used to cover some of The Cars’ songs - I think I was way more focused on the classic rock artists.
In the last couple of years, with getting older and my songwriting maturing, I’ve gone back and explored influences I had early on but that I didn’t necessarily relate to my music at the time. People like Etta James, Amy Winehouse, Jeff Beck. And I really have embraced my love of 90s rock in the next two years, so I keep on saying that my next record is going to have an Alice In Chains meets Amy Winehouse meets Hendrix kind of a vibe.
You’ve been able to go to Europe and the U.K. and play shows over there - from experience, it seems true what people say about the audiences being very different there. There’s a different appreciation for music over there. Would you say that’s been your experience?
Wicklund: Definitely. I toured over in Europe in 2017, and it was a great experience. The people who were coming to the shows had never seen me before but they came knowing my music and being very inquisitive. It felt very rewarding. Like, people do care. In the States I have pockets of really amazing people, but to have so many people over there all appreciating the same thing was really neat.