16 Year Old Singer-Songwriter Hannah Gill Comes to Rockwood Music Hall, 4/26
Stunning new voices. The type that make you stop, that force you to listen, then listen again. They can come from anywhere and everywhere. Young or old, that natural quality is a rare and wonderful thing. And sometimes they've just been hiding in plain sight, like Hannah Gill, whose debut EP launches a remarkable, mature talent. (released on Greene Street Music, March 4th, 2014)
She might only be 16, but Hannah Gill's voice carries a world of experience in every note. That's all the more surprising when her only public performances have been in high school musicals in her hometown of Easton, MD, and talent shows. But she'd sung around the house from an early age and "my parents exposed me to a lot of music. I love folk music and plenty of ragtime, jazz, especially Ella Fitzgerald as well as a bunch of acoustic music - the Avett Brothers, artists like that. Real artists."
As soon as producer and musician Brad Hammonds heard her, he understood that Gill was something very special.
"She came in to record a couple of songs. She opened her mouth and began singing. I turned to my partner, producer Reed Taylor and said, 'This is crazy. She's so good.'"
That day the pair laid down two tracks, takes on Kimbra's "Two Way Street" and Christina Perri's "Distance," both on the EP.
"I love the way "Two Way Street" flows," Gill explains. "And the lyrics for "Distance" have always grabbed at me."
Hammonds knew he needed more from her - as soon as possible. As someone with a long track record in music, already renowned as a guitarist and composer through his own three albums, he understood what he was hearing. This wasn't someone raw who needed to be developed. Hannah Gill was completely the real thing, arriving fully-formed.
"She's so mature," he says. "She's an old soul, both as a vocalist and as a person. She's comfortable with herself. That's hard to find with anyone."
Soon four more tracks were in the can, Gill accompanied by Hammonds, along with a spare group of double bass, drums and trumpet. An ideal accompaniment for someone with the kind of vocal sophistication that conveys deep emotion without resorting to histrionics.
When he listened back to the songs, Hammonds signed her to his label, Greene Street Music, the first artist he'd wanted there.
"She's just so good. I simply had to be a part of that. She has that wonderful, deep voice hearing her, Hannah's just so exciting, she's got such a future."
Her first New York show at Café Vivaldi drew a packed house and that same weekend she made the video for "I Feel Awake." Filmed in back-and-white, it's a portrait of a singer who doesn't need artifice. Simply being herself is quite enough.
In the studio or onstage, Gill is spontaneous. After all, she notes, "the whole point of music is to experiment."
And she's smart enough to keep her home life and her new career separate.
"I don't say much about it. I really don't want to be that girl. But some people at school will stop me in the hall and say they've seen the video on YouTube. That's cool."
For now she's content to take things one step at a time, to catch her breath in between. Her feet are firmly on the ground, and she refuses to be carried away by it all. Her live band - Hammonds, Mathias Kunzli on drums, bassist Jason DiMatteo and trumpeter Matthew Jodrell - brings a wealth of experience with them, ranging from work with Paul Anka to Regina Spektor. They know talent and they see it in Gill.
Every journey begins with a single step, so the proverb goes. Hannah Gill has made hers into a giant leap.
"I'm very grateful for everything that's happened so far. I'm going day by day. If it takes off, that would be phenomenal. I don't know where I'll go musically, there's so much to try. But I'd love to stay with the same group of musicians. They're incredible."
That giant leap is going to be the first of many.
Hannah Gill launched her debut concert at the Stolz Listening Center (Avalon Theater) in Easton, MD on March 6, 2014.
On April 26, Hannah Gill will be performing at Rockwood Music Hall.