Years, the hugely personal debut album from Hanna Hush, received a warm welcome when it finally arrived late last year and 2024 should see this Finnish singer reach a much wider audience. Vintage Rock meets her to find out more…

Brought up in the small town of Haapavesi in Finland, Hanna Hush was singing and playing piano from a very early age. Further formative experiences performing in competitions and playing with folk groups led to something more seismic at the age of just 15 when she moved away to study music in high school. “Everything kind of blew up in my face when I took singing lessons and started my first rock band,” she explains.

With her family introducing her to country, gospel and even progressive rock, Hanna has also been exposed to classical and folk music and this wide range of influences seems to have been distilled into a debut album which is undeniably rockin’ but with just a little more depth.

Hanna Hush - On the Radar
Image credit: Matias Aakko

There seems to be a lot of different elements within the songs on Years. Have you always had eclectic musical tastes?

After high school I started my professional education in music and got into the subject so widely that I feel like I have been driven to have eclectic tastes. As a singing and music teacher, I also have to be broad-minded to all kinds of styles. That’s why I always try to keep an open heart when dealing with music and try to find something good in every song even though everything is not my cup of tea.

What was it about rock’n’roll that particularly grabbed your attention?

I think it was the energy and that raw, straight power… but also the people. I noticed that there was this huge group spirit. Everyone in the scene was so down to earth and I loved that. When I started going to gigs for the first time I remember being amazed at how artists came into the crowd, checked out other bands and were partying with everyone. There were no boundaries between the bands and the audience and that’s how the music came closer to you – like one big family.

How long was the journey in the creation of your debut album Years?

About two-and-a-half years, but the journey has actually been my whole life before the release. I have written the songs over the years and some of the material is originally from high school times while others are newer. The material has been changing over time but I think that these songs were truly born with this current line-up.

Hanna Hush album Years
Hanna Hush – Years

Could you tell us a little bit about your band? They all sound like very accomplished musicians.

They totally are. Henri Jokinen is a professional guitarist, composer, guitar teacher and also does arrangements, producing and recording. Henri’s background is in jazz, and you can hear it in the rich melodies that he plays and his improvisational skills. Juha Kujanen on bass has a background in psychobilly, rockabilly and punk and has been on the scene for a very long time with the likes of Cosmic Cockfish Jukebox, The Cellar Beasts and the rock’n’roll band Rebound. Drummer Ville Ilmari Niska has a background in indie and metal but also in roots music. You could say that the Hanna Hush sound is like it is because every musician brings their own different background.

Who handled production duties?

We produced this album ourselves. Every one of us was involved in arranging but Henri Jokinen and myself were the main producers, mostly because the songs are mine and the guitar plays such a big role. He also recorded the band parts. My vocals were recorded by my friend Jarkko Henrik Viinamäki who also did the mastering. Special guest Thomas Pareigis recorded his singing parts himself and Joel Attila mixed the album. It was pretty clear with everyone how we wanted it to sound. We took the time to fix the sounds perfectly when we were recording – the idea was that there was not much to mix, we just had to polish and sharpen the original idea.

For a debut, it’s very well crafted. Did you always want to make sure it was the best it could be before it was released?

I’ve always thought that when I record, I want to record something that is its best at that particular moment. There are always things you would do differently, or you hear things you would like to fix afterwards, but you need to make the best at that moment and then let it all go. When you give things the time that they need then you can stand behind everything .

The lyrics  feel very personal. Is it easy to bare your soul or just something you feel driven to do?

I’ve had difficulties when speaking out loud about things that are hard for me. I like to write things down to get it all out. For me, it’s easier to put the message into one song, though all the lyrics are not straight from my own life. There are lots of things going on: alter egos, noticing the people and situations around you and, well, basically life. Sometimes it’s your own soul and sometimes it’s someone else’s soul on the line.

Has Marko Hakala from Jungle Records always been supportive over the years?

Jungle have supported the whole scene in Finland for so long and all the respect goes to Hakki. He saw us live at an American car show and when I asked him if he wanted to be part of it, he didn’t even blink before saying yes. I’m so grateful to him for believing in us.

Hanna Hush full band
Image credit: Jukka Sailas

How has the album been received?

Oh my, I have been amazed. I know that we are not typical original or pure rockabilly so I was nervous, but I had no choice but to do music my way and believe in it. The industry has changed and is evolving so I think that it’s important to keep up. That’s why I’m so happy we’ve had lots of listeners on digital platforms, too, and have gotten to spread the word of rockabilly wider while still respecting the roots by selling physical albums. We aren’t for everyone but, oh boy, the lovely comments, emails, reviews, messages etc we have had! Thank you!

Do you feel that roots music enjoys strong support in Finland? 

I don’t think that it does enjoy strong support here to be honest. It’s the people that are strong and don’t let this scene die. All the radio stations play only mainstream music and gigs – venues and happenings are pretty much for the mainstream only. Maybe it is that fighting spirit on this scene here that keeps this genre alive and kicking.

Will you continue to promote Years at gigs and festivals and will we hear any new material this year?

Yes, we are promoting this album and playing gigs and we are open to all gig proposals! I have a few collaborations going on, too. One is with De La Rocka who is working on his debut album with Bad Billy Records. We are also working on our own new songs so you will hear new material but in what format it remains to be seen. Hopefully we’ll get to spend a lot of this year on stage and get to see a lot of people at the gigs. I can’t wait! 

Words by Craig Brackenridge

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