Music artist Carlie Hanson in a bathtub during a press photoshoot (Photo by Jackson Dobbin)
Santiago Canyon College

Interview: Wisconsin-native Carlie Hanson on translating the bad habits of her teenage years to pop single “Toxins”

Drifting along the halls of The Chicago Theatre before her fourth performance on “The Bloom Tour” in support of headliner Troye Sivan, 18-year-old musical artist Carlie Hanson answers the phone as if we are old friends. In our mere fifteen minute phone call it becomes apparent how her electrifying and hypnotic energy has elevated Hanson to the brink of mainstream success.

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Hanson spent her youth sending emails to Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun with links to covers she uploaded on YouTube. Not attracting the attention of Scooter Braun, she instead accumulated over 14,800 views on a 30-second cover of “Pillowtalk” by Zayn posted to her Instagram; making her the newest name in a series of artist like Justin Bieber and Post Malone with origins tied to social media.

Though social media has become a popular outlet for connecting upcoming artist with music industry moguls, Hanson transcends the restraints of the industry and has not yet signed to a label. Establishing herself as an emerging artist over the last year, she continues to release singles alongside notable writers & producers such as Leland, A.G. Cook and Big Taste prior to the upcoming release of her debut EP, which the name and date of release is yet to be announced.

Recently debuted single “Toxins” is an ode to the bad habits of her teenage years, that paired with a dance-pop melody, sounds like a hybrid between Lorde and Billie Eilish. The prevalent pop sound on “Toxins,” and her fellow singles, is complemented with elements of rap and alternative rock, in which Hanson credits artists like Post Malone, who has not restricted his music to a singular genre, for her experimentation with different sounds.

Single “Toxins” was released on October 19, can you take into your mindset when you wrote this song?

Carlie Hanson: “Anytime I write a song it’s always different. I’ll either come in with an idea or concept and bring it to the other writer in the room or tell the producer and we’ll go from there. And other than that, it will be different, like the producer will set the beat out and I’ll just go in on the mic and sing whatever melodies come to mind, and then we’ll make a song out of that. ‘Toxins’ was a funny one to write because initially it started out being a song of me talking about my bad habits and sh*t. And the pre[-chorus] is actually supposed to be talking to my drug dealer. If you listen back to the pre[-chorus], you’ll understand. But yeah, that’s how that one started.”

How do you keep such a laid-back attitude that is very true to yourself in an industry that can be very manipulative?

CH: “I’ve always been that, since I was young. And I guess, it’s just kind of how I grew up. Just being raised so well. Especially just learning more about who I am, I just became more confident. And I don’t know, it’s a f**king gift I guess.”

Do you have a debut EP in the works?

CH: “I’ve been continuously making music for the past two and a half [months], and I never really was thinking about… I wasn’t writing for anything specifically. Like I wasn’t writing for this project, I was always making a new song everyday, and eventually it finally turned into this project. And it’s cool how it all came together, and definitely the songs that are going to be on it, they’re definitely more mature than even if you go back to ‘Why Did You Lie?’ or even ‘Only One.’ There’s already a growth, and I think that’s really cool and I’m still so early into this. There’s more guitar. There’s more real drums, which I’m excited for people to hear, because I don’t want to just be put in the pop genre. Post Malone is a great example of somebody who creates whatever the f**k he wants and doesn’t get put in any category. That’s really cool. So that’s kind of what I was aiming for.”

How would you define your sound? And who has influenced your sound?

CH: “The cool thing with my music is it’s basically a mixture of my inspirations. I grew up listening to Avril Lavigne, Evanescence, and Lacuna Coil, like weird rock bands because of my older sister. Not weird, they’re not weird at all, they’re f**king dope. I feel like [also] Pearl Jam [and] Nirvana. Nirvana is one of my biggest inspirations. Kurt Cobain, Tracy Chapman, Red Hot Chili Peppers, that’s a lot of what I grew up on, and as I got older and discovered the internet I found Justin Bieber and One Direction, literally anybody. I will listen to anything, except country. I am also a huge fan of rap too, and that definitely shows in my music.”

What is your opinion on the new generation of artist like yourself that have gotten their start from platforms, like YouTube and SoundCloud?

CH: “Justin Bieber is like one of my biggest inspirations. He’s pretty much the reason why I do what I do, because I remember being nine or ten-years-old and going on YouTube and seeing his YouTube channel, and I was like, ‘Dude, that’s so cool. How he’s so young and getting all these view just signing in his bedroom.’ And so I found that inspiring, and started posting video all the time on different platforms like Facebook, YouTube, whatever, just to get myself out there. I would even like f**king email Scooter Braun, his f**king manager, and just be like, ‘Oh my God, please look at my YouTube videos.’ Like I would do all this sh*t to try and get kind of noticed. The reason why I’m here is a cover that I posted on Instagram. It’s crazy how far just a thirty-second video can get you. I think it’s amazing that we have platforms that are able to do that, and as much as social media can be a b*tch sometimes, that’s the worst great thing about it is there’s endless possibilities when it comes to posting anything online.”

Currently on tour with Troye Sivan, what elements go into your live show? And what is your current setlist?

CH: “So my live show, it’s me and I have a guitar player, his name’s Ryan [Kern]. And then I have a drummer, his name is Tosh [Peterson], and he’s 17, he’s younger than me and he graduate high school early. So it’s cool to have him, because he’s young, and it’s cool to have a younger person, because I’m surrounded by old people here. Not old people, but just like adults. I’m really happy that I’m fortunate enough to get a band, and not just sing to tracks. It’s much more real, it’s much more fun too when it’s an actually band behind me. My setlist for the Troye tour right now is ‘Why Did You Lie?’ [and] ‘Toxins,’ which is out now so hopefully more people will be able to sing along with that. And then this song ‘Hazel,’ that I have and been playing at every show that I’ve been doing, and that isn’t out yet obviously, but it’s going to come out on an EP [which] I’m going to be putting out soon. And then ‘Only One’ and ‘Us.'”

Have you noticed a shift in the way people treat your when you return to your hometown in Wisconsin? And have you become a sort of hometown hero?

CH: “Actually the last time I went home I had gone to a few parties with my friends, and I definitely realized a difference in the environment, like how people look at me and will talk to me now. So they definitely know what’s going on, because my town is so small and everybody knows each other. It’s really strange now. It’s funny how people who didn’t like me or didn’t talk to me before will come up to me and be like, ‘Oh my God. We need to like hang out blah, blah, blah.’ But, we’ve never talked with each other before. It’s funny, but most of it’s good. I have a very supportive support system back home.”

Pending the release of Carlie Hanson’s debut EP, follow her on Instagram @carliehanson, on Twitter @carliehanson, and listen to the official audioof “Toxins.”

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