A few minutes ago, here at Red Betty’s in Brunswick the noise was droning through our ears as we engaged in conversation across the table and greeted friends as they arrived. In one small yet poignant moment there’s not a sound to be heard bar that of the artist on stage. There she stands, this diminutive little figure on a stage with her faithful axe and not much else. She strums her first chord and silences the crowd with her raw, vulnerable vocals. She is Melbourne folk singer/songwriter Hannah Potter!
You can see how nervous she is her gaze is directed up at the ceiling as she sings, and the strength of her strumming sometimes wanes but somehow this all comes together, and the fragility bestowed upon the crowd is awe inspiring and captivating!
The set had changing dynamics, slight pauses and hushed tones indicating that Potter was in complete and total command of her anecdotes. Lyrically there was a wide range of topics addressed in a most simplistic yet mesmerizing manner and all with a strong undertone of compassionate and sometimes activist thinking.
Musically there was just the guitar. It was used to accentuate the performance yet played with a soft approach and not as complex in detail as the lyrical content of the performance. Tonight, the guitar was simply an accessory and the voice and lyrics were the authoritative masters.
I was intrigued by this artist and how she came at a young age to be able to encapsulate an entire room within her zone with such ease. I caught up with Hannah after her set and delved more into the who, what and where’s of her musicianship.
What’s the Hannah Potter story?
Well the Hannah story, where should I start? Oh…OK…I’m originally from Colorado, I was born there. I moved here when I was 10 with my dad. We moved to Melbourne and grew up in Fitzroy. Basically, I just had parents who liked music, so I was around music growing up. I got a guitar when I was 12. I went to like Open Mics as a teenager which was fun because I was underage to be in those places but my dad was with me. I started like playing music properly maybe when I was about 18 or 19 for selling. I’m 21 now. I haven’t recorded anything yet I just kind of play gigs.
Who are your influences?
I remember my dad used to get a lot of albums, he was like always getting a bunch of albums every single week, it was basically the only thing he spent his money on, and I was very upset. He was always bringing in all these different artists and stuff and he started bringing in Cat Power and Beth Orton. I listened to a lot of Nick Cave when I was a kid because like Murder Ballads came out when I was young and my first memory of it is like listening to Where The Wild Roses Grow and being like why did he do that to her? and like asking my parents why did he bash her head in with a rock? And they’d like have to explain it to me. I think the first album I remember ever hearing was Cat Powers You Are Free and there’s a song on the album called Names and I don’t know like I was never really interested in playing music before that until I heard that song and it kinda like switched on a little bit and I asked my dad if I could have a guitar for Christmas. My dad used to be a musician and he plays Bass and he figured well if I get a guitar if she doesn’t play it then I can play it but I ended up playing it. So, I just started learning the basic chords and learnt how to play by playing Cat Power covers.
What genre do you place your music in?
Oh-Ah I don’t know…I guess some people would say like alternative or something like that…but I’m not really sure I just call it girl with a guitar mostly.
Tonight, you did a song where you referred to a cabbage head who is one of our wonderful politicians, we won’t name him but tell me how you came to write that song…
Well I was just reading news articles on immigration policies and it just got me really upset, I was peeved you could say that. Um I was reading articles about life on Manus Island and I was just like fucking hell this is something that everyone knows about at this point and it’s just so screwed up! I just think it’s really weird how we just decide to treat people as less than human just because they’re not like white and you know we colonize them white Australians. Yeah I was just kinda like wow there’s all this stuff that we know of and it just keeps happening and we keep doing these things to like what end…there is no real end. I just think it’s weird how you know like we’re a society that kinda talks about you know things like the Holocaust in the past tense when really like we’re still perpetrating those things all the time and we talk about Nazi Germany, this horrible time and these horrible people and we’re pretty much doing the exact same things. We’re told it’s a detention center well no it’s a fucking concentration camp. Your marginalizing them to a point where all they know is agony and desperation um so yeah that’s how the song came about.
If you were given the opportunity to work with one Australian artist and to team up as a duo who would it be?
Ohhhh I don’t know…She’s not Australian but she’s a Kiwi and that’s Sarah Mary Chadwick cause I think I’ve really gotten into her this past year and I think what we kinda do is just pretty similar where ahhh she’s pretty basic in like the music she just has a guitar or a piano most of the time and she creates a lot of that internal dialogue if that makes sense. But I really like it because she’s kinda got this song writing style where she talks about how she feels which is really cool to me.
So just in finishing, where can we find your music?
There we have it…a little more than we had before, an insight into the artist Hannah Potter is and where her future lies! She’s gigging around Melbourne and you don’t want to miss seeing her when she next visits your favourite local.