How did your musical journey start?
I started singing as a kid, apparently before I could talk, my mom says. I began writing when I learned how to play the piano, around the age of 18 and also started a music education.
How did your interest in music translate into writing songs?
I noticed that all my favorite artists wrote a lot of their own material, like Sheryl Crow and Dolly Parton who both inspired me a lot. But melodies didn’t come to me until I learned chords on the piano, finding combinations that sounded good made melodies pop up in my head.
I usually start with a title, I like the title to say something about what kind of song it is, what it’s about and give the listener a feel for the song just by looking at the title. Then I make the chorus, because I want my highest and most catchy parts in the chorus. After that, I build everything else up around it. Melodies and lyrics come roughly at the same time. I try to get a good production, the competition is tough out there, and in my experience people are not as good at hearing a good song as they say, if the demo is too basic.
Working with creativity as a tool requires inspiration. How do you handle times when you’re not inspired? Do you still go to work and can you rely on experience to get ideas down? How do you handle writer’s block?
I have only had writers’s block one time, and it was the day I decided to write the best song I’d ever written. Creativity doesn’t always thrive under that kind of pressure. I can otherwise always write something, and it can be a well crafted song, but who knows why it’s sometimes something good, and one day something amazing. I guess that is the inspiration part.
As a professional songwriter, what does a day on the job entail? Walk us through a typical day in-the-life-of Hanne!
I get up in the morning, do some yoga, have a good breakfast and a cup of coffee, and I start writing quite early. I feel I work the best before lunch. My head is sharper and the ideas are better.
You’re also a performing artist. When writing songs for your own use, is anything different in the creative process or otherwise?
I always write from the heart and just see where the songs belong afterwards. I have written songs for others that I ended up singing myself – and I’ve written songs for myself that have ended up being released by other artist. That has worked out for the best. If I’m writing songs about something really personal, I always imagine singing them myself. Daring to be honest and raw can often turn into a really great song, so these songs usually get interest from other artists as well.
You have written many songs that ended up in the Eurovision Song Contest. Is it a different “formula” when writing for this type of scenario and if so, how?
I have only once written with Eurovision specifically in mind, it was “My Heart is Yours” for Norway’s contribution in 2010. The other seven contributions were just songs from different sessions that ended up there. But I learned to never let the momentum drop – a song in Eurovision should always keep climbing to highlights at the end.
You have done many co-writes over the years, maybe most notably “My Destiny,” which was performed by Catherine McPhee in the American Idol finals back in 2006. Do you enjoy writing in teams? What are some of the up and downsides of co-writing? Is it something you’d recommend to new, aspiring writers?
Writing in different teams is the best way to become a really good well-rounded songwriter, because if you can manage the social skill it is to work with different writers you can get invited to a lot of exciting projects and it will make your craft better for every new session. Then when you find a perfect fit, you know, and you can work more with the same people, challenge each other and make each other better. In my experience, there is a key to a good team and it is to have roughly the same taste in what makes a good song, otherwise you just compromise and that is never a good idea in songwriting.
If you look back on your entire catalogue up until now, is there any one song that stands out to you on a personal level? A song that means a lot to you and if so, why?
I will always cherish “On Jupiter” because it’s a personal song and the only song I’ve said no to other artists who wanted to record. I’m just really happy with the concept, the theory of the failed relationship that might work if it got a new chance on another planet under totally different circumstances. That’s love’s tireless hopeful thinking, that always looks for a possibility even when you know on some level that it’s hopeless.
If someone reads this and knows they have tons of great songs written, but haven’t taken the leap of getting those songs off their computer to potential artists – what would your tips to that person be?
Keep writing and improving your craft, talk about your music and involve people in it on all the platforms available today, send it to publishers, record labels, get out there and get to know people, develop friendships and collaborations instead of “networking.” That way you’ll have fun too, and it’s worth it either way. Life shouldn’t be a constant hassle, and neither should writing and pursuing a career in music. Yes, it requires hard work, but try to lighten up around it and stay positive and focused. It’s always good enough to do your best.
Finally, what’s next on your agenda?
I have been releasing a few new songs this year and I can’t wait to come out and play more live for people again!