Music / Jim Hanft
Jim Hanft is the kind of artist whose songs somehow bathe listeners in the comforting warmth of familiarity, yet express ideas and emotions in ways we haven’t quite heard before. It’s a rare trait, a balance some singer-songwriters spend their entire lives trying to achieve.
Yet the Philadelphia-raised musician didn’t even discover his songwriting muse until after he failed to land a spot on his 10th-grade baseball team. His athletic dreams dashed, he turned to a guitar and a broken harmonica—and to his friends, with whom he formed a band and started to write. After high school, he enrolled in Boston’s Emerson College, where he studied comedy (perhaps hoping to follow in the laugh tracks of famous alums David Cross and Jennifer Coolidge). Degree in hand, Hanft then headed to L.A., where comedic timing and witty storytelling turned out to be invaluable skills for a budding troubadour.
But moving 3,000 miles away from home—and losing his father—gave him more serious issues to contemplate on his self-released first album, BACKYARD WALTZ.
Like any self-respecting singer-songwriter, he performed his material everywhere he could; in late 2009, after a small show in New York City, a Swedish woman named Petra Mårtén approached. She bought his album, and a few weeks later, offered him a recording contract with her label, Veranda Independent Records.
Not long afterward, Hanft and his musical partner, Samantha Yonack, found themselves en route to Stockholm to record at Decibel Studios with producer Lasse Mårtén (Peter, Bjorn & John; Lykke Li; Shout Out Louds) and several of Sweden’s finest players. In three weeks, they completed more than 20 songs and approximately 984 cups of coffee. Those sessions became Hanft’s Swedish-only EP release, BURN ME IN MY BOOTS, and the new album, WEDDINGS OR FUNERALS.
Mårtén and Hanft drew on their mutual love of the Counting Crows, Oasis and similar bands to find their collaborative sweet spot for WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS, which contains 11 stories framed by a modern musical landscape, yet timeless in their appeal and delivery. Swedish writer Torten Braf declared of the result, “What Hanft and Mårtén accomplished is a small miracle in its simplicity. Great folk rock, beautiful and moving alternative country. Purely innovative.”
Gratefulweb.com’s John Mosley calls it “a delicate, lyrical album” and “a warm, affecting collection of musical storytelling.” He also noted the romantic tenderness of songs such as “By The Stream” and “Lazy Love”—undoubtedly a product of the bond shared by Hanft and Yonack. After five years of writing and performing together, they’ve got a telepathic connection and infectious onstage chemistry (and comic rapport) that instantly wins over audiences. They’re also fond of creating sometimes-wacky guerrilla videos of their adventures; any activity from buying hats in frigid Scandinavia to making pizza to going through a carwash might inspire them to flick on their camera—and of course, break out in song. Their video diaries can be found on their blog, jimhanft.com/category/wesingalong.
“Writing songs and performing live is ridiculously fun,” Hanft told blogger Andrew Lapham Ferschin in a recent interview. “I think it was the struggle and trial and error of singing, playing and writing that sort of sucked me into the world of music. It’s the feeling that you can always be better, and the idea that I still haven’t written my best song is what makes music horribly addictive.”
Take a listen to WEDDINGS OR FUNERALS; perhaps you’ll find yourself addicted, too.
Media Contact: Heidi Labensart, McGuckin Entertainment PR, 512.478.0578; firstname.lastname@example.org