Songbird takes flight

Young Hannah Jane Kile celebrated her second album

Hannah Jane Kile on stage at New Helvetia Theatre in Sacramento.

Hannah Jane Kile on stage at New Helvetia Theatre in Sacramento.

Photo by Chris Baad

Record-release party for Hanna Jane Kile's Little Blue Heron Saturday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m., at 1078 Gallery. Johnson & Miller and Morea Masa open.
Cost: $15/door; $10/advance (at
1078 Gallery
820 Broadway

At 5 years old, Hannah Jane Kile was singing along to Motown on her karaoke machine at home. At 10, she joined her brother’s heavy metal band, first as the drummer before moving on to play bass. At 14, Kile picked up the acoustic guitar and a year later she performed her first open mic. By 18, she had released her first record, Becoming Someone.

Now 20, the Auburn-born singer/songwriter has more than a decade of musical experience already. And this month she’s releasing her second album, Little Blue Heron, for which she’s been performing a series of record-release shows that will include a stop in Chico at 1078 Gallery on Oct. 3. Though she’s based in Auburn, Kile plays Chico often and has built a local following as well as relationships with musicians in the scene, including Phil Johnson and Ryan Miller of local folk duo Johnson & Miller, who will join her for the 1078 show along with Portland singer/songwriter Moorea Masa.

The new album focuses on Kile’s coming-of-age story—leaving home, overcoming obstacles and finding her confidence as a musician. Unlike her first record, which Kile describes as “passive-aggressive folk,” her second isn’t as stripped down and features less woe-is-me ballads. Instead, she’s added energy with a full band—including guest appearances by Johnson and Miller as well as celebrated multi-instrumentalist Joe Craven—to support her Americana sound, with bits of rock, blues, soul, R&B and jazz sprinkled throughout the songs.

“I’m exploring music and not feeling like I’m trapped in this one box of folk,” she said.

While the songs can stand on their own with just Kile and her guitar, she was happy to enlist a group of musicians who helped her explore other genres, enhance dynamics and work on being a band’s frontwoman.

“Music is really one of the best ways to grow a connection with others,” she said of bringing on more musicians. “And what’s the point of it if you’re not sharing?”

Each song is its own story, but Kile said the overarching themes of the record as a whole can be heard in the lyrics of the title track: “Little heron on her way, where will she journey, where will she lay/She will flow free, float with sea, soar with the stars.”

“The whole track is basically about coming of age and leaving the nest and allowing myself to grow,” she said. “Growth is sometimes lonely and sometimes painful and it’s scary but it’s also very necessary and beautiful.”

Listening to her music and watching her perform live, it’s striking to see a performer so young who exudes so much confidence. But that wasn’t easy to come by. Kile developed that throughout the recording process of the latest album, as she faced a power struggle with one of the original producers, who didn’t have her best interests in mind, she says.

“It’s hard to be an artist and put your foot down for what you want,” she said. “As an artist, you’re extremely sensitive. You have to stand up for your art and you have to make sacrifices.”

Kile and her team ended up throwing out the entire record halfway through its recording process before parting ways with the former producer, finding a new recording studio and starting again.

“I’m so proud of this record and the journey it took,” she said. “It would’ve been totally different than it if we had finished with this other producer. I would not be proud of it.”