I first met Hannah Darling working on a creative project together in the hinterland of Byron Bay. I knew straight away I had just encountered a true rockstar. With fiery hair, style to swoon over and a soulful voice, she’s a story teller you stop and listen to. We travelled to the hills and into Hannah’s rainbow world and got to find out more about her.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are and what excites you?
My name is Hannah. I am a mother to sweet little two year old Banjo Blue & recently moved to the Northern rivers with my boy and his daddy Rhees. We live in a sweet little home in Clothiers Creek surrounded by tea fields and a bunch of sweet lil cows. I am a musician and a song writer. My life is a bit of a crazy technicolour dream at the moment and I have no real idea where it’s headed but I’m enjoying it. I also run a little business with a best friend of mine called Food Baby, we do a bunch of events & catering etc. and are working towards doing a whole lot more. It’s small now but it’s growing and that’s pretty exciting to me. I’ve been so many things in my life, had a shop and a bar and tried my hand at whatever inspired me for a time. I always come back to music though and I’m really grateful to have been given a voice in this time to express that.
2. You grew up in Sydney but have recently made to move to northern New South Wales. Can you tell us about the move and has it changed your lifestyle?
I love Sydney - I am the first person to wax lyrical about the beauty in that city and still the first person to jump on a flight back to see my little brother and take a dip in those crystal clear waters I grew up in, but there is also something really magical about these northern rivers. I arrived here expecting to knuckle down, buy a property and settle into life in the country, but it's proving quite the opposite - there is so much opportunity up here - so many people being brave and creative and it can't help but rub off on you if you’re open to it. It comes easily up here too, inspiration - something about the amount of space you have verses the compact nature of living in the city really does reflect in your mental and creative space. I’ve made some of the best friends I’ve ever had up here, I’m busier than I have ever been and I’m almost always exhausted but happy.
3. You’re a singer, songwriter and musician. When did you fall in love with music and how did your musical journey begin?
I think most musicians tell tales of being musically inspired by their parents, and I’m no different. I think in particular though, I was led a lot by my dad - we have a funny relationship because we are so similar, but he had this beautiful old black Ibanez acoustic with flowers etched all over it - he used to sing and play and he has the most beautiful voice. I was so drawn to his guitar and that bellow of his voice. I remember being a really tiny kid, like three or four, and performing on stage with my dad - we would sing Neil Young together - I loved the buzz I got from performing & it’s never gone away. I took an interest at quite a young age at learning guitar & my parents were supportive then and are supportive now. I have never once heard them say a word to discourage that path for my life. I think what really pushed me along though was my mother's connection to my music - she’s had a big life and at times it’s overwhelmed her - in those times I would sit with her and sing to her, she used to tell me it was medicine for her and I loved that idea. I still want to make medicine music.
4. Do you remember the first song you learnt to play?
I think it was most likely a Pete Murray song or something - I think every young kid in Australia had a crush on him at some point, I know I certainly did. I wish I could say it was some Jimi Hendrix or Radiohead or something but I’d definitely be lying.
5. What inspires you most when you are song writing?
Just real life, I think. For me, songwriting is very much therapy - it helps me understand how I feel before I could ever articulate it to myself. I’ve sung myself through some huge life changes, through lots of pain and through lots of joy - the stories these times leave me with are what inspire my writing in the end.
6. Who are some of your favourite musicians and what made you fall in love with them?
I love Paul Kelly, Thom Yorke, Jeff Buckley, Florence, Eva Cassidy, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Kurt Vile, Chris Issak, Bruce Springsteen, Freddie Mercury ... I don’t know, I always find this to be a really difficult question because I have elements of love and appreciation for most musicians I hear and meet - they all have some unique magic that makes them extraordinary and they’re not always ones I can think about off the top of my head, but one element that I admire most in musicians is their ability to tell a story & to captivate an audience really and truly when all the lights and production and glamour are taken away, I am always most enamoured by musicians who do that - some of them are close friends that I grew up with or musicians I’ve met along the way and some of them are superstars, some of them are beyond talented in a supernatural way and some are not, but its that ability to captivate in them I really admire.
7. Do you have a favourite song that speaks to your soul?
Again, the list goes on and on and I don’t know if I could name a favourite, but there are songs that haunt me - one is ‘A Hard Rains Gonna Fall’ by Bob Dylan- I sang it on repeat when I was pregnant - the song is sung to ‘my blue eyed son’ and of course, Banjo boy was born with bright blue eyes. Another is a song by Kurt Vile and I can’t even recall the name of it but theres a line in there that sings ‘that’s life though, hate to point out the painfully obvious’ and I probably sing that line to myself at least once a day - it’s helped alter my perception of the way I experience things and get caught up in them - I love that music can do that for you. Actually, come to think of it, there is a duet Jeff Buckley did called ‘All Flowers In Time’ and it was never properly recorded but just ended up as this little snippet - its been a really haunting tune for me for a long time & it is magical. Listen to it.
