By Julijana Capone
CALGARY — It started out as a challenge. Four years ago, nascent indie-pop singer-songwriter Adam Hanney put himself to task to write one song every month for a year. The resulting tracks are an audio portrait of a year in the artist’s life, and form his debut LP, fittingly titled, 12/12.
Armed with an acoustic guitar and a desire to build his own song catalogue, the then 18-year-old Hanney dove head first into the songwriting process, finding and forcing inspiration throughout the year.
“It was such a haphazard thing,” says Hanney. “I only had 30 days to come up with the arrangement… I would write little thoughts down in my phone all the time… sometimes it would be building the song from absolutely nothing, and trying to force it to come together, which is a good exercise for any songwriter.”
While the bare bones of each song was initially conceived by Hanney solo, the songs would be fleshed out over the next few years with a full band, hence the “& Co.” in Adam Hanney & Co.
“Nothing was written outside of the studio other than the lead guitar, the lyrics, and the melody,” explains Hanney. “A lot of the remaining parts happened over the course of years, so it was a good experience to reflect on a song that you had written years ago, and you’d have to build on it using different methods of songwriting.”
“As much as they were written, it didn’t feel like they were fully formed,” he adds. “It still felt like they had a lot of potential to go in different directions musically. We had to write every drum part, every guitar lick, every keyboard part in the studio.”
The added instrumentation pays off with numbers, such as “Howl”—also the first track that Hanney wrote, and one that he says began as a forced exercise. Stinging guitar licks, shimmering synths, and ticking percussion punctuate Hanney’s careening vocals, while also revealing the songwriter’s anthemic indie-rock ambitions.
Some Manitoba music scene pals also make appearances on the record. Jess Rae Ayre of Sweet Alibi provides backing vocals on “Manhattan,” and Adam Fuhr of Yes We Mystic contributes some synth parts.
Though the record’s sequencing runs askew from the chronology in which it was written, the physical format includes a booklet with lyrics, and a corresponding number for each song that denotes the month and year it was created.
Hanney suggests listening to the album from both angles for an alternate experience. “I think it’s really interesting listening to it chronologically,” he says. “I did it recently and I was really surprised at how well it worked.”
On the heart-stricken slow burn “Manhattan,” and closing kiss-off “Wait,” Hanney reflects on the end of a long-term relationship. He confesses that the breakup was especially motivating for his songwriting.
“I find that I am exponentially more creative when I’m sad,” he says with a laugh. “I remember being up at like three in the morning and writing that all in one go.”
Indeed, the album is as much about the self-discovery of an 18-year-old as it is about the arduous process of songwriting and its rewards.
“That was why I did this, “ says Hanney. “It was fundamentally an exercise in songwriting. I just wanted to get some songs and I wanted to get better at writing them.”
Adam Hanney & Co. perform at the Park Theatre on May 18 (Winnipeg), Fratters on May 20 (Red Deer), The Biltmore Cabaret on May 26 (Vancouver), Upstairs Cabaret on May 28 (Victoria) and The Almanac on May 31 (Edmonton). To purchase or to listen to 12/12, head to adamhanney.co.AB, Adam Hanney & Co., Alberta, BC, Biltmore Cabaret, British Columbia, Fratters, Park Theatre, The Almanac, Upstairs Cabaret