Q&A With Harpist/SINGER,
WORDS BY KIANA MORIDI
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MALLORY EAGLE
If you ever wanted to hear a slice of harp heaven, take a listen to Hannah Helbig. Hannah is a harpist, singer, fashion lover, and to put it simply--a wildly talented badass. Her most recent single release collaboration with Drmcrshr, "Lucky Star Casino Bartender" showcases Hannah's wide range of creative talents. With soft notes of Dido meets 80's pop, the graphic-filled music video evokes a sense of irony and art all in the same breath.
We had the opportunity to chat with Hannah about her music career, love for fashion, and the process behind her collaboration with Drmcrshr.
When/how did your music career begin?
I began playing instruments at 6; it wasn’t a real question what my career would be. I suppose I decided for real when I was... fourteen? I grew up in a Southern Baptist church, so I was expected to sing with my family and perform every Sunday. Technically, my first performance was “The Lord’s Prayer” when I was 3 years old. Ha! I’ve been writing songs since I was seven, performing professionally since I was 12, and I’m a full-time musician as of this year.
Tell me about this collab with Drmcrshr. How did it come about/what was the purpose behind it?
Derek (creator of Drmcrshr project) was showing me a song he had just written on Garageband, and I said “Wait, play that again” and wrote the whole song right then. Sometimes it’s easy like that. Most of the time, it’s not.
Derek could tell you more of the purpose of the Drmcrshr project, but basically he is aiming to ask various vocalists, mixers/masterers, and recording engineers to contribute their skills to make a big ol’ collaborative album.
Is there a story behind the name of this song?
I write down in a journal or my notes app little phrases or ideas all the time for songs, one of them just happened to be something along the lines of “lucky star casino bartender.” I used that as the jumping off point for this song, so the lyrical content is a narrative based on that notion.
When you hear this song, what do you feel?
It doesn’t take itself too seriously, even though the main character in the story certainly does. I’ve always sung backup vocals, and this song is my first to sing lead vocals on, so it’s a special little gem to me.
What do you hope others feel when they hear this song?
I hope they find the whole thing interesting. Beyond that, I don’t have too many ideas on how it’ll be received. People internalize music in such different and fascinating ways. Especially songs with lyrics. Who can say what the whole synthesis of the sounds PLUS the lyrics makes them feel? I don’t have a specific purpose with my music, except to tell a truth. Maybe that’s what I like about all my favorite songs; maybe that’s why I write the way I do.
I know fashion plays a big role in who you are as an artist. Tell us about what style and fashion mean to you.
I’ve always been a little weirdo with fashion. My whole high school freshman year I wore only purple. Seriously, just purple for everything I wore or carried around. I definitely use fashion to say something about my that day. Certain colors can really say something about the day’s mission. I love little talismans, so jewelry is really important to me. I have a few pieces of my mother’s and grandmothers’ that I always wear with a purpose. I love treasures, so if I need alone time or creative time, I just peruse vintage stores and thrift stores by myself. I buy a lot of little useless purses. I love fringe, fur, shiny, leather, feathers--anything too much is something I like.
What’s your go-to show outfit?
A long skirt or long slacks and heels, since I’m a harpist. All bets are off after that. It’s getting steadily weirder gathering clothing for Poor Sap, the band Derek and I started last year. I can sew, so some weird original pieces will be coming down the pipe.
How would you describe the wardrobe style in this photoshoot and music video?
Silly, baby! Southwestern with a modern twist.
What are your hopes for the Oklahoma music scene, specifically for female musicians?
I’m hoping we can connect our massive gifts to massive monetary compensation. It’s easier for me as a harpist and private lessons teacher because those roles do warrant payment. But 5 band members getting paid $50 for an hour-long show that we’ve invested hundreds of practice hours into is not my bag. Streaming services taking our work and profiting massively whilst we are left to beg for playlist placements is not hot.
A gendered issue in our city is young women and girls not seeing any examples of why they should try to be a part of the music scene. Women aren’t likely to enter the local music scene with as many connections, experience with production/electronic instruments, or respect from those in charge (talent buyers, sound engineers, producers, venue owners) as men are. A lot of women give up the ghost much earlier than men, or feel forced to play some kind of role to leapfrog to a position in which they can accomplish something expensive like recording or hiring a band. It’s undeniable that sexism persists, so I am trying to brainstorm an effective way to start changing the culture here.
Fill in the blank. If I’m not playing music, I’m probably ____.
Building my business! I perform at weddings and events, I’m available for hire to record and perform with other artists, and I teach private harp and piano lessons.
What’s next for you as an artist?
Poor Sap is putting out a single in September, and we’ll be doing our first show soon after that. I’m putting out some little harp and vocals covers in the fall, too, under Oklahannah. Poor Sap’ll put out a Christmas single, then an album next year. I’m also part of a really unique all-female Nordic folk group called Rauland that is recording & performing soon. Future’s looking bright!