10 Questions with Hadley McCall Thackston.

Much of my time here is spent honoring the music that has provided the soundtracks of my life. However I do indeed keep my ear to the ground and listen for new artists that are inspiring, unique, or even just plain catchy. Not too long ago I stumbled upon a video of young Hadley McCall Thackston, singing a plaintive but confident song recorded live on a front porch, surrounded by a few onlookers. These witnesses seemed content to sit quietly, look at the ground, and soak in the music and lyrics as the lilting song washed over them. As if on cue, even the wind stirred up at the appropriate times, weaving itself into the performance.

Intrigued, I contacted the wonderful people at Wolfe Island Records https://wolfeislandrecords.com/ and they turned me over to Hadley’s Publicist, Bernadette Quigley. The insights Ms. McCall Thackston gave were as detailed and warm as I expected them to be. Her self-titled debut album will be available in the States on June 15th and in Europe on July 6th. Having received an advance copy, the most succinct way I can describe Hadley’s music is authentic.

Listen to the song I first heard from her, and then get to know her a little through this segment of 10 Questions with the Musical Mind…

I am from just outside Atlanta, like yourself. I read that you arrived in Ontario with “a hat box full of songs”. That paints a picture in my mind of an old soul hailing from the south. Do you think your place of origin has a marked effect on your craft?

Absolutely. I grew up with the best of both worlds. Being in Atlanta, such a culturally diverse city during the school year, then in rural south and North Carolina during the summertime. That juxtaposition has given me the pride of being a southerner, but also the awareness of the faults deeply rooted in southern culture and history. I think that gives my writing a unique perspective.

With your song “Redbird” you do a remarkable job of declaring yourself independent of dogmatic institutions, but without it coming across as angry or a “protest” anthem. Did this song’s lyrics come to you quickly, or was it a drawn out process?

It was one of those songs that started as one thing and turned into something completely different. My grandmother had many quirky superstitions, and one of them was wishing on a red bird. As I started writing about that, it began to snowball and suddenly I had a song about spirituality. It happened very quickly, I like to think my grandmother was helping me as I was writing it, because it was definitely finished faster than a lot of my other songs.

Do you ever find musical inspiration from visual sources? For example a street scene, a sunset, or even a movie that evokes a feeling?

All the time, in fact I’d say that most of my writing is sparked from being outside and observing the world around me. Nature is the best inspiration and I find it easy to find parallels between it and the human experience.

Some of the songs on your forthcoming album feature additional instrumentation, such as the fiddle on “Wallace’s Song (Sage Bush)”. Are you anticipating those additions when you compose a song, or is it just the guitar and voice initially?

I had no ideas at all when I first presented songs to Chris, my producer. I was, and still am in many ways new to this whole process. I let him take the reigns when we first started laying down tracks, but towards the end of the album I definitely had ideas for certain songs. But even still, when I write it’s just guitar and voice in my head.

How much were your songs changed or embellished once you got inside a studio with a producer? Was that process fun, or was it scary turning over aspects of your music to another person’s opinion?

It’s night and day. Everything I wrote was bare bones when I arrived on Wolfe Island. It was the best thing in the world to hear my songs take on a life of their own. Hugh Christopher Brown (“Chris”) is a phenomenal producer, and I have always been the type of person to roll the dice and see what happens. I think that combination made working together so creative and so easy. I trusted his knowledge, and even if a suggestion sounded odd at first I always gave it a chance. In doing so my songs became more than I could have imagined.

How long have you played guitar? Do you practice your technique, or do you view it as a tool to serve the song?

“Play” is a very strong word, I am not very good. I picked up the guitar at 10 and my experience level is about the same as it was then. I know enough to write my songs but that’s about it. I wish I had the passion for it, but for me it’s just a necessary evil.

Who are some musicians you admire? Any music that you think people may be surprised to find you enjoy?

There are so many!! My first memory of music is the song “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” by The Beatles, which started my life long obsession with them. Then there’s The Decemberists who I refer to as my modern day Beatles because like them, they can do no wrong. There are so many female artists that have inspired me throughout my life, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, and Iris Dement being a few. My taste spans every genre, what I’m listening to depends on my mood, sometimes I surprise myself with what I end up liking.

In your travels from Georgia, to the Carolinas, and ultimately to Canada is there one area you found especially inspirational for your songwriting?

I think travel in itself is inspirational, being immersed in a different culture is always going to spurn new ideas. I lived in Ireland for three years which is where I started writing music, so I’d say that was the place that has given me the biggest inspiration so far.

Do you plan on touring behind your new album?

YES! and I am beyond stoked about it. I’ll be doing some European dates this summer with other artists that are a part of Wolfe island records. I hope to get down south to play as well.

Photos copyright 2018 by Sus Bowers

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