Although singer/songwriter Hannah Wicklund, frontperson for blues rockers Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones, is just 20 years old, she’s already more than a decade into her career as a professional musician. Last week saw the release of the band’s self-titled LP, produced by Sadler Vaden of Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. They’re currently on tour, promoting their latest sounds, and last week I got a chance to chat with Hannah from the road. When I ask about the highlights of her career, she tells me that the past year has given her a lot of inspiration.
“A lot of those came last year. Recording my new album, that was definitely a highlight. I had put out a few LPs and a few EPs in the past, but this was definitely the most cohesive, most fulfilling recording experience. And last year I got to play KAABOO Del Mar, this huge festival and Tom Petty headlined, who is like my family’s idol, so getting to play our set and then two hours later be watching Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers was really amazing. And I got to play this really amazing theatre where I saw Susan Tedeschi when I was younger. It’s the only time I got to see her and it was my fifth grade graduation present, but it was so great. I got to go backstage and give her flowers… But yeah, that was the Lucas Theatre in Savannah, Georgia, and I got to play there last year. Those are probably the three biggest highlights.”
Like their previous work, Hannah Wicklund and The Steppin Stones’ latest LP rings of 1960s and 1970s rock but, when I ask how it compares to previous releases, Hannah tells me that she feels as though she kicked her songwriting up a notch for this one: “I definitely think it’s my most matured piece of work. In the past I’ve always written from experience and written about life, but it wasn’t always necessarily 100% genuine. I mean, I was a lot younger and hadn’t live much life, so sometimes I would kind of be making it up.” And when I ask about her biggest musical influences, she confirms what most fans would’ve guessed, although does point out that she had a few far-less-obvious influences that are equally significant.
“Honestly, I’m just a classic rock girl. It’s what I listen to and where most of my influences come from, although when I’m going into a project I’m not really trying to compare myself to anyone. But I really love Fleetwood Mac and Jimi Hendrix, he’s one of my favorite guitarists, and I love Amy Winehouse, even though that’s a little more recent. And there’s Etta James. I never really talk about that, but she was my favorite singer growing up.”
Although Hannah Wicklund is originally from Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, like many of PHILTHY’s favorite artists, she’s currently based out of Nashville. Although, during our recent chat, she claims to be a big fan of the city, but admits that she hasn’t yet familiarized herself with it to the degree that she would like: “It’s amazing. I’ve only been there for a year and a half, but I feel like I would be in a very different position otherwise, because of the culture there. Although the first week I moved there I left for a two-month tour and I’ve basically been on tour the whole time I’ve lived there, so I’m still relatively new to the city.”
The band have dubbed their current batch of dates the Sibling Rivalry Tour, which has Hannah double-headlining alongside The High Divers, a Charleston-based rock group fronted by her brother, Luke Mitchell. The tour will find itself at our very own MilkBoy (MilkBoy, Not MilkBoy South) this Friday, February 2nd. When I ask Hannah what can be expected of the evening with her Steppin Stones and The High Divers, she tells me that not only is it a true double-headlining bill, but that there will be a lot of overlap between the two acts.
“We definitely have a ton of collaborations. We fashioned this tour after the Tom Petty/Bob Dylan tour, where Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers opened up and then came back to back Dylan up. My brother will come back and be playing drums and Kevin Early, who has been a family friend forever, will be on bass. And we’ll bring everybody back out at the end to play some songs that are really important for our family.”