In anticipation to the 31st August release of "RED", we caught up with youtube sensation Hannah Trigwell to talk about the highs and lows of being truly independent, the process behind working on and releasing an independent album and going viral on Youtube.
For the last twelve years, Hannah Trigwell has been building an online fanbase for herself by posting acoustic renditions of popular pop songs. Now, with over 100 million views and 600,000 subscribers, she’s ready to unleash her first full body of work.
Released later this month, Hannah’s debut album ‘RED’ is a blend of fully-fledged pop production bops mixed in with delicate acoustic numbers. Releasing the album completely independent without any major label interference, the album is a true introduction to an artist with heaps of talent.
In anticipation to the 31st August release of ‘RED’, we caught up with Hannah to talk about the highs and lows of being truly independent and the process behind working on and releasing an independent album.
Adam Maidment, Musicngear: Being an independent artist, exposure is even more vital than ever. How do you think social media and online platforms have changed the traditional route for promotion?
Hannah Trigwell: I think it’s made it a hell of a lot more accessible. Without social media, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to reach an international audience without being a major label artist.
It’s a lot easier for independent artists to find their audiences. There’s an audience for everything and it might not necessarily be in the country you’re in. The singles I’ve released so far have done best across South East Asia, and I’ve never even been there.
A.M: Why do you think South East Asia has responded so positively to you then?
H.T: I started out by putting my own spin on popular songs through YouTube by doing acoustic covers, and those kind of videos seem to be particularly popular in that part of the world. I think the kind of music I’ve made so far is more popular over there right now.
A.M: Nice, I guess a tour of South East Asia must be on the cards then. It’d be interesting to see how UK audiences compare with those around the world.
H.T: Yeah, definitely. When I play in Germany, I’ve noticed the audiences are very different. They’re much more quiet and attentive to the point that it can sometimes feel a bit like a library. All of their attention is on you and as you’re reaching the end of the song, you sometimes wonder if they enjoyed it or not but then they start to applaud and it feels great!
In the UK and other parts of Europe, you can usually get an idea of what’s going down well by the look on people’s faces or if they’re dancing along.
A.M: One of the benefits to being independent is that you're able to have a lot more creative control. I know you’re very hands-on when it comes to your own music videos and artwork, so how important is it to you to be able to put your true identity across everything you do?
H.T: It’s made the process a lot more true to me as an artist, and that’s something that might not have otherwise been possible on a major label. In a way, it would be nice to have a whole other team of people on the visual side of things, but I really enjoy being able to make a really true part of me rather than having somebody else do the music videos and stuff – I knew exactly what I wanted.
Initially, I was either able to put out a video I directed and edited myself, or I just wasn’t able to put a video out at all. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know how to create all this kind of stuff, but it has been out of necessity as well.
The way the music industry’s going, single’s tend to be favoured more than albums
A.M: Do you think people can really get to know you through listening to ‘RED’ then?
H.T: I wanted it to be a pure version of what I want to do because with the way the music industry’s going, single’s tend to be favoured more than albums. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to even necessarily make another album because of that, so if this is going to be the album then it definitely needs to be me.
A.M: After all the hard work, how does it feel to finally be releasing your very own album?
H.T: The album was supposed to be coming out earlier this year but we had a few delays. There were a few things like how we had to wait eight weeks to get the album mixed after we’d finished recording, but being able to listen back to it over that time made us see which bits could be tightened up and it’s definitely the best it could be now.
I got to a point with it as well where, because it’s such a long process of recording, mixing, and production, I’d listen to three or four different versions of each song and I just couldn’t hear it anymore. I’m kind of relieved that it’s done and about to go out, it just gets to a point where it’s like watching the same episode of Coronation Street for the 1,000th time – it starts to make you go a bit crazy.
I can’t think who it was, maybe it was Picasso, but there was a painter who said he’d never fully finished any of his work to his own standards, he just had to stop. In his mind, he thought “I can’t do it anymore” and that’s where we got to.
