Hannah Jane Kile keeps the faith, whatever the stage
The Sacramento singer-songwriter finds her path
Hannah Jane Kile exudes remarkable self-assurance. It's a somewhat recent development for the 20-year-old Auburn singer-songwriter, and it's well-documented in her coming-of-age Americana record Little Blue Heron.
“It’s about admitting when you’re wrong, becoming independent, becoming your own person, not letting the other people in your life dictate who you are,” Kile says.
Finding the courage to be herself wasn’t an easy path. Growing up in what she says was a rocky household, Kile found solace in music: Bonnie Raitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Carole King. She started writing her own songs by age 12 and became fluent on four instruments before she was an adult.
But her dream was theater; the goal was Broadway. She flew to Los Angeles to audition for a prestigious Manhattan theater school. Family and friends all promised they’d help her to find a way to pay tuition and make it happen. And Kile got in. Her months of practice paid off. She was accepted.
“Then, the people faded away. They didn’t help, they didn’t do anything,” she says. “It was really hard to understand that sometimes, even when you work as hard as you possibly can, things just aren’t possible.”
That difficult time inspired “Chaileen’s Song,” the most haunting and vocally impressive track on Little Blue Heron.
“It’s about not letting the world take your light, take away who you really are,” Kile says. “And not allowing yourself to become bitter or resentful over something you have no control over.”
The rest of Little Blue Heron reflects similarly on darker moments in Kile’s life, as well as the growth that came from them. While maintaining a general Americana style, she also dabbles in blues, jazz and theatrical singing. Sometimes her notes soar endlessly, sometimes she adopts a familiar twang. Other times, her voice rings deep and raspy.
It’s quite the departure from her debut album, Becoming Someone, which she released when she was 18. While Becoming Someone sounds stripped-down and fragile, often with just Kile and her piano, Little Blue Heron wins you over with its range, power and charm. Kile assembled a full band, utilizing piano, guitar, upright bass, drums, organ, violin, banjo, mandolin and pedal steel, among other instruments.
Though not quite so full, Kile will perform with bassist Barry Prior and drummer Corey Morgan Strange for her Sacramento release show on Thursday, December 10, at 24th Street Theatre. In the future, she’s looking forward to playing a free courtyard gig at the Mondavi Center in the spring, and hopes to embark upon a national tour in the summer. And she’s already got a stockpile of songs ready for the next album.
Does Kile still wonder about that Manhattan theater school? Sometimes. And maybe she’ll become one of those musicians who also performs in the local theater productions every so often. But for now, Kile is focusing all her energy on music. She’s confident it all worked out for the best.
“I feel like to do theater, you have to fit into a box. To be a songwriter, you don’t,” she says. “I don’t have to change what I look like, I don’t have to have a perfect body, I don’t have to be extremely flexible. I just get to be who I am. That’s beautiful.”