Interview: Singer and guitar phenom Hannah Wicklund talks about influences and new album
Courtesy of Hannah Wicklund & the Steppin Stones

Guitar World Magazine has called her “one of rock’s most exciting young guitarists” and Classic Rock Magazine has deemed her “one to watch out for.” The raves are piling up for Hannah Wicklund & the Steppin Stones based on the strength of their recently-released self-titled album, a collection of blues-tinged rockers powered by Wicklund’s often incendiary guitar playing and her powerful, soulful voice. Quite appropriate for a band that’s taking the country by storm, including on a recent tour, the album also features the single “Bomb Through the Breeze.”

Wicklund’s first taste of real success is coming at the tender age of 20-years-old. She’s by no means an overnight success though; Wicklund has been dedicated to music for more than a decade. AXS had a chat with Wicklund and she told us about her musical roots and what it was like to cut the new album with producer Sadler Vaden. Wicklund’s commentary below is given exclusively to AXS.com.

AXS: What was it like putting a band together when you were nine, and what kind of music were you playing then?

Hannah Wicklund: It seemed like the natural thing to do since my brother and dad had been in bands. I took after them in many ways, especially their taste of music. Early on our set consisted of The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Janis Joplin, The Cars, Tom Petty, etc. I took the band very seriously from day one, so it became my passion project very quickly. My dad played drums in a band before we were around, then picked up guitar when I was born. By the time I started creating memories we already had a band room in the house and I had already started piano lessons. One of my earliest memories is going to my piano teacher Ms. Ruth’s house and getting lessons. She lived in a big purple house and we’d feed the bunnies in her backyard after our lesson.  

AXS: Other than generally hoping to advance your career, was there a specific reason that you moved to Nashville from your native South Carolina? Were you at all nervous about making the move?

HW: I wasn’t nervous for the move; more excited than anything. It was an easy next step for me as my connections started sprouting from Nashville more than anywhere else. It was definitely a leap of faith but I’m happy I did so, because I don’t think my new album would have turned out the same way if I hadn’t. 

AXS: Your new album was produced by Sadler Vaden of Jason Isbell’s band. What would you say is the main thing you learned from him, about playing guitar or about being in the studio in general?

HW: Working with Sadler was a pleasure. It was my first time being produced by a fellow guitar player, so I learned a lot with this new record. Mainly we focused on “parting up.” Being the only guitar player in the band, it frees me up to play what I want live, but getting into the studio it sometimes doesn’t translate the same way. The guitar parts became far more intentional with Sadler around, and overall he knew how to coax the best performance out of me. 

AXS: Your latest tour was with the High Divers, the band your brother Luke is in. Since the tour was called the “Sibling Rivalry” tour, did the two of you appear on stage together at any point for a guitar duel or such?

HW: We had a few guitar duels throughout the tour, which was always a good time. It was pretty cool touring the country with my big brother!

AXS: Does your long curly hair ever give you fits during a performance?       

HW: As long as I feed and water it, it keeps the temper tantrums to a minimum. 

Follow Hannah Wicklund & the Steppin Stones here.