There’s a general belief that best friends can and often do everything together – it certainly holds truth for Hannah & Maggie, two best friends who came together over their shared love of music which has since grown into a blossoming career in the industry. Their new album, Oh No, released on May 19th, inspired by the world around them as well as personal experiences, is their strongest release to date, which showcases their development and growth both as artists and individuals. As they prepare to share the album with the world, the pair kindly chatted with Thisisthelatest and told us all about their musical backgrounds, first concerts and their advice for aspiring artists.
TITL: Firstly, for those who might be unfamiliar with you and your music, please introduce yourselves.
Hannah & Maggie: We’ve been best friends for nearly seven years, traveling the Northeast – and occasionally beyond – to play folk-pop music. Hannah lives in Astoria, Queens, and Maggie is in Western MA, working on her graduate degree.
TITL: How did you meet/come together?
H&M: We met singing a cappella at Smith college. A friend in the group suggested that we play sometime, as we’re both guitarists. Once we started, we never stopped.
TITL: When did you first know that you wanted to make music a career? Were there any particular artists that inspired you?
H&M: We have such a good time, it was immediately apparent to both of us that we wanted to continue to play together. There wasn’t one moment specifically that we can point to and say “that’s when we decided to make a go of it.” You might even argue, given our continued efforts in other fields (Maggie is in grad school and Hannah is working on publishing a novel), that we’ve yet to commit fully to a music career. Our goal is to keep music in our lives in whatever way is most tenable. Sometimes that means scheduling gigs and going on the road. Others, it simply means making time for our musical friendship.
TITL: What did your parents make of your career plans and are they supportive of what you do?
H&M: We’ve been blessed with incredibly supportive parents. It was our mothers who fronted us the money so we could go into the studio for the first time. Our parents have showed up to gigs near and far, hosted house concerts, and found us friends to stay with on the road. It’s hard to imagine if we’d ever have come this far without their support.
TITL: Can you recall the first albums you bought or concerts you attended? What impact did they have?
H: My earliest musical memories actually took place in the theater. My dad is an actor and, growing up, I loved getting the chance to hang out back stage. I have such vivid memories of being surrounded by artists and creative types as a kid. I think that context allowed me to imagine myself in the arts and made the idea of a music career less radical.
M: One of the first concerts I ever saw was Saves The Day at Roseland Ballroom in New York City. I was thirteen and couldn’t see over the shoulders of all of the people standing on the floor so my mom – who generously chaperoned the show – talked the bouncer into letting us upstairs to watch from the balcony. It was unbelievable. I identified so much with the things they were singing about and the way they constructed their songs. It was emotional and poignant but also up-tempo and fun. Their album Stay What You Are is still one of my favorite albums of all time.
TITL: Tell me a little about your upcoming album Oh No.
H&M: This album came together over an extremely difficult period in our personal lives, during which we both went through serious break-ups with long term partners. Even though most of the songs were written before our respective heartbreaks, they’ve taken on such new meaning for us in light of the whole process of moving forward.
TITL: The album was crowd-funded. How was it to see your fans get behind the project like they did?
H&M: We were frankly shocked at the support for our crowdfunding efforts. Our fans never cease to amaze. We have been so lucky to have encountered such generous, thoughtful, and supportive people since we started playing together. We can’t wait to share this with everyone on May 19!
TITL: Could you each pick your favourite track from the collection and if so, which is it and why?
H: My personal favorite is a track Maggie wrote called “North We Go.” I honestly can’t put my finger on why I love it so much. I just think it’s beautiful.
M: The album starts with a very short song called “Overture”. We decided we would comb through the whole album in search of little melodies and refrains and arrange them to replicate the overture at the beginning of a musical. So much of this music ended up foreshadowing some personal life events for us and I think “Overture” sort of foreshadows the experience of hearing the album from start to finish.
TITL: How does this album differ from your previous releases? How do you think you’ve matured and evolved with each record you’ve put out?
