A Conversation with Hannah Wicklund (The Steppin Stones)
By Kevin Alan Lamb
“I was standing there after playing my show, watching Tom Petty; it was my fifth Tom Petty show, and I never had this experience, but he started playing that song and I started crying like a baby!”
“You don’t know how it feels, to be me.”
Do you know how it feels to see your greatest inspiration perform for the last time? Do you know how it feels to share a festival bill with the man who is your dad’s hero? The man who always reminded you and your family to call it how you see it, and stand up for what you believe in.
Not everyone chooses a life of passion and persistence, and if you speak to someone who has, they might even tell you there was never a choice, rather it chose them; but even if you are lucky enough to chase your dreams, driven by the love in your heart, you don’t know how it feels to be, anymore than I know how it feels to be 20-year-old sensation, Hannah Wicklund. Native to the island my wild ways came to fruition on, the same island my parents call home, Hannah Wicklund has been gigging on Hilton Head since she was nine-years-old, playing six to nine shows a week since she was 14.
Fresh off her 2018 self-titled album, Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones are making their first stop in the Mitten State, playing with The High Divers, ready to blow the roof off The Parliament Room at Otus Supply on Friday, March 2, which also happens to be my birthday.
Here’s my conversation with the righteous-rockin’ southern belle who is soon to be a household name.
KAL: What was the name of your first band?
HW: Well, it was The Steppin Stones, so technically I’ve had the same band - pretty much forever. It really only changed a little under a year ago when I added my name, but it’s been The Steppin Stones since day one.
KAL: Where did the name come from?
HW: I actually distinctly remember deciding on the name on a walk with my mom; but it was really just… I feel like The Rolling Stones had a really big deal with it -- they were one of my favorite bands at that time, and still are. I honestly can’t really even tell you where the name truly came from; I think my mom had a lot to do with it. It was so long ago… we didn’t know how important it would be, so we didn’t keep track.
KAL: What are your two favorite Rolling Stones songs?
HW: “Satisfaction” was one of the first great songs that we ever learned and played, and that was my introduction to rock and roll. That, “Rockin’ In The Free World" and “TNT” were the first three rock songs. But I’ve always loved “Angie,” that’s kind of one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs, but there’s so many and it’s impossible.
KAL: I used to have a sports talk radio show and part of the intro was “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and the exit was “Sympathy For The Devil.”
HW: [Laughing] Very nice.
KAL: Did you guys play any gigs? Or were you just a band to be a band?
HW: So I started the band when I was eight, but we were gigging out since I was nine. I’m from a town that has a lot of live music going on; not really original music, but on Hilton Head there’s like 300 restaurants or something, and always festivals going on. We’re right near Savannah, GA, so Savannah and Beaufort, all these tourist towns always have events going on and since I was nine-years-old I played every gig that I could get my hands on, which actually progressed more and more, but by the time I was 14 I was playing six to nine shows a week during the summer then it started overflowing into the fall until I was playing year round.
KAL: It’s kind of funny, my parents live on Hilton Head and I’ve been going there since I was eight-years-old.
HW: Whaaaat!? That is so crazy! That’s awesome.
KAL: Yeah… I was there for Thanksgiving and the last show I saw there was Zach Deputy he played…
HW: Big Bamboo!
KAL: Yeah [laughing] Big Bamboo!
HW: That’s awesome! Yeah Zach is a Hilton Head homeboy too, that’s really awesome.
KAL: What female guitarists did you look up to growing up?
HW: Susan Tedeschi was was probably my biggest influence as far as female guitar players go, but my dad’s the one who really introduced me to the music that I listen to. I love female guitar players, and they can shred, but most of my influences were male dominated.
KAL: How does the notion of standing up for the little guy come to surface in your latest self-titled album?
HW: In many ways… I mean “Bomb Through The Breeze” is probably the most direct, kind of stand-up-and-speak-your-mind kind of song on the album, but, if I hadn’t had my heart broken around the time of writing this album, it probably would have been far more political with songs like that. My biggest influence overall is Tom Petty, that’s my dad’s hero. “Damn the Torpedos” is the song that got my dad to go out and get a loan in the 80’s in order to buy a drum set, and Tom Petty to me, is the embodiment of standing up for what’s right and not backin’ down. He calls it like he sees it and that’s something that our family has definitely held onto.
