Hannah Wicklund: Setting the Tone
Five years ago, Hannah Wicklund had every reason to be optimistic about her future. A freshly minted 20 years old, she has just released both a highly anticipated new album, Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones and a new single, “Bomb Through the Breeze,” that was rapidly racking up hundreds of thousands of digital plays. She toured diligently in support of the record, relocated from Nashville to Los Angeles and began writing toward a follow-up. Then, the momentum she’d been building since her childhood days entertaining tourists in her native Hilton Head, S.C., slowed to a crawl.
“I thought, once the snowball was rolling, it was going to keep rolling. Unfortunately, soon after the record came out, my management—the actual nuts and bolts that keep the operation running—pretty much disintegrated,” Wicklund explains.
Within a year of the album’s release, Wicklund cut ties with her team and chose to self-manage. She met with producers in Seattle and LA, eager to get back into the studio but also determined to find the right fit. “I knew this new batch of songs was important,” Wicklund says. “I wanted to have a more interactive relationship with the producer.”
She moved back to Nashville and signed with new management, who promptly introduced her to one of their other clients—Sam Kiszka, bassist for Greta Van Fleet. Kiszka was interested in producing Wicklund’s next effort, and Wicklund liked that Kiszka was a younger peer with an open mind.
In July 2021, they began tracking The Prize at Nashville’s East Iris Studios, utilizing the space during the day as Greta Van Fleet rehearsed at night. Without the pressure to record quickly, Wicklund relaxed and experimented. She requested that all instruments be tuned to 432 Hz—as opposed to standard 440 Hz—and Kiszka agreed without hesitation.
“There are those that would have fought me on that, but Sam said, ‘Sure, let’s try it.’ That was very cool,” Wicklund says. “It ended up being perfect. He handled my songs with the utmost care and respect.”
Wicklund attests that the LP’s 10 tracks reflect her evolution both on and off the stage, marking her transition from girlhood to womanhood. Whether she’s jamming with Marcus King or performing at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, the once black-leather rocker, who was reared on Joan Jett, is now just as likely to wear a flowing dress and wield a pink guitar. (The latter is a gift from Kiszka, who she has been dating for two years.)
The Prize will arrive via Wicklund’s own Strawberry Moon label a little over six years after the release of her breakthrough single. As Wicklund says, “Even though it’s been painful in some ways, in all other ways, the past five years have also been very beautiful and healing.”