INTERVIEW: Hannah Connolly Talks Emotional Changeup On Upcoming Album ‘Shadowboxing’, New Singles, & More

If thoughtful, visceral music with the power to evoke a moment in time often drawn from own life experiences scratches an itch for you, Hannah Connolly might be the artist to look out for.

The Los Angeles Americana singer-songwriter’s upcoming album, Shadowboxing, offers an emotional changeup from her previous album, From Where You Are (2020), which forged through a journey of grief, as Connolly experienced the heartache of tragically losing her brother to a drunk driver in 2015.

The new batch of songs, though, are a bit lighter both sonically and thematically, and are written from the kind of open, compassionate perspective that only healing from such trauma can bring. The first single from the new album, “Reno” released on June 23rd, and her upcoming single, “Bags Are Packed,” is set to be released on August 23rd. 

“Reno,” which pairs a driving instrumental with one of Connolly’s more emotional vocals, chronicles relationship uncertainty, pinpointing the moments of tension and miscommunication that so often occur early in a romantic relationship.

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Connolly is a prolific creative force, continuously refining her crystalline perspective of the world that surrounds her, and is an astute observer of the human condition- one who will have many more sonic stories to share for years to come.

We got to chat with Connolly to learn more about her upcoming album, her journey to making music, what’s to come, and more.

What was your upbringing like in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and how did that affect/inspire your musical path?

Eau Claire was a great place to grow up, and the older I get, the more I appreciate my childhood there. It’s a beautiful city located on the intersection of two rivers that used to be a logging town. The population was about 60,000 people when I was young, though it’s grown a bit since. Being a smaller city, there was a sense of being surrounded by people who know you, with just enough room to grow. 

As a kid, the music programs and community arts organizations really fostered my ability to explore creativity at a young age. The local coffee shop and all ages music scene was also the perfect environment to learn how to play gigs. 

There is one venue called the Acoustic Cafe in downtown Eau Claire where I played a lot of my first shows. The last time I was back, I went and sat there in a booth for a few hours writing. Although they haven’t resumed music since the pandemic, not much else had changed and it was really sweet and nostalgic to sit there for a bit with all those memories. 

Do you remember the moment or moments when you knew you wanted to pursue a life of music-making?

I first fell in love with music through theater. I loved storytelling and performing with other people. Then music became even more personal when I learned how to write and share my own stories on guitar. 

I joined a pop-punk band as a teen and we started to do a little bit of touring which was a blast. After a few months, we took a trip down to Philadelphia to record an EP. I remember realizing during that trip that I wanted to make music for the rest of my life. 


Your upcoming single, “Bags are Packed,” drops August 23rd. What’s the backstory of the song, and what makes it important to you?

This song came out of having a job that was making me pretty unhappy. The role was intense and outside of work I was using any spare time I had for music. The lyrics are about being so excited to get done with the week and go out into the woods to record music with my friends. I hope it can be a song for anyone who’s ready to make a change or start an adventure.

Earlier this summer, you released your lead single, “Reno.” What made you choose this song as the lead opposed to the other songs? Is it autobiographical?

I chose this song as the introduction for the album because it represents some of the first feelings that showed up when we were writing: love, romanticism, and a little bit of longing. These feelings show up in a couple other songs and it felt like a fitting place to start. I also loved the way that Reno felt a bit like what the trailer to Shadowboxing would be if it were a movie. 

It is autobiographical in a lot of ways. My fiance, Eric, is also a musician and tours often. When Jordan Ruiz and I were writing it, I was thinking about what it was like early in Eric and I’s relationship when we were navigating long distance and I would go visit him on the road. 

It follows that journey of trying to stay connected from afar, and then the magnetic pull you feel when you are finally on your way to see one another again. 

What are some common themes and threads within your upcoming album, Shadowboxing?

Writing Shadowboxing was fun because from the beginning I decided to just write and experiment with whatever came up. Afterwards, I noticed there were a few themes that kept surfacing. One of those is love, because I wrote this record after meeting my fiance. There’s also songs about chasing a creative passion and how hard that can be, as well as growing up and trying to make sense of the world and your place in it. 

