When I first found out I was going to write about a song by Henry Hall, I dug into his catalogue to learn more about his music. What I heard were songs which sounded like they were written by someone who didn’t much care for conventions or boxes— there’s a certain joy you can hear in his work that’s only present with people who are truly following their own creative path. Rather than bragging about how awesome he is, his lyrics twist and turn, sometimes leaving you unsure as to if you want to laugh or cry. He truly writes how he wants to write and doesn’t worry about outside input; and to fabulous results— in 2016 he released his EP, My Friends Don’t Like Me, and even earned a spot on the soundtrack of the Netflix series Love.
In anticipation of writing this piece, I called him up on a Thursday afternoon to discuss songwriting and his new song, “Love for Serious”, out today. It’s the type of song that evokes a relaxing, calming effect when you listen to it- Henry’s vocals emerge softly from underneath a tableau of guitar and synth, drawing you in and making you wish the track was just a little longer. I asked him how his day was going, and he simply responded, “Pretty good. I’m staring directly into the sun right now and it’s great.”
As one would, I asked “What led you to that?”
The response? “Honestly, just trying to get bronzed.”
Read the rest of the interview below.
EM: There’s a definite sense of humor to your writing. Where does that come from?
Henry: I guess for me whenever I hear music that has a tongue and cheek attitude or wit to it it’s a little easier for me to engage with it; that’s my personality to a degree. I think that if I hear someone that has an ironic or cynical take on things its a little more interesting. I think it’s rare kind of because it’s easier to be serious with lyrics because the classic seams of songs aren’t necessarily funny. Having a sense of humor is something new and interesting. I think there’s a middle ground you can strike between actually making a joke in a song and being too self serious.
EM:When did you start writing songs?
Henry: I started writing songs when I was probably ten or something. I wrote a song when I was ten or eleven called “Devil’s Shovel” and I don’t really remember what it was about; A devil’s shovel, maybe. Then I wrote another song that completely counters everything I said in the last question called “Clouds” which had a lyric that was like “clouds are in the sky” or something. It’s always been a way for me to express myself and it’s a creative outlet I’ve always gravitated towards.
EM:Even at that age, was there still an element of humor in what you were writing?
Henry:I’ve been attracted to irony and humor forever. I think that’s a good attitude to have creatively, you know, just sort of always keeping that in mind so it can undercut you whenever you’re being too self serious.
EM: What informs your creativity outside of music?
Henry: Film does, for sure. I studied film in college and I think that’s been my cross discipline, creatively. I think a lot of the same rules apply to film that apply to music… That and probably skim boarding.
EM: Do you concern yourself with rules? Is that something you consciously think about when you start making something or do you consider that later?
Henry: I had a professor named Steve Collins in college who taught us this metaphor that I try to keep in mind where he said that any piece of art should be taut like a piece of taffy, like a really long piece of taffy. You should be able to walk across it and there shouldn’t be any part where the taffy part will droop down or lag. For some reason, whenever I’m writing a song or making a video or whatever it is, I’m able to notice those moments where the taffy dips and lags and isn’t being pulled tight enough. It sounds very simple, but I think that can be applied to anything creatively, and whenever I notice those moments where it’s lagging or drooping, I really feel that and it really moves me and I’m able to make a correction in that spot and I’m able to fix the lag. And I like taffy.
EM: What’s your favorite taffy?
“Love For Serious” is out now! Listen to it here.
(interview edited for length and clarity)