Breaking the mold
Singer-songwriter Hannah Jane Kile embraces imperfection on two new albums
Sacramento-based singer-songwriter Hannah Jane Kile has already written and recorded four albums at 23 years old. She finds that listening back on her first two albums—Becoming Someone and Little Blue Heron—is something like reading snippets of her teenage diary. They also serve as a record for how much she’s grown as a musician.
“Some of the lyrical choices were funny and random,” she said, “and I do like to listen back to how much my voice has changed. I’ve moved forward, especially with these new albums. I feel like I really found my voice this time. Basically, it feels like I have the same voice, but there are more tools in my tool box now. … I have a lot more ways to make myself emotional.”
On June 1, Kile is dropping two new albums: Broken Girls Anthem and They Almost Got Away Vol. 1. Tackling both at once was a huge undertaking that consumed most of her spare time for the past two years, and it was also a valuable learning process.
“I better understand how to serve a song not just as a vocalist, but as a guitarist,” she said. “A lot of what I learned is about staying out of the way of a really good song. You don’t have to put a bunch of stuff on top of it.”
Kile is celebrating the double-album release on Monday, June 4 at Capital Stage with Sacramento composer, music director and producer Graham Sobelman. She will be backed by a nine-piece band.
Originally from Auburn, Kile has performed throughout Northern California for several years, and now lives in Sacramento with her boyfriend and drummer Corey Morgan Strange. Much of her catalog could be classified as Americana, but she also touches on jazz, blues and more theatrical styles of singing.
They Almost Got Away is a relatively loose collection of songs Kile wrote as a teenager that don’t share a common thread. On the other hand, Broken Girls Anthem is a concept album exploring themes of family, growth and practicing self-love.
“We didn’t sit down and say, ’This is going to be a concept album,’ but I wrote all of these songs at a similar place in my life—getting out of an abusive relationship, finding myself again, falling in love, being with my family, realizing how lucky I am to have the family I do,” she said. “The whole album is about self-acceptance and forgiveness, joy and sadness, and it’s all centered around love.”
Kile wrote the album’s title track on a new keyboard she’d received as a Christmas present. She’s struggled with anxiety for most of her life, and she recalls feeling particularly low at the time. She’s perpetually insecure about working in an industry that tends to reward artists who look as good as they sound.
“I just cried and cried because I felt so awful about myself,” she said. “Then I heard from my friend, and she said, ’If you could see you the way I see you,’ and that kind of flipped the switch for me. I started thinking about all of the women in my life and my best friends growing up—who I think are some of the most beautiful human beings on this planet, inside and out and watching them pick themselves apart.
“It was damaging for them and also for me,” she continued. “I want to set an example for other young women, and especially young artists, who don’t fit the mold.”