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How would you say your sound or style has evolved in this new album compared to your previous album?

The majority of my first album, From Where You Are, was very soft and delicate, due to the nature of what it was written about. It was produced by Jordan Ruiz and includes a lot of layered acoustics and padded bases of strings, organ and piano.

On Shadowboxing, the recordings are a bit more full, driving, and explore a wider range of emotions. This record was produced by Jon O’Brien and my partner Eric Cannata, with Jordan Ruiz and Ben Greenberg also contributing heavily in the recording process. A few of the songs we cut live together in the studio with the five of us, while others were built up piece by piece. 

We had a lot of fun playing with some indie rock and western elements, though there is definitely a strong throughline of the folk and Americana influence that has always been there. 

What was the most fulfilling and most difficult part of making this album?

One of the most fulfilling parts of making this album was the first week of recording at Jon O’Brien’s studio The Music Box in Idyllwild, CA. 

Idyllwild is an alpine town in the mountains outside of LA, and it gets snow in the winter. Eric, Jordan, Ben and I arrived on New Year’s Eve. We saw the snowfall, went sledding in the front yard with Jon’s family and all rang in the New Year together. 

The next day we started tracking. We spent that week in the woods working out and laying down a lot of the parts live, and it was so fun to hear it all come together at once. I hear a lot of the magic of that week when I listen back to the record.  

The most challenging part is hard to name. In some ways, this record was all around easier because it had so much less emotional pressure than my first album. From Where You Are was written in large part about the loss of my brother, and I put a lot of weight on myself feeling like I needed to do it “right.” It was a really difficult process.

On this record, I felt more free to experiment and make music just to make music, trying to find some joy and fun in the process. 

Last year, your cover of Billy Joel’s “Vienna” saw some viral success. What can you tell us about that experience and how that went down? And what made you choose this song to cover?

I chose to cover that song because Billy Joel’s lyrics really spoke what I needed to hear at that time. In some ways I was covering it for both other people and as a reminder to myself. I wanted to put a folk rock twist on it, so Jordan Ruiz and Ben Greenberg produced it and brought that idea to life.  

The fact that it went viral was really unexpected. A friend of mine who is also a songwriter, Sonja Midtune, shared my song with a TikTok music curator, Matt Firestine. Matt was working on a series called “Cover Songs You Should Listen To,” and he chose “Vienna” as the first song to feature. Within a few days, his TikTok had over a million plays, and my listeners rose from a couple hundred a month to over 100,000. It all happened so quickly and was very exciting. 

It made me realize you never know how life might surprise you, and felt like a reminder to just keep moving forward and doing things from the heart. 

Hannah Connolly

What does success as a songwriter mean to you?

I’m still trying to pin that down. What I keep coming back to is that I hope the music I create has a positive impact on people. It’s cliche, but that’s the most simple truth. 

Anytime I get a message from someone telling me a song was meaningful to them, it makes me feel like I am on the right path. If a song we create can be a companion to someone else, whether in sadness or joy, that feels good to hear. Those moments and messages make writing and recording music feel like a worthwhile endeavor.  

What might you have in store post-album release and the rest of the year?

I’ll be releasing more songs and videos from Shadowboxing in the coming months, but Jordan and I also just started on the next project. We’ve been recording some of my favorite songs that didn’t make it onto this album, and I’ve been beginning to write again too. 

It’s always fun to experiment with new stuff, and I’m excited to see how this next release will continue to take shape.

Hannah Connolly Tour Dates:

8/16 – Hollywood, CA – Open Folk (showcase)

9/08 – Los Angeles, CA – Hotel Cafe (2nd Stage)

9/21 – Nashville, TN – Eighth Room (Interstate 88) [AmericanaFest]

Hannah Connolly // Photo by Tammie Valer

Featured photo by Ellyn Jameson

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