On an average day, my inbox gets inundated with roughly thirty or so emails from artists, managers, and publicists inquiring as to whether Albumism can publish some ink about their or their clients’ latest project or single. So it’s damn near impossible to respond to all of these messages, let alone attempt to discern whether or not the music contained therein is worth showcasing on the site.
Upon being introduced to Hannah Jane Lewis recently, however, it was immediately apparent that her evolving pop songcraft is more than a few notches above the rest. An observation that must have surely convinced the revered Polydor Records to sign the ambitious singer-songwriter to their imprint Hot Hot Records.
Although the London-based songstress is still in the midst of establishing a name for herself in her native UK, as well as her once-adopted US where she was the self-proclaimed “token English girl and something of a novelty” in her Florida town, she already has an impressive track record of high-caliber electro-pop singles to her credit. Most recently, the catchy-as-all-hell “Raincheck” has seduced listeners’ ears, to the tune of nearly one million streams on Spotify.
Today she unveils her brand new single “Aftershock,” and it’s obvious upon even the most cursory of listens that it’s destined to equal—if not eclipse—the success of its predecessor. And in conjunction with the track’s release, Lewis generously sat down with me to explore the past, present and future of her burgeoning career.
Justin Chadwick: Congratulations on the release of your new single “Aftershock!” It’s a wonderful song, but do you feel pressure for it to eclipse the success of its precursor, last year’s infectious hit “Raincheck?”
Hannah Jane Lewis: Ah, thank you so much!! So glad you like it! Not really, I love this new song a lot, so I'm super excited that it’s out there in the world now!
JC: “Aftershock” is about the emotional and psychological impact of seeing the object of one’s affection with someone else. What inspired the song’s lyrics?
HJL: Well the situation in this song literally happened to one of my friends, so we were talking about it and I just thought it was something that so many people have gone through, including myself! It’s basically like a “now you are with someone else, I want you back” tantrum all wrapped up in a song. [Laughs]
JC: Rumor has it that you’re busy working on your debut full-length album. Can you talk about how that’s coming along and what fans can expect from your first proper album?
HJL: I've been in the studio writing for a while now, so I can't wait for people to start hearing new songs! I think I'll release a lot of singles before I get to the album. But when I do, I would say it will be very pop, a little quirky, and just full of all the things that have been happening to me over the last couple of years.
JC: I love the acoustic versions you’ve done of “Bend or Break” and “Raincheck,” as I think they shine a brighter, more focused light on your voice. Is the acoustic element something you plan to incorporate throughout your debut album?
HJL: Thank you! Yeah, I've definitely been writing more songs that show off my voice in that way! And maybe I'll include a few acoustic versions in there. I always make a space in my live set for an acoustic moment too.
JC: I’ve read that the Spice Girls played a significant role in inspiring you to explore a career in music. What in particular did you learn from their music and legacy that motivated you to give music a try?
HJL: Well, they were popular when I was young, so as a little girl I really thought they were the coolest group in the whole world. Their girl power and friendship vibe was such a good message for girls to look up to. I loved their songs, their clothes, their dance routines, and how they all had these big personalities. They did pop in such a big and unapologetic way, which sparked my motivation to do the same kind of thing!
JC: What other artists—either contemporary or classic—have influenced your approach to songwriting and performing?
HJL: I’ve always loved the big female pop stars, so people like Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Pink, and Gwen Stefani have influenced me a lot. Especially from a performing point of view, they really put on a show, which I admire for sure. From a songwriting standpoint, I actually used to listen to pop/country music and the storytelling aspect of that genre influenced me, as well as people like John Mayer.
JC: So you were born in England, but spent much of your teenage years in the US. Do you feel like a “dual citizen,” and how have your experiences on both sides of the Atlantic shaped your worldview in general, as well as your approach to making music?
HJL: Yes, I guess I do a little bit! I think living in America during those high school and university years influenced me a lot. I was like a sponge at that time. I got to experience something SO completely different to my life in England, so adjusting to that and essentially starting from scratch again really opened my eyes and shaped me into who I am today. I found out there that if you are good at something, they really expect you to put EVERYTHING you have into it, and make no apologies for that. And I'm thankful that it was drummed into me for what I do now. Music-wise, I listened to a lot of American pop while I lived there, and I think in my music now you can definitely hear that influence.
JC: Albumism is headquartered in New York City, and I’ve learned that you studied at NYU’s Tisch School of The Arts. What was it like to go to college in the world’s greatest city? You’re back in the UK now, but do you ever find time to come back to visit?
HJL: It was literally so much fun! I absolutely loved it. I lived in the East Village which isn't too far from NYU, and it was such a fun part of the city to live in. I haven't had that much time recently to go back and visit, which is so sad because I miss it and I miss my friends there. But I’m sure I’ll be back soon!
JC: My eldest of two daughters is five years old and she’s already daydreaming of becoming the next Taylor Swift or Ellie Goulding. What advice would you give to her and other young girls who have their sights set on developing a career in music?
HJL: Aw, so cute! I would say to get as involved in singing, dancing, or acting as they can and to keep it up as they get older! Doing those things when I was younger really built up my confidence, and they should just dream as big as they possibly can.
JC: Do you have plans to hit the road on tour anytime soon? And if so, what can audiences expect to experience at your live gigs?
HJL: Yep, I hope to do lots more gigs this year! I have one at Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen in London on the 23rd of March, which will be fun. I would say expect a high-energy, fun show with new songs and some acoustic moments too!
JC: Hypothetically speaking, if you weren’t pursuing your music career, what do you think you would be doing professionally?
HJL: Well, I never had a Plan B, so I'm not sure what I'd be doing! But when I was younger, I wanted to be a weather girl, randomly. So maybe I'd be reading the weather on TV. Who knows?
JC: OK, last question. In the spirit of Albumism, what are your five favorite albums of all time?
HJL: Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. To me this is the PERFECT pop album! I still come back to these songs all the time, and “Teenage Dream' is my favorite pop song to date. Avril Lavigne’s Let Go. When I was younger, I was completely obsessed with Avril Lavigne, I remember listening to this album and then writing my first song. So I'll always have a special place for this one! John Mayer’s Room for Squares and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. And Kanye West’s The College Dropout. At one point when I was younger, this was literally the only album I played. [Laughs]