Catch up with singer-songwriter Hannah Sumner, watch the video for her latest single "How To Stop" off her debut To The Almost EP (out now), and look for her to release her forthcoming Guesthouse EP.
What got you interested in music?
Hannah: I went to Berklee College of Music and there everyone [laughs] - I had just arrived - and everyone was just like, "so what's your music like?" and I was like, "uhhhh" [laughs]. So that's what first got me writing and I did a lot of co-writing when I first started. But then, when I started to write on my own was when, after college, I moved back home and I didn't know anyone and got a little depressed and I had to make music on my own with GarageBand, I think is what I had at the time. I would just fiddle around and then wake up the next morning and decide if it was good and that's how I wrote "How To Stop" actually. That was back in those days, it was one of the first songs I wrote; listened to a lot of Björk [laughs] and wrote music.
Do you remember the first concert you went to?
[Laughs] Yeah, when I was really young, I was living in South Dakota [laughs] and my parents took me to see DC Talk [laughs]. I think I was in first or second grade, so I felt really cool.
Which musicians have you been influenced by?
Feist; Björk; Imogen Heap; Everything But The Girl, I listened to a lot growing up. Yeah, those are my main ones [laughs]. I'm just basically listing the ones that I listened to the most while writing this music.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard your music before?
It's moody, mellow, electronic pop.
What were your inspirations behind your single and the video for "How To Stop"?
"How To Stop" is about that temptation that you want to give into and the chorus is saying, "when we get into it, we will know how they do it"; it's like, let's just get into this and then we'll just deal with it, everything will be fine [laughs], we'll feel amazing. And the music video, basically, the figure is like that temptation in your brain that just comes to life and, all of a sudden, it takes over you and you give in to it and then, by the end, it consumes you a bit. It's going to keep coming back so, in the end, she's left and she's looking at the room where it happened and it's like, okay, let's go back in the room, let's figure it out [laughs] back where it all happened.
Could you tell us more about your Guesthouse EP and how it compares to To The Almost?
Yeah, To The Almost were some of the first songs that I wrote. I just wrote them all on GarageBand and then Avi Gunther came in and put on these amazing string arrangements and productions. To The Almost was a lot about all the relationships I had in my early 20's, whether they had been romantic or not. It was about me discovering who I was: I had just moved to New York, I was discovering who I was as a musician, as a person, and was going through a lot of, you know, the first people you meet sometimes aren't the most healthy for you, but they're the only people you know and you're like, "oh, okay, yeah" [laughs]. So that's what To The Almost is about, it's about that almost love, that almost relationship, and it explores all of that. Guesthouse is a collaborative album so Guesthouse features a different producer for every single track and it's very electronic based and it's more based on an apocalyptic kind of inner world. There are still some songs about relationships, but it's based more on the world and the Earth and where we're at with that. And it's going to be a very visual album again, lots of visuals happening with it.
Is there one track off this EP that you're most excited to share?
Guesthouse is still coming together; all the demos are done but it's all the polishing that's happening now and there's all the visuals that I'm making for it and every one is a different collaboration so it's not - yeah, I couldn't choose off of Guesthouse, 'cause they all bring out different parts of me. It's like having a relationship with different people [laughs] someone would get mad. Off of To The Almost, I think "How To Stop" and the last track, "Know How"; "Know How" is about being in love with someone that can't love you back.
You're performing at Rockwood Music Hall Monday, do you have a favorite song to perform live?
Well I've got some new music that I'm going to be performing at Rockwood, as well... You know what, live, it's just so great, because live I am constantly pushing my musicians and we're constantly getting more and more electronic as we get ready for Guesthouse; so we've got drum pads and my guitar player's got a bunch of pedals so his guitar doesn't feel like a guitar anymore, and synthesizers. We're exploring that so, overall, live, that's always what my favorite part is, is how much more can we turn this into a different world? Because for Guesthouse, for the next project, I'm using a lot of different art mediums: I'm using dancers, I'm using visual mappers, I want to have a show that completely transforms so that you're completely immersed in it. So that's the goal for that next show and that's what we're constantly working towards and, for this show, for Rockwood, I'm really excited because I've made a lot of changes and it's really fun to take those songs and transform them live because it's a different beast live, sometimes it calls for different things. I'm really excited.
What do you hope your listeners are able to take away from your music?
Well what I love when I listen to music is I love to feel kind of like I'm bathed underwater - I like to feel like I'm consumed by it - so I hope that my listeners can find that beauty. Even though the music is dark, it still is beautiful; it can be a little sad, but it's still uplifting and beautiful and I hope that my listeners take that way. That they feel like they can get both of those dualities while listening to it because I think that that always helped me, listening to music, that even though it was maybe a dark subject or a sad subject, it felt beautiful and immersive and it allowed me to find the light in those darker feelings.
Is there anything you want to add?
Just that, in music, no one person can get there on their own and so I've been really lucky to work with the people that I've worked with and that I'm really grateful for that and really fortunate.