KAL: Sorry we’ve got a Miniature English Bulldog who’s whining to go outside - that’s what you’re hearing [laughing].
HW: Aww we’ve got a tour dog too, so I get it.
KAL: Did you say you have a tour dog?
HW: Yeah, I’m on the road with my brother’s band right now, and my brother and sister-in-law have the cutest, rascally dog ever, Norah. She’s a sweetheart; terrier-mutt mix.
KAL: That’s great, it’s gotta be nice to have the home away from home feeling with a dog.
HW: It really, really is; she’s awesome.
KAL: Currently on The Sibling Rivalry Tour with your brother Luke Mitchell, from The High Divers - does he ever try to embarrass you on stage?
HW: [Laughing] He used to try and embarrass me on stage when we were younger, but luckily none of that is happening on this tour. It’s called The Sibling Rivalry Tour, but we have definitely toned down in our rivalry over the years. It’s a little more of a loving show now, but we do some duels. You can say he tries to embarrass me that way… both trying to one up each other on stage, so that keeps things interesting.
KAL: You have quite the beautiful head of hair…
HW: [Laughing] Thanks!
KAL: Have you considered seeking beauty product sponsors?
HW: You know.. I’v considered it, but I gotta find products I actually like first. I’ve yet to find stuff that really works for my hair, but thank you, and I have considered it! [laughing]
KAL: It just makes sense. I’m thinking of it like - there’s a baseball player named C.J. Wilson, a pitcher from the Angels, and was in shampoo, maybe Dove commercials I forget.
HW: Oh man… I don’t know if I’ll be able to go that cheese ball, but you never know. Never say never.
KAL: [Laughing] Maybe something more organic, small business minded… something like that?
HW: Yeah! Organic, chemical free, no sulfates…
KAL: Yeah, all that good stuff.
KAL: If you had to describe the benefits of music to an alien society, how would you do so?
HW: [Laughing] An alien society… Well, it depends on what language they speak?
KAL: Well, if they made it here, they’re smarter than us and they can understand English.
HW: That’s very true [laughing]. I’d honestly say it’s the one thing everybody can agree on. It’s kind of like this one common thread that every culture has, ya know? And it’s one of the things in each culture, like food and music. Food, music, and art are the three, I think basis of every culture and quality of life. If you’re immersed in that, and that’s around you, you’re a lot more likely to get along I feel.
KAL: Would you say in these ever-conflicting, and kind of fear-casting times we can kind of look to music to connect community and have a little hope in an otherwise frightening world?
HW: Oh yeah, I hope so. It’s kind of a loaded question because I’m a huge Neil Young fan and we cover, and I’ve been covering for most of my life, “Ohio” which is music that’s bringing everyone together but it’s also getting across that important political side of things, so you know I kind of feel like, yes it brings everyone together, but the beautiful side of it is that people could love a song and some people might not even know what it stands for.
KAL: If you had one lyric tattooed on you, what would it be?
HW: "You don’t know how it feels to be me."
KAL: That was always the line, or lyric, of Tom Petty’s that resonated really strongly with me as well.
HW: Oh yeah… I’m not really a cryer, per se, but we got to play at a festival with Tom in California this past summer, or this past September, two weeks before he passed. It’s definitely a crazy, strange, transitional year for a lot of people, but it was definitely a tough year. I was standing there after playing my show, watching Tom Petty; it was my fifth Tom Petty show, and I never had this experience, but he started playing that song and I started crying like a baby! So that one hits home for sure.
KAL: Tell our readers something about you that they can't find in a previous interview…
HW: I’m trying to think… since 99% of my life revolves around music which I talk about on a daily basis. What would they not know? Ohh ok! One year for this show that we used to put on, the high school that I went to does this thing called American Pie, where you dress up as musicians, and I dressed up as many, many musicians and played their songs for this one event over the years, but my favorite, one year, before I hit puberty, so I don’t think I was too embarrassed to do so, but I got up and we dressed up as ZZ Top... beard and all, and put fur on our guitars and we played “Gimme All Your Loving” and I had sunglasses and a cowboy hat. I think there’s video somewhere, but yeah that was probably one of the funniest songs I’ve ever played live.
Tickets are available at the Otus Supply box office and online at OtusSupply.com, and just in case you were listening for one, This is a Good Sound.