8. What's your favourite gig you have played and why?
Quite a few years back, an old boyfriend and I did a string of shows around the country - a couple of festivals and gigs in really beautiful intimate spaces that we created or established venues that were filled to the rafters - my old boyfriend, his name is Danny - his music was very well loved and he had been gigging for a long time and had established bigger crowds than I would have pulled on my own at that point so that was pretty special. They were, by far, my most favourite gigs to play. There was something really special about them & I’m not sure they’ll ever be topped for me. They were a return to music after a drought and that’s a pretty amazing feeling, and they were the catalyst for some pretty incredible experiences fuelled by one of my life’s greatest loves - climbing waterfalls and long drives through hinterlands I’d never seen before. Being a musician opens you up to so many unique experiences & I think that’s what I love the most about it.
9. What other musical projects do you have planned for the year?
I’ve always run away from recording - I don’t know why - it just scares me, the permanence of it. I so enjoy playing live and connecting with an audience, so the idea of sitting in a box and recording has never really appealed to me. This year, however, I would really love to be able to record a live EP- get a bunch of really special people in a really special place and record something really special. That would be a dream come true for me, I think. There is a guitar shop in Sydney called Sunburst Music - owned by Doug, one of my favourite people on the planet - I would love to do it there amidst the reverb of a room full of guitars and people that have stories of their own.
10. You're also a mother to Banjo. Tell us how your life changed after becoming a mother?
I think every mother would agree that becoming one changes literally every aspect of your life. I read a quote the other day that really sums it up for me- ‘Again and again, motherhood demands that we break through our limitations, that we split our hearts open to make room for something that may be more than we thought we could bear. In that sense, the labour with which we give birth is simply a rehearsal for something we mothers must do over and over- turn ourselves inside out and then let go’ - Susan Piver.
11. Do you have any parenting mantras you live by?
Not really, we just roll with whatever comes our way and do our best to keep our heads above water, but every decision we make is for Banjo, to lift him up and to give him the best chance to be the best person he can be. Being his mum is my proudest role. He is kind and gentle and intelligent and driven and determined and strong and bold and friendly and empathetic - knowing that he inherited even one of those traits from me makes me the proudest parent. Being a parent is hard and I am so far from perfect. I make mistakes with him every day, I’m sure, and I am learning just as he is. There is so much love here in our rainbow house, I hope Banjo grows up drenched and dripping in the ocean of love his dad and I have for him.
12. You have such great personal style and an amazing vintage collection. Where do you find all these treasures?
Here, there and everywhere. There have been seasons in my life where I have intensely hunted and collected multitudes of pieces at once, and others that I have specifically waited and saved for extraordinary pieces, but what you're really looking at when you see my wardrobe is almost two decades of a pretty serious shopping addiction that began when I was still a kid. My clothes and the characters they allow me to become are one of my greatest passions, I get changed multiple times a day even if I’m just hanging out at home. I haven’t really discovered places up here to find good vintage yet.
13. Who are some of your favourite style icons?
I think there has only been one phase in my life I’ve been really directly influenced by someone else’s style - I was 15 and obsessed with Edie Sedgewick- I cut all my hair off really short and started wearing huge earrings and go-go dresses, wearing really intense eye make up. Aside from that, I’ve always been most inspired by the women in my life - my beautiful mum and her long silver hair has always dressed so beautifully - she’s so naturally stunning and I think I mostly just wanted to be like her most my life.
14. Has your style changed at all after becoming a mother?
I don’t think so. I think my style has been evolving so long as I can remember. Breastfeeding definitely put a bit of a damper on the super extravagant outfits I had worn before though because logistically, I needed to be able to get my boobs out at a seconds notice. I think thats when I fell most in love with Nine Lives, actually- they were fun and colourful and comfortable- easy to feed in but didn’t compromise on how fabulous you looked. I always got a million compliments wearing their gear and at that time when your body has changed so drastically and you can feel a bit uncomfortable in your own skin, I was really grateful to the girls for creating clothes like that.
Banjo just turned two and I decided it was time to stop feeding, so I’m starting to work my way back through all my fabulous gowns again and that is pretty exciting for me.
15. What's next for Hannah Darling?
Well, today is my birthday, so when I finish writing this, I’m going to take my beautiful boy down to Brunswick river with my most special friends & swim and eat and celebrate this crazy wild ride of a life I’ve had and hope to continue having till the day I die, and that’s about as far as I’ve planned.