Hannah Richardson may look young, but wait till she opens up her mouth and starts singing. The 15-year-old has a powerful, deep, gorgeous voice that's waaay beyond her years. She wrote all the lyrics and music for her latest album, Roots, which came out this past July (the title track is one of my favorites). Roots has a country/pop/rock sound that she describes as "crunchy electric guitars, vibrating basses, heart-palpitating beats, and soaring strings." Hannah is super professional, kind, and genuine, and I'm so stoked to share a bit about the Pennsylvania-based star in the making: her favorite fan moment, the quirky thing about her that few people know, and the TV shows she can't stop binge-watching.
Galbraith: You were homeschooled from first grade to seventh grade in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, and then you moved about three hours away to State College and switched to a public school. What was that transition like?
Hannah Richardson: It was quite nerve-wracking for me. I never really felt accepted in my old town; the people who lived there went back generations. I can only describe it as joining a country club where the same group of women have been together since kindergarten. I felt rather alienated, and was often made fun of by both children and adults. They saw me as this weird, homeschooled, redhead singer. That’s all I was, and all I would ever be. Once I moved to State College, I began meeting people in the community and at school. Everyone was just so much more friendly and kind. Once I began finding incredible friends who made me feel good—and I started channeling all of my feelings into music and getting opportunities to perform—it stopped bothering me as much.
G: Where do you get inspiration for your songs and songwriting?
HR: My songs are all inspired by various experiences and influences in my life. Roots features lyrics that were inspired by stories such as Peter Pan and Almost Famous, as well as my own absolutely insanely awkward life. The lyrics in “Roots" encompass a lot of feelings about my life so far, and what I hope my future will be. "Lost Girl” was the most emotional song on the album for me, as I wrote the song about death and holding onto someone after they’ve died, meanwhile creating this metaphor between being a “Lost Girl” in the world of Peter Pan.
G: You recently partnered with Gomee Girl, a brand that sells bright, fun patches and is a source of empowerment for girls. How did the partnership happen?
HR: I got in contact with Gomee Girl like how all of my opportunities come about: emailing! I adore their products, as well as their inspiring message for young girls. I submitted an email with all of my suggestions [on partnering with them]. Soon, I received an email from the head of the company, letting me know that she was interested in speaking more with me. After numerous emails and discussions about our short and long-term goals, it was decided that I would become the face of Gomee Girl! Some of my duties are sharing Gomee Girl’s patches in my videos and social media sites; designing a signature product [to be announced soon]; answering questions that girls have about life, music, and so on; creating inspiring music for their website; and, most importantly, being a role model that young girls can look up to.
G: What are your tips for young girls who want to start a singing career, but aren't sure where to start?
HR: First, sing wherever you can. You never, ever know who might be listening, or what experience you might gain. You can gain opportunities simply by picking up the phone and calling people! Tell them about yourself, why you want to sing, and why you’d be good for them. With the Internet, you have no excuse not to make opportunities for yourself! Number two, get training. So many amazing people do this for super-duper cheap. I have a very average, nonmusical, middle-class family. I would never have been able to afford super-expensive music lessons. However, I would not be even close to where I am without my coach. He has been with me for so many years; he's my harshest critic and my biggest fan. That’s really important. Don’t go for someone who just says “you’re awesome!” That might feel good, but won’t help you improve. Also, never let anyone say that you can’t do something. I would have stopped the very first time I sang my solo. From making music videos, to writing songs, this has all been done completely through me. No budget. Just me, a camcorder, and a computer. Not to mention my amazing parents who have had to drive me all over the place. That's one thing I can't take any credit for! Whatever you set your heart on, you can achieve it. Just realize that it takes a lot of dedication and work.
G: When did you realize you wanted to be a singer?
HR: I started singing as soon as I could talk! When I was 6 years old, I became a part of the church choir, which definitely started my addiction for being in front of people. One Easter Sunday, I got a solo at church. I was so in love with the feeling of performing, and to this day, can’t really explain why. I guess it’s just like becoming a different person. Throughout life, it feels like most people live kind of awkwardly, always worrying about what people think of them. When I’m onstage, though, all of that goes away. I can be exactly who I am, and anything I’ve been unable to express through words comes out through my music.
G: What TV shows are you into right now?
HR: I am completely, head-over-heels obsessed with Game of Thrones. I know I’m pretty late to the game—haha, pun intended!—but I made the time to watch the entire series this past summer. Now, I can hardly wait until next summer when season seven comes out! Also, I adored Stranger Things. The show is so nostalgic and has such an incredible cast of child actors.
G: What's something that few people know about you?
HR: I have heterochromia iridis, or two different-colored eyes. Although it’s subtle (one is green, and the other is blue), I love when someone I’ve known for years comes up to me and asks, “Are your eyes two different colors?” I looked up the statistics, and the odds of having a redhead baby with two-different colored eyes is five in a million!
G: What was one of the most memorable moments of your career so far?
HR: I met this one adorable 8-year-old at a concert who made me a huge pink poster with several photos of me from music videos. My favorite part was that she drew a picture in glitter-glue of me holding a sword, fighting a dragon! It was pretty awesome.
G: What message do you hope to send to your fans through your music?
HR: Well, my major focus is confidence in girls. I believe that the world would benefit from having a girl who represents the idea that it’s not just being “pretty" on the outside that matters; it’s being a strong and inspiring young woman who wishes to help as many people as possible. I truly hope that my music can inspire girls to be their very best. If anything, everyone should have a song that gives them the opportunity to rock out and live like they’re young with catchy lyrics that make them feel like a million bucks! I couldn’t have survived without music in my life, and I would never want a girl to have to either.
To listen to Roots, head to hannahrichardson.com, and find her on Youtube at youtube.com/user/mlpgrow123. You can also find her on Instagram @hannahrsings1 and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/hannahrsings1. Thank you so much, Hannah, for talking about your experiences and sharing you wise words!
Photographs provided by Hannah Richardson.