A.M: Can you tell us a bit about the process behind the album? Did you already have ideas in mind for how you wanted it to sound?
H.T: I wanted it to be a mixture of acoustic and pop songs, and we’ve definitely managed to do that. In the beginning, I had a certain sound that I was going for and it was just kind of the sound that comes naturally to me – pop production stuff with the more acoustic, folk songs. We ended up experimenting with a couple of different synths and drum sounds in the mixing stage, and they helped really bring the sound to life.
The thing that was going to hold it all together as one body of work was my voice, and I feel like whilst we’ve used a lot of similar guitar tones throughout the songs, they’re used very differently to each other and its managed to work.
A.M: Was experimenting and playing with things along the way helpful during recording then?
H.T: Oh yeah, definitely. I’d have feedback from management that whilst they’d liked a certain song, they felt it needed to be brought into the 21st century a bit more. I really love writing pop songs, but when I’m left to my own devices I do tend to go a little bit oldy-worldly. When I’ve listened back to it weeks later, it makes total sense and I can hear what they mean – it’s quite hard to take a step back when you’re in the recording process.
We didn’t change anything in a way that I didn’t want to, but we definitely tweaked stuff along the way that didn’t feel right. It’s hard to hear it fresh when you’ve been involved in it for so long.
A.M: Can you explain 'RED' in just five words?
H.T: Umm, it’s an emotional rollercoaster acoustic-pop hot mess!
A.M: When it comes to touring with the album, are you most looking forward to performing the stripped-back tracks like 'Filthy Rich' or the all-out pop anthems like 'Taboo'?
H.T: The stripped-back songs are definitely easier for me to perform as it’s just me and a guitar, they almost can play themselves. With the pop stuff, I have to be a little bit more in tune with my brain and actually think a bit more about timing and stuff like that. But, yeah, I’m really looking forward to performing both kinds of songs but in completely different ways.
A.M: It must be great having different styles of music to play around with.
H.T: When I first started doing music, I just tried to do one style of music or the other but it’s just not me. It’s at a point now where I’ve been doing it for so long that I probably should just do whatever I wanna do rather than trying to make myself into a product that people expect.
It would be easier to just be one or the other but then it’d become a job for me. It doesn’t feel like a job yet, but it definitely would if I had to try and fit in. Like, I wake up on a Monday morning and I’m raring to go, I absolutely love it. If I were to just do one or the other then it wouldn’t feel great.
If everybody who wanted to do music just posted a video or livestreamed every day, they’d be able to build up an audience for themselves so fast.
A.M: To any songwriter, musician, or producer out there looking to catch their big break, what piece of advice would you give to them?
H.T: There’s a lot of people who think that they need to have the very best quality video or audio but everybody’s got a full HD camera on their phone. If everybody who wanted to do music just posted a video or livestreamed every day, they’d be able to build up an audience for themselves so fast. It’s just having that perseverance to do it.
For me, nothing happened during the first few years that I was on YouTube – it was just a trickle of a few views here and there. Once I’d been doing it persistently for a while, things started to happen. It’s just hard to get past that point of feeling that you’re just playing to no one but, it eventually happens. The problem is that a lot of musicians don’t even start, so it never happens. So, I’d just say, yeah, use your phone!
A.M: And any advice on going viral?
H.T: You’re probably just better off thinking that none of your videos are ever going to go viral, that’s what I thought. I didn’t think any of my videos would go viral because I don’t have the marketing budget or the audience. What I’ve done on YouTube isn’t ground-breaking, so I just didn’t see how it could go viral.
I think the reason a few of my videos have gone viral is because it’s real, it’s just me in my bedroom playing guitar and there’s not really any thrills about it. The first few videos of mine to do well weren’t even done on a good camera, they were just done on a seven-year old instant shot thing I had. Because I was singing about things that I connected with emotionally, I think people could just tell that it was real.