H&M: In the past, fans have come up to us and said that our music helped them through a difficult times. Which, of course, is so gratifying as an artist, to feel that your music has made a difference in people’s lives. What’s funny about Oh No is that, oddly, the music has helped us in that same way. As we started to record these songs, it was therapeutic to see how the lyrics took on new meaning and relevance. It was almost like our past selves had written the songs that would later help us navigate the momentous changes in our lives.
TITL: Who or what most inspires your song-writing?
H&M: Everything! Other songwriters, the weather, relationships, trees, you name it.
TITL: In your opinions, which two songs (or one, if you agree) would you say are the greatest ever written and why?
H: Just one?! I’m going with either “Tonight” from West Side Story or “No One is Alone” from Into the Woods. Obviously I love Sondheim. I might even go as far to say he’s the best songwriter of our time. But honestly, ask me another day and you’d get a different answer.
M: I honestly believe the world would be a different place if Joni Mitchell hadn’t written “A Case Of You”. I have returned to that song a number of times in my life when I needed to be reminded that just because something is over doesn’t mean it didn’t matter.
TITL: Will you be touring in support of the album and are there plans for you to head over to the UK/Europe?
H&M: Yes! We’ll be traveling around the Northeast US. No plans at the moment to cross the pond, but never say never.
TITL: You’ve undertaken several national tours in the US so far, but of all the shows you’ve played, do you have any favourites?
H&M: We once showed up in the small town of Amarillo Texas. Frankly, we were expecting a terrible gig. The main street was dusty and quiet when we arrived in the late afternoon. The cafe where we played was completely empty as we set-up. Then, miraculously, one-by-one people started trickling in. By the time we started playing, a diverse group of lovable queers and weirdos had packed the place. We were blown away and had such a good time. Something similar happened at a dive bar on the outskirts of Asheville NC, where a fan decided to host her birthday party at the venue during the show. So many people showed up to cheer us on, we couldn’t believe it.
TITL: Which venue, that you haven’t already, would you most like to play and which four bands or artists (two each) who can be living or dead, would you like to share the stage with?
H: I’d love to play Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, with Brandi Carlile and John Mayer.
M: I would love to play a summertime house show in somebody’s backyard with Iron and Wine and the Tallest Man On Earth.
TITL: What are your thoughts on social media and would you agree with the general consensus that bands and artists today need to be socially interactive to earn and grow a fan-base?
H: There’s no question that social media has become a crucial part, not just of the music industry, but of almost every industry these days. Particularly for artists, it’s important for fans to feel like they know who you are. Of course, this can be dangerous and boundaries are crucial. Maggie doesn’t even have a personal Facebook anymore because it’s so time consuming. But, we enjoy meeting fans at shows with whom we’ve developed a rapport over social media. It’s nice to give people a window into our process and feel, even when we’re not playing regular gigs, that the connection is still alive.
TITL: What else does this year have in store for you?
H&M: All our focus right now is on releasing this album. We’re so excited to get back on the road this spring and summer. Beyond that, Maggie has two more years of her graduate program and Hannah has to find a more affordable apartment in New York. Wish us luck?
TITL: Finally then, where would you like to see yourselves five years from now and what advice would you give to aspiring artists trying to make their way in this ever-competitive industry?
H&M: In five years? Hopefully we’ll still be best friends, traveling and playing music as often as we can. For people trying to make it in music, we say: pace yourself. This business is as exhausting as it is exciting. Make sure you know, in your heart, why you’re writing songs. Don’t do it for fame or money – both of which are very hard to come by! Open yourself up to the world, put yourself out there, and let the music take you where it will. We never cease to be amazed at the opportunities that have arisen in our career. But it’s taken time and endless hours of hard work. There’s no such thing as overnight success.
Check out the video for the single “Oh No” below and for more information on Hannah & Maggie, visit their website, give their page a like on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Their new album Oh No is available for pre-order now.