A Q&A with Sano Hill
Collaborative, melodic folk-rock…
What’s the title of your latest release, and what does it mean to you?
‘Dancer’ deals with the challenge of artistic creation, set against the background of a memory of a dance, and the first fires of a romantic encounter. It is part love song, part artistic reflection.
What was the hardest part about putting this release together, and why?
Getting the musical arrangement right. The song started out just me and an acoustic guitar and that’s still there but I wanted to really explore other instrumentation on it that could complement the theme and build the overall emotional impact of the song – so we have strings but also piano, slide guitar, and a lot of percussion, particularly in the final part. There was a lot of experimentation and different versions – at least ten – before I got to a point where I felt the arrangement and mix worked. A lot of thanks is due to Larry Hogan who produced the track and to Braddon Williams who did the final mix and master – I also want to thank the New Artist Spotlight music community whose support allowed for Brad’s involvement in the final mastering.
Who produced the release – what did they bring to it?
Larry Hogan produced this track, as well as all the tracks on my forthcoming album. He’s an extraordinary multi-instrumentalist as well as producer so it allowed us to bring a lot more ideas into the mix. Larry runs the Dublin Studio Hub that brings artists and session musicians together to realise their musical productions.
What do you want the listener to take away from listening to your music?
The importance of valuing the little moments with those we love – and the challenge of song writing. This is a memory that grew to become a song, that came out of the frustration of not being able to write a song.
How does a track normally come together? Can you tell us something about the process?
My songs begin as melodies that I usually come up with on guitar – though I’ve begun to write recently on piano also. I could carry those melodies with me for days, weeks, or sometimes months before words eventually emerge to complement the melody – sometimes this can happen quite quickly; other times, it can take some time. I usually play through the melody repeatedly, and usually, words eventually take shape. I sometimes draw on poetry or literature for inspiration, as in my first single ‘The Climb,’ which was influenced by the poetry of William Blake and includes some lines from a later unfinished work, The Everlasting Gospel. Other times I find inspiration from events in my life or in the lives of people close to me – as in my tracks ‘Starting Over’ and CircleWalk’ -, or from world events – in reality, inspiration can come from anywhere and sometimes the strangest places – I have one (older) song that came from sitting up through the night one time watching The Shopping Channel – there is more than enough material around us to draw on for inspiration for songs.
What band/artists have influenced you the most since you started this project, and why?
I’ve been influenced by a wide range of musicians and musical styles – Van Morrison, particularly his earlier material, Astral Weeks, Moondance etc was a huge influence on me at one point, particularly the personal and folk/blues nature of his lyrics and expression. Other influences have included U2, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, David Bowie, Nick Cave and Radiohead. But I like all kinds of music, from traditional to classical, folk, jazz, blues, and rock, and I guess all these influences have informed what I do, how I sing and the music I make.
What countries would you like to tour? Are there any standout venues you’d like to play in?
I don’t think I have any particular favourites in terms of countries or venues – wherever people want to hear and enjoy my music I’d love to visit!
If you could pick one track for our readers to listen to in order to get a taste of your music, what would you pick, and why?
Really hard to say. Perhaps ‘The Climb’ – it was my first single and ended up a few best of 2022 lists – because it was my first single release, it has a special place. It began as a song of seduction but gradually evolved into something both darker and more hopeful. The experience of the past two years and the pandemic was definitely a factor, trying to come to terms with the enormity of what we have been facing, including the impact of climate change, seeking meaning, understanding and hoping ultimately that we can all overcome. I was also influenced by the poetry of William Blake and some of his work crept into the lyrics. It was also the first music video I did – a collaboration with video artist EL Putnam – so that was special also.
What ambitions do you have for the band/your career?
Right now to finish and release my first album, to be titled If Not Now, When? – hopefully later in the Spring and then to follow that with a tour. I’m putting together a touring band at the moment and looking forward to getting on the road!
Finally, as you leave the stage, what are your parting words?
Thank you for your interest in my music!
For more info visit: facebook.com/sanohillsongs