INTERVIEW: Tory Hanna & The Pondsiders

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Waiting On You”?

Of course, this is one of my favorite tunes on the record. We’re releasing a LIVE acoustic studio session of this Friday in fact! I wrote this song recently, it came out of the songwriting ethos so to speak pretty quick actually. It’s soulful and really really vocally-focused which is somewhat new for me. We thought this story line and overall vibe needed to be stripped way back, and I love the way it came out. That slide guitar intro came from a 1901 acoustic guitar that the studio engineer’s grandparents had passed down to him. It’s hauntingly beautiful. The song is about the intensity and gravity of heartbreak, and how utterly bleak things can seem. But it speaks to the human spirit and how resilient we can be to pick ourselves back up, inevitably, and move onward. The song is about hope I guess.

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

Actually yes, so I guess Vents can get the exclusive backstory. Ready?….? The song is actually about my landlord/roommate/dear friend’s little lap dog named Rowdy. He is literally the cutest dog you’ve ever met, an Australian ‘silky’ terrier (for all you dog enthusiasts). He is the most lovable companion and so friendly. His only quirk is that when someone changes rooms in the house and shuts a door leaving him behind, he goes wild and spins in circles like a maniac, knowing that he’s missing out some hypothetical fun. But when you really eave for the day, he totally knows it, and stands by the door as you walk out. Not a peep, not a sound, nothing, just looking up at you as you are heading out. It’s as if his heart slows, and the world literally stops spinning. It’s like his moment of pure despair, hopeless and irreconcilable sadness. But I know that after we leave, after a few minutes, he recovers and goes back about his business enjoying his little dog life. He moves on and starts looking for something new. I guess Waiting on Your is kind of a sad song but it’s about resilience. The tune goes out to little Rowdy! But I feel like this is an inherent human capacity, to act resiliently, to work towards recovering from heartache and the like. There you have it….. an exclusive right here on Vents.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

Totally. We’re releasing a LIVE studio session we recorded a few months ago, at Continental Studios, where my label Electric Giant Productions is based in Long Island City. This is a great warm little room, and the guys at Electric Giant took super good care of us. We cut a few songs including Waiting on You, with two of the vocal geniuses from Learning to Share are featured in the video on guitar, bass, and keys, the wildly talented Eric Giordano and Andy Doherty. What a bunch of studs those guys are, hope you enjoy it! Check it out

The single comes off your new album Learning to Share – what’s the story behind the title?

So the Album Learning to Share is a nod to something that I think about a lot. The songs ebb and flow across a number of thematic stories and tales that I’ve experienced or are at least relatable to the any listener out there. They are about growing up, love, heartache, political foolishness but also opportunity, a whole host of themes really. The title speaks to the life-long activity of learning to share. It is something that begins as a child, and really does not cease even for a moment during our entire lives. We share toys, we share our words, we share land and property, we share air and resources, we share sadness with each other. It is not easy to share this is apparent. But if we all tried to work towards this, like as in every single day, might the world not be a better place to live? Could there be less war, less conflict, and could we create a better society? These micro level songs and stories I wanted to come towards towards this larger idea through learning to share, and in that way, this is a concept album devoted to sharing in a deeper way and keeping that at top of mind for us all.

How was the recording and writing process?

Honestly they couldn’t have been more different. I have been working on some of these tunes for a few years.  A few songs, including Going Fishing and Sign of You were brand spankin’ new but sounded so awesome right out of the gate that we put them on the album right away. The vast majority of these tunes however have been marinating in my mind for some time. I’ve been playing Riverside for like 6 years, at live shows, tweaking it ever so slightly. Jake Robinson, my talented drummer and composer of all the horn parts on the album put together this sweet Taiko-inspired drum part which ended up changing the vibe of the song for the better and which stuck literally the day before we hit the studio. For the most part these songs have been evolving and shaping their way to record-ready for the past few years. As far as recording? We cut the whole thing literally in two full day studio sessions in Brooklyn, then another 3 hour session for the horns. In and out! The vibe was so good and we captured a raw, LIVE sensibility that we had been aspiring towards…couldn’t have been happier!

How much does nature get to influence the album?

Very much I’d say. I’m from a small hill town of literally 2000 people. Farms, woods, mountains, streams, lakes. Nature is part of my frame through which everything is realized. It comes through my music as a tool to guide storytelling and a platform to launch the rhythms. As far as the title, Learning to Share, I’m absolutely an environmentalist, and for my day job I’ve been working more or less in this realm for my entire adulthood, advocating and supporting the natural world in ways I can. I think speicif to our planet and the environment, learning to share is a core concept to healing it, and working towards climate solutions that will get us there. I think that I’ve used and will continue to use the natural world as a basis of my songwriting. But I find the human component (which is overtly a part of nature) one of the most fascinating parts of that complicated system.

What aspects of hope did you get to explore with this material?

I wrote the tune, A New Tomorrow, following the Boston Marathon bombings. And it’s unequivocally about hope. Specifically hope for a better future than we experience in the present. Such a tragedy in my own home state of Massachusetts was really eye-opening, and this event, I felt brought so many of us to such a low point, a feeling of helplessness. But the point of the story is that it’s okay to dream, fanaticize, and ultimately work towards a ‘new’ tomorrow. We can shape this future if we put effort towards that end. So why not try. So much of this is about hope.  There’s another song on the record, Top of The World (I thinks it’s a beauty, kind of a sleeper on the album in my opinion) which is all about working your entire life, never receiving gratitude and certainly never achieving wealth from the daily grind so many of us are forced to engage in. It toys with the cliché  ‘I’m on top of the world’, and tells stories of folks daydreaming and wondering what that might actually be like, because they’ve lived their entire lives from the bottom looking up. Its sort of a planetary pun and actually is a little nod to Tom Waits one of my favorite song writers. Hope certainly has a big role in Learning to Share, its something we can all connect with in my opinion.

Any plans to hit the road?

At this point I’m hopeful the music will get out to varying radio outlets and publicity outlets and will generate some LIVE demand, and I’m really looking forward to playing it out to the world. But for the most part I’m touring these songs with my main collaborative project The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow. Check us out This project is immensely fun, as it brings together 5 singer songwriters who all share the stage (kind of fits the album title….). I’m lucky enough to be a part of this and lucky enough to be sharing my new songs off the latest record with these great musicians. They particularly love Sign of You. Take a peak at our 20 minute nationally acclaimed short music documentary all about the band and all about Western Massachusetts where our songwriting comes from . In the near term, we’re opening for the Felice Brothers next week and playing in Providence and NYC in October to name a few upcoming stops!

What else is happening next in Tory Hanna & The Pondsiders’ world?

We’re definitely focused on the Learning to Share release in the short term, we’ll be releasing some sweet videos and promoting the heck out of it, our goal is to keep the buzz as high as its been so far! Beyond that, there are a ton of new songs brewing, so I suspect a new record will shortly follow. We might veer a little bit from the Roots vibe, but I think folks will really dig some of the new material. I’ll be touring with The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow quite a bit into the Fall and Spring of next year, and we’ve got some insanely hot Festivals lined up for next Summer. I hope to release some solo singles early next year as well working with Electric Giant Productions in Queens who is gracefully pushing me towards those goals. They are itching to get some more content laid down at their home base Continental Studios; so keep your eyes open for some of that.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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