What if you’ve written a review on a record and think you conceived it well, but after all you discover that what you’ve written is only partially true? It happened to me when I wrote the review on Lynne Hanson’s album “Once the sun goes down.” For the most part I wrote about the record as an ultimate way of coping with the end of a relationship, night being a metaphor for the mourning that’s inevitable after something like this happens. Alas, the lady in question made it clear to me in a recent email that I didn’t really hit the nail on the head with this one…
But, after all, it was this interpretation that gave this record such a special place in my collection and I still think it’s an intriguing record - in such a way that I asked Lynne Hanson, more than a year after writing the review, for an interview. When the interview suffered some delay and I wrote her I’d be sending the questions a week later, she answered: “just gives me more time to get wise and witty ;-)”
With these words in mind Lynne not only talks about her last record, but also about the usefulness of taking risks and challenges, and, indeed, about those moments the sun isn’t shining for a while…
Lynne, you know I’ve written a review on ‘Once the Sun Goes Down’, in which I interpreted the record mainly as a way to process the pain of ending a relationship and especially as a personal experience. You’ve told me before this interview that this isn’t completely true. As my review can go to the garbage bin now, can you tell me in which way the record still has a personal character?
“Once The Sun Goes Down is definitely more than just a relationship album for me. That being said it would be impossible for my own experiences not to color my creative vision to some degree. Mostly though I think I try and tackle themes that are pretty universal like love and loss, and try to put my own spin on them. For songs like Mary Mary though it's just about storytelling, and in that case it's definitely fiction.”
Looking at myself, I’ve often learned a lot about myself in difficult times. Like you indicated, ‘Once the Sun Goes Down’ is partially colored by your own (love) life, experiencing the hits and misses, which are recognizable to everybody, yourself. What positive things did you get from this period or periods, what did you learn?
“I think every life experience has something to teach us. Love is part of living, and opening ourselves up to loving another inevitably leaves us vulnerable to the possibility of losing. Life wouldn't be nearly as interesting if all the risk and challenge was removed. We have sayings for a reason, because ultimately there's a lot of truth to be found in cliches. So the whole idea of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" has a lot of resonance for me”.
Maybe an odd question, but I can imagine that there are songs that make you think of someone you loved before, or are in love with now, and that you just don’t want to sing for a while after a break-up or something like that. Is this an experience you ever had?
“I've never felt hesitant to play a song I've written with the exception of one. I wrote "Somewhere A Lovely Flower" at a very dark moment in my life. It took me a year before I felt comfortable singing it in public because of the feelings it brought up. However the song isn't about love so it wasn't heartbreak that got in the way of performing it live.”
What made that perticular song so hard to sing?
“I wrote the song while I was in London England. It's a wonderful city with so much to see, but like all big cities it can be very lonely when traveling alone. It’s as though the more people there are, the lonelier it can be. For the longest time singing that particular song was like retracing the steps I took while I walked around the city feeling very disconnected from all the people around me.
In the gorgeous ‘Here we go again’, a song in which you gradually accept a new love in your life, you really reach great heights lyrically in my opinion, with beautiful passages like:
“But I’m still picking up the pieces / Still broken glass along my path / You’ll find that I tread lightly / The same is all I ask...”
The way you’ve put the vulnerability and fear of someone who is stigmatized by love one day is utterly striking in my opinion. Can you tell a bit more about the origins and realization of these lyrics?
“I had just started dating someone after ending a long relationship. We got along really well but I just wasn't ready for a serious relationship so soon after ending another one. The fellow I was dating just wasn't getting the message and thus came the song. When I sang it for him I think he finally got the message that we weren't meant to be.” LOL.
‘Once the Sun Goes Down’ was in my opinion, keeping in mind my own interpretation, a beautifully chosen title, because night can symbolize the processing of the dark, painful period of being heart-broken. What did you exactly mean to express with this title and what’s the meaning of the artwork in this context?
“It was an image association that just stuck in my mind. Of sitting out on a porch on a summer nite as the sun goes to bed and the energy thats in the air in anticipation of what's going to happen as the darkness falls.
“Somewhere a lovely flower”
I walked the streets of London
Hoping to find a little peace
(but) Trafalgar held no answers
Just statues staring back at me
Wise men who’d come before me
All great within their time
Yet when I asked them for the answer
The only voice I heard was mine
More lonely than the dark
A place colder than the sea
But somewhere a lovely flower grows
That’s where I long to be
Touched the cold stone in The Abbey
Hoping to find a little faith
Read the tributes to its keepers
Embraces the holiness of place
But those noontime demons chased me
And I ran into the rain
No calm reached out to hold me
I prayed for an end to pain
I rode round the concrete circle
Hoping direction I would find
Felt the weight bear down upon me
Voltage coursing thru my mind
The sun dove into the river
And I felt her sweet caress
Love buried deep inside me
Lighthouse calling me to it
The light was calling me to it...
(with kind permission of Lynne Hanson)
For the artwork I sent the album to Michael Wrycraft. I wanted his idea of what the music should look like. He sent me the concept after listening to the recording for a week and I fell in love with his concept as it just seemed to fit.”
What strikes immediately listening to the album are the heavy en dark sounding percussion and drums. Can you tell why this specific sound for the percussion was chosen?
“David Baxter produced the record and is really responsible for that dark sound. We have a great relationship and he really "gets" my music so I think his choice was based on knowing me and what I was looking for in terms of presenting my songs.”
Like I often use to do, I would like to ask you to name five artists or albums that you really love - just because I’m very curious to know as a music lover. Which records come to mind, Lynne, and, most importantly, why?
“I’m a huge Patty Griffin fan. She’s just such an incredible songwriter that it’s impossible to pick one record. I tend to be the type of person to listen to a recording obsessively … especially one song. I think I’ve probably listened to “Useless Desires” a thousand times. If it’s a common question you ask, I’m guessing Bob Dylan makes most songwriters’ lists. If I were to pick one record it’d be The Bootleg Series: Vol 8. I also absolutely love Buddy and Julie Miller’s “Written In Chalk.” I think “Don’t Say Goodbye” is one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard in my life. That particular record was given to me while I was on tour in Holland and it took me about 6 months to finally get around to listening to it. When I did it was on constant repeat for a year.
And anything by Gillian Welch with David Rawlings. I just love love love their sound. Finally I’d have to say my fellow Canadian and good friend Lynn Miles. We’ve done a couple of tours together, and she sings on all my records. She’s been a fantastic mentor to me as an artist, and I’ve learned so much about songwriting and the art of performance from her. An amazing singer and a really special songwriter. Canada has a lot of talent, but she’s definitely one of the best to ever come out of the Great White North.”
Let’s finish with another very important question: Lynne, when can we expect a new album?
“The honest answer to this question is that I don't know exactly. Im guessing it'll be when I feel I have enough to say. Till then just writing and playing and living...”