Her voice is soulful and raw. Her music is personal and beautiful. Those are just some of the words to describe Montreal born singer-songwriter Hanorah. If someone made a hybrid of Janis Joplin and Joss Stone, Hanorah would be the result. The young musician is having quite the year; she released her first EP "For the Good Guys and the Bad Guys", she is also embarking on a North American tour and will opening for the legendary Mavis Staples at the Rialto Theatre during POP Montreal. In the midst of a busy schedule, I had the chance to speak with Hanorah about the year is she having, her influences and more.
Before we go any further, I need to mention that you're going to be sharing the stage with Mavis Staples. How does that make you feel?
I know! I think two days after I heard that I quit my job. It was getting hard to juggle everything and we were getting more high profile gigs. The same day I heard about the Mavis Staples show, I also heard I was going to be doing my first American tour and that I would be performing with The Brooks at the Montreal Jazz fest opening concert. It's such an exciting time and I'm not really sure how to feel; it's so much so quick. I'm over the moon.
How did you feel performing at the Montreal Jazz Festival's opening concert in front of 30,000 people?
It was the biggest crowd I've played for to date, like it's so big you can't process how many people are out there watching you. It's weird because the intimate shows I play in front of 30 people are scarier than performing for 30,000. I loved playing with The Brooks and the other singers I got to sing with Kim Richardson, Marie-Christine and Fredy V, it was so much fun.
Where did the name Hanorah come from?
It's actually my middle name. It's also an Irish name and the first name of the woman who adopted my father.
When did you start singing?
It was always in the family and I sang growing up. In my early teens I discovered the music of Otis Redding and Etta James and that was a real turning point for me. So I would sing these old soul songs, and even some blues and rock songs in the house. Unfortunately when I was 18 years old I experienced a sexual assault that was really difficult and traumatic, and for many years there was this dark cloud hanging above me. One day after reading testimonies from other survivors, I had built up enough strength to come to the conclusion that what happened wasn't my fault and I didn't deserve to live a miserable and angry life forever. In 2015 I took the plunge and wrote to everyone I knew that could've produced music with me. That lead me to find my now guitarist and boyfriend, Paul De Rita, then we formed our band, kept on writing songs, I was on La Voix (Quebec's version of The Voice), and that got me enough visibility to find my team at Dare To Care Records and here we are. It's been an incredible journey.
Do you have a favourite musical memory from your childhood?
I have a few; one of the main memories I have is of my Dad's band, they'd play everything from soul, R&B, funk and classic rock. The other memory I have is of my Mom singing gospel music in the People's Gospel Choir of Montreal at St-James Church. My sister and I would go on rehearsal nights and we'd play in the church while they sang, and I'll never forget that feeling of hearing those harmonies bounce off the big ceiling, it gave me goosebumps.
Have the earliest songs you've written seen the light of day?
Some of them we still play. "Clementine" would be the earliest one that we still play, and that is a very literal song about my experience, and that was a turning point song for me. The songs are all connected to the human journey and that's how I process stuff.
Do you get nervous before a show?
Honestly more now than before. Since the album launch it's as if this is more serious now, but once I get up there I know what I'm doing and who I am. The task is to tell stories and connect with people.
Do you have a creative process?
Sometimes I'll go a few weeks or even months without writing, but I'll always have a melody come out. I used to write poems and adapt them to some chords that Paul would come up with, but I've been noodling around with a guitar more often now that I play, so I'll have a melody and then write lyrics around it.
Who are some of your favourite artists or musicians?
I mentioned earlier Etta James and Otis Redding, there's also Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone and Aretha Franklin.
What is your favourite movie?
It's so nerdy but I love it: Practical Magic.
Vinyl, CD or digital?
I enjoy the convenience of digital but I love holding a record in hands and hearing the crackle of the needle on a vinyl.
What inspires you?
Living or passed on, who would you love to share a stage with?
Living: Joss Stone. I would lose my mind - she was such a huge influence for me. Passed on: Janis Joplin. That would be wild.
What is your ultimate goal?
That's such a good question because in the last couple of months I've accomplished most of the goals I thought would be long term goals, so now I need to make new ones. The new goal has to be giving back and serving people with what you're doing. That is my main focus now when playing a show, writing a song and every interaction that I go into, I want to be there with a positive mentality.
Be sure to listen to Hanorah's electric EP "For the Good Guys and the Bad Guys" out now, and catch her on her North American tour including a stop in Montreal at the Rialto Theatre on September 29th with Mavis Staples. You can get more info online at hanorah.ca - dont' miss it.
Gianni Fiasche lives and breathes all that is entertainment. Since a very young age he has been a film and music enthusiast. Gianni watches and reviews over 200 films a year, attends hundreds of concerts, and loves listening to old and new music. When he isn’t doing these activities, you’ll find him spending quality time with family and friends. You can follow him on Instagram as @snobreviews.