Jeff Hanson is the possessor of an angelic countertenor voice that’s unusual in pop music. He started his first band, M.I.J., at 13 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Abandoning emo for pop in his early twenties, Hanson was signed to Kill Rock Stars on the strength of his demo; the fashionable Olympia label then released his debut CD in 2003. He seems to master every instrument he picks up, surrounding his pure, sweet voice on record with richly layered webs of sound. Still besotted with the classic ’60s sound he absorbed as a child—Beatles, Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel—Hanson makes his latest release, Jeff Hanson, pulse with a rare grandeur that could make apostates of Jeff Buckley fans.
1 The last time I saw you was at a South by Southwest showcase in Austin. Other than making your pretty new record, what’ve you been up to? Well, I got married to my girlfriend of six years in January. That would be the biggest event for me this year.
2 Jeff Hanson almost seems like “son of” Son, your lovely debut. Was that intentional, or is it just the kind of music you like making? With my new record I really focused on creating a particular mood. I think the addition of the strings—and doing some different things vocally—moved the album in a different direction than the previous one. Strong melodies and harmonies are always going to be a part of my music, but as long as I keep trying new things I think that’ll keep it interesting.
3 Does it bother you when people think you’re a girl after hearing your voice? No, I love it—I always have. But some people’s reactions to it still remind me of how stuck in our gender roles we all are. That can be frustrating.
4 What new instruments have you gotten into? I want to learn the piano and the banjo before I make my next record.
5 Are you touring solo again? Yes, just me and a guitar. I love playing solo—I really like the intimacy of it. If I could see any of my favorite singer-songwriters play live I would prefer them to play solo acoustic. I will bring along other musicians in time . . . do more of a full-band thing for some tours. But I never feel like I’m missing something onstage when it’s just me.
Hanson performs at Mercury Lounge this Saturday, May 7, at 7:30 p.m.