Interview with Hana Williams aka Honey Stretton

Honey Stretton is the solo vehicle of  London-based singer/songwriter Hana Williams. Wake The Deaf described her music as “bedroom pop from a bygone era”, which is just about perfect.  Her beautiful first EP, “Wail” has just been released on Canigou Records, a collective label  operating out of South East London. We were delighted when Hana agreed to  answer a few questions for us.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How long you’ve been writing music?

I grew up in rural Australia, it was very isolated and I felt really free to roam. I became obsessed with guitar when I was 10 – I used to go and write songs on a huge rock that jutted out of a hill near my house. I called it ‘Pride Rock’ because my favourite film was Lion King 2 (still is). I probably picked up song-writing seriously when I was 15, years after I had moved to London. This year, my friends (Carlos and Jack) and I started a label called Canigou Records, also named after a rock.

Tell us about the release of “Wail” on Canigou – where was it recorded? What are the songs about?  

Wail is my first proper release. The music was recorded in my bedroom – Jack and I recorded it together using a 4-track and my other little cassette recorder with a really tiny, characterful mic. This was the first time I had produced music like this. I’ve always had a terrible relationship with digital technology and would feel so cheated and angry at the fact that this seemed to be the only way to record (or exist!). The technology always felt intangible.. and expensive. So it has taken me a long time to figure out what is good for me and finding this has completely changed my relationship with music. I feel in control now. I would encourage anyone to try changing it up if they feel similarly.

Most of the EP looks into the ways in which women deal with and react inside abusive relationships, it is a dark and complicated world and has been very interesting to write about as well as heart-breaking. I am hoping to raise as much money as I can from the release to donate to a charity that helps women escape from and deal with the effects of domestic violence.

Wail is being released on a small number of cassettes. It seemed like the right format, as this was the way it was recorded. Each of them comes with unique hand-drawn artwork done by my wonderful friend Tiarn Binder. They all have their own little personality and although I’m so excited to be selling them, I’m already finding it hard to see them go!

What was the first piece of music you loved, and why? 

The music of the films I watched when I was really small has always stuck with me and still influences my music now. I remember being especially transfixed by the music from Dumbo. Listen to Baby Mine.

What is your favourite song that you’ve written and why?

Hmm, I am too critical of myself to really like a song of mine… but the song I am probably most emotionally involved with is Wail. I spent such a long time trying to get this song right. We changed it so many times, over and over again, and in the end we went with the original version. Along the way, I had sucked the bluntness out of it, which was the whole point of the song.

How do you approach writing new material? Do you have a structured approach or do you go with the muse?

I only ever write when I’m totally absorbed by something. I usually write the music first. Music will instantly take on my mood, but often my mood takes away my words… so I find lyrics really hard and they usually take a long time. Most of my songs are still unfinished when it comes to lyrics.

Do you enjoy playing live? Where do you feel more at home in the recording studio or on stage?

Recording studios make me feel so uncomfortable. Sadly, I think that might be a gender stereotyping issue. So I really love producing at home. Playing live is okay… sometimes it feels amazing and sometimes I’m so scared I can’t enjoy it. I really get down if it doesn’t go well.

What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?

“Between us” by my best friend Laura McCafferty. I believe her album may be coming out next year… very exciting!

We couldn’t find that so here’s something else (it’s great!)

What artist(s) has been your biggest influence and in what way?

More recently, it has been Eden Ahbez, Dave Bixby and Victor Jara. They all have ‘the feeling’. When I met Jack, he showed me album after album of great music, but these ones stuck. I thank Jack for not only having an amazing taste in music but also for passing it on. Lucky me!

Name a song that makes you happy and why does it have that effect?

Only Tomorrow by MBV. However, any of my closest friends know that if I’m having a particularly bad day, the best thing to do is to stick headphones on me and play ‘Don’t Panic’ and ‘Sparks’ by Coldplay… embarrassing? Maybe. But left on repeat, I’ll sleep like a baby. It’s worked for me since I discovered the Parachutes CD under my sister’s bed when I was 11.

What is the best (other) new band that you’ve heard recently?

I am in love with a song called “drømmen” by Norwegian artist, Jenny Berger Myhre. We’re releasing an album of hers next year, I can’t wait!

What do you think of music streaming sites like Spotify and Deezer?

I think they are really clever and great for finding new music, but I still believe in buying music…

What song would you like to have played at your funeral?

I don’t think I want to have a funeral – I’d prefer to live on as a tree.

The Honey Stretton Playlist

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