What: Ben Hanna CD Release
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Shine, 2027 13th St., Boulder, 303-917-5503
More info: shineboulder.com
T he collection of songs on Ben Hanna’s We Were All Like Whatever have waited years for release on a record. They’re out now, thanks to some community and friends’ support of his post-surburban Americana style (that’s his description). Hanna’s music takes a direct, lyrical approach to storytelling, and they’re stories you’ll actually want to hear. We talked to Hanna about making the record and what all these stories are getting at.
Three years to make “We Were All Like Whatever.” That’s a long time.
It’s been partially due to a lack of funds and resources and just trying to figure out creative ways to sort of bridge the gap. It cost me 1,300 bucks to press those CDs and that’s not something I had laying around or even in partial form. So, I did the Kickstarter thing.
Have the songs been done for a while?
Some songs date back maybe four or five years. I think that batch of songs in particular, most of them were written around the same time. I know there was one song that I’d written right at the end of the tracking and I wanted to record it, but we didn’t have the studio time.
The content on the record is pretty varied, storywise. Let’s start by talking about the darker side, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”
Well, that song is partially autobiographical. I sort of took the truth, as it were, and elaborated on it a bit and made it interesting enough to write a song that can grab people’s attention. It was written maybe two or three years ago, right before I left for Christmas and I was going through some of those feelings as I was writing, so it felt good to play that song at that time.
“Titty Bar Chicken” is a little dark, too, but more like dark humor.
That one came about because I was driving by — I don’t know if it was the Bus Stop or somewhere else — but it was a strip club and it said try our $5 chicken lunch special and I thought, there’s a story behind that, right down to the guy who’s ordering it and the guy who’s cooking it and what kind of guy goes to a strip club at noon for $5 chicken.
Well it’s definitely not abstract songwriting. Has direct storytelling always been your style?
The weird thing is that when I started writing songs and when I played (your newsroom’s) Second Story Garage, we played that pirate song, and that’s kind of random images strung together and there’s certainly no meaning behind it. When I got into this batch of songs, I had gotten into writing seminars and paying attention to songs I like and what was grabbing me. One of the ideas was having a central theme that everything else grows through. All those songs are trying to go back to that initial concept. I guess it was intended to be that way. I love songs like Bob Dylan’s “Gates of Eden,” and I feel like I feel the power of those images without knowing what they mean.
So what’s the central theme?
It’s kind of things that have affected me and bothered me. I’m always kind of a loner and I felt a degree of a rejection — not to get too personal. But I feel like these times are so apathetic and people are in that “whatever” kind of thing and not in touch with their feelings or the reasons why they’re doing things.
Judging by the contributing musicians on the record and at the release show, and the successful Kickstarter campaign, the community support has been solid.
It has and, I mean, people have really surprised me with it. Especially with the Kickstarter thing, you know, I got some guy from elementary school that I hadn’t even talked to since that time in my life supporting it. That was really neat … I’ve playing the Conor O’Neill’s open mic every Tuesday since I was 21. Damn near every Tuesday. In that scene, I’ve met a ton of local musicians. Danny Shafer, he and I are really close friends. I’m a big open mic nerd. I think that’s where the community aspect is for me, is in that open mic. It’s definitely a great place to kind of foster the community and take it for what it’s worth.