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Carlie Hanson is the down-to-earth teenage pop star we need this summer

Photo by Leeor Wild

Photo by Leeor Wild

At 8pm on Thursday, May 2nd, Carlie Hanson stood beside the stage, took a couple of pump-up jumps, then ran on stage to a room (mostly) full of people who had never heard of her. Wearing a cropped wife beater, oversized open flannel, studded belt, distressed boyfriend jeans, and hi-top chucks, Hanson looked effortlessly cool and confident from the first note to the last. When she walked off 45 minutes later, she had a room full of fans.

I watched Hanson while she was on stage and found it hard to believe that this mature teenager with confidence beyond her years played her first-ever show less than a year ago.

On May 18th, 2018, (Hanson’s 18th birthday), with the help of her family, she put on a show at The Mint in Los Angeles. They sold tickets, invited label representatives and bands, and filled the room with family and friends. “It’s been so unreal how much I’ve changed since then. I remember being so scared before that show, rehearsing what I was going to say between songs,” Hanson told me.

She also remembers talking to her manager during rehearsal when he told her that it would be a lot different when she actually got on stage and saw everyone in the crowd staring back at her. “Once I got on stage and saw all those people like 2 centimeters away from me literally staring at me, it was such a strange feeling, but now I live for it.”

Here we are, less than a year after that first show, and Hanson has been on tour since October, supporting acts like Troye Sivan, YUNGBLUD, and Bad Suns. Her current tour ends on May 11, and while she knows she should be looking forward to some time off, she is having too much fun traveling and performing to want it to end just yet.

With so much change in such a short time, Hanson says she has a hard time believing all of it (hitting 1M monthly listeners on Spotify, having a song hit 50 million streams, being added to Taylor' Swift’s favorite songs playlist, etc.) is even real. But even through it all, she hasn’t forgotten where she came from. “This is the only thing I’ve wanted to do my whole life,” Hanson said. “Now here I am. Anything’s fucking possible. If a girl from middle of nowhere Wisconsin that worked at McDonald’s and hated school can get Taylor Swift to put her song on her favorite songs playlist, like anybody can do fucking anything.”

One of the most interesting things about Carlie Hanson, though, might be her claimed musical influences. Her list includes names like Justin Bieber, Avril Lavigne, Nirvana, and Evanescence. Although she writes pop songs, most of her influences came from her mom’s love of rock music and from playing the video game Rock Band growing up, and these influences definitely came out during her live performance. Although her recorded music stretches across a couple of genres (pop and rock included), she truly turns into a rock star on stage, using drums and guitars to her advantage.

While I was singing along to “Back in My Arms” (Hanson’s beautiful, slow yet upbeat pop song I can’t stop listening to), I overheard a man behind me say to his friend, “This girl is like the next Gwen Stefani… but better!” That’s huge statement, but I looked back up at Carlie on stage and thought to myself, “Wow, he is exactly right.”

Hanson and I had just spoken about how she got started in music, what touring is like, what her dreams were growing up, and who some of her musical influences were, and our conversation was played in my head thought her entire nine-song set. I couldn’t help but feel proud of this teenager who is chasing her dreams and having the most fun doing it.

Last week, Hanson announced that her debut EP “Junk” will be released on June 7. The EP includes several songs that Hanson has played during this most recent tour, and trust me, you will want to hear them. In the meantime, check out the rest of Carlie’s music here.