Rising pop artist, Carlie Hanson is the industry’s next major force and she’s quickly soaring to the top.
In a little over a year, the Wisconsin native has gone from high school student working at a local McDonald’s to living on her own in Los Angeles, writing music every day, and releasing singles that could sonically fall somewhere between Bea Miller and Billie Eilish but even that wouldn’t do them proper justice. Soaked in Midwest grit, authenticity, and attitude, Carlie Hanson‘s songwriting and knack for sharp lyricism land her current body of work in its own glimmering and exciting territory.
The 18-year-old singer/songwriter’s first break arrived in 2017 when her single “Only One” gained viral traction and attention from Taylor Swift, Spotify, and others, helping the young artist amass over 65 million streams and a legion of new global fans. Now, after a little over a year of independently releasing singles, touring with Troye Sivan, Yungblud, Jeremy Zucker, and signing with Warner Bros. Records, Carlie Hanson is preparing to release her first EP this summer, with a huge full-length follow.
We caught up with Carlie Hanson ahead of her national spring tour supporting Bad Suns to chat about her latest single, “Numb,” and its wildly dark music video, her upcoming EP, touring, food, and more. Read on below.
You recently moved to LA from Wisconsin. What’s been the biggest adjustment?
Carlie: That’s right, I moved all the way from home in Wisconsin. Away from my family, my dogs, and I’m living all alone now in a studio in Studio City. It’s been a huge shift going from a small town in Wisconsin to LA. Being away from my mom and sisters definitely took a toll on me for a minute because we’re all very close, and it’s super strange having my own space and nobody that I’m sharing it with. This is what I want to do, I’m not complaining at all, but it’s definitely hard without them. Eventually, I’ll get them out here and it’ll be fine.
On your single, “Toxins,” you said you weren’t calling your mother enough so hopefully that’s changed a bit and you’re reaching out more frequently.
Carlie: It’s funny you say that because I literally just sent her a text to say we should FaceTime today. Since writing that song, I’m constantly thinking, “damn, I need to call my mom.”
Before pursuing music, you were working at McDonald’s? Do you have any secret menu favorites?
Carlie: Yeah, that’s right It was really fun working there and I never cooked or anything, but I would make the fries sometimes and worked the drive-thru window. It was a pretty good job and the only one I’ve ever had. I don’t have any secret menu favorites, I’m a very plain b****. I always get the McChicken and added Mac sauce, I’m telling you, it is amazing.
I’ve always been a McChicken with a layer of fries and Sweet ‘N Sour kind of guy.
Carlie: I’m sitting here dying for a McChicken now. *laughs*
What led to you pursuing music at such a young age? Did this feel like your only option?
Carlie: My mom and sisters say the first song I ever sang was “I’m a Survivor” by Destiny’s Child when I was 3 years old, so I guess it’s just something that I’ve always loved to do. When I was around 9 or 10, I discovered Justin Bieber and that’s really when I fell in love with music. I watched all of his videos and couldn’t stop thinking about wanting to do the same. I wanted to post covers like him. Back then, I thought all you had to do was post a cover and that’s how you got famous but that’s definitely not how it goes. Really, there’s never been another thing in mind that I wanted to do, it’s always been singing, writing, and being a musician.
Well, you’re spot on. Your 2017 single “Only One” was a hit. What was your initial reaction to the success surrounding the song?
Carlie: Once it got added to Today’s Top Hits on Spotify, that’s when I realized how crazy it was taking off. Then, Taylor Swift added it to her Favorite Songs playlist and that blew my mind. Still, to this day, I don’t really believe that even happened. I don’t even believe she actually listened to it with her own ears. I don’t believe that — it’s just so surreal to me. Taylor Swift? Like, WTF? I wasn’t even signed or anything back then, it was just me, my manager, and two executive producers working on my music then, so it was insane to me that, with just us, a song could blow up like that and it was so early on, too. Looking back at that time, it all just feels really crazy.
You’ve released a few singles since then. Most recently, you shared “Numb” and it’s a much darker sound than your prior singles. Is that the direction you’re heading?
Carlie: Yes, in a way. I have many sides to me which is what I wanted to show. There’s “Why Did You Lie,” which has more of a hip-hop vibe, then “Only One” is straight pop. “Mood” is this weird-ass “WTF is even going on?” sound, and “Numb” is the darker side of me. I think I tend to gravitate towards that sound in sessions. I listen to a lot of rap and punk music, so Numb was a lot of fun for me. It was fun being this bad bitch and feeling that vibe in this song.
I went into the studio that day literally thinking that I needed to make a bad-ass song. I just wanted a song that I could bump and drive to, that I thought was really sick.
The video is quite sadistic and torturous. How involved were you with the concept?
Carlie: I wanted to make something that had a horror/scary movie incorporated into the video and I felt like “Numb” was the perfect video for that. I really wanted to scare people a little bit. Once I connected with the director, Nicholas Jandora, it was his idea to use scenes from the movie Misery but overall that was the vibe I wanted to put out there.
Is the video at all a play on words for the ‘ride or die’ lyrics? Couldn’t ride, so he died?
Carlie: *laughs* OMG, I didn’t even look at it that way but totally. That’s so funny.
“Numb” was released in December. Do you have new music on the way?
Carlie: Yes! I have a new song coming out at the end of April and I have a lot of hope for this song. It’s written about a very personal experience that I had recently while in a relationship. This song means a lot to me and I think it’s going to really hit people’s hearts. It has a lot of guitar elements but also a nice urban feel so I’m really excited to release it soon.
Do you think we’ll get a new video for this single?
Carlie: You sure are, bay-by. For the song, there’s the main theme but I didn’t want the video to have anything to do with the song. So, we completely strayed from the concept and the video is literally now about a robbery. I don’t want to give too much away but definitely lookout for it. It’s going to be really cool and I hope it’s another video that makes people go, “WTF?”
Do you have plans to drop an EP or album in the near future?
Carlie: Finally, yes, I’m dropping an EP soon. It’ll definitely consist of a more guitar-driven urban sound. I also do a little beatboxing on it which I’m really excited for people to hear. I’ve done it live but I really wanted it on one of my songs so that’ll be on there. There will be five new songs and one previously-released track.
You’re going on tour with Bad Suns next month. What are you looking forward to the most?
Carlie: I’m actually a fan of Bad Suns! I’m not sure if my manager knew that when we confirmed this opportunity, but I was a big fan in high school and would always listen to them. So, I’m just excited to watch their show every night and meet new fans. Bad Suns is definitely a different sound to Yungblud, Troye Sivan, Jeremy Zucker – who I last toured with – so I’m just looking forward to reaching new people. I’m putting out a new blend of music, so I want to reach a more diverse group. Not only pop but the rock and other sides of me. I can’t wait to be on stage every night, I just love touring.
You mentioned a few tours just now. Is there anything you can’t live without while on the road?
Carlie: I always need a notebook with me. Sitting in green rooms and being bored half the time, I always need a notebook or a book with me. I’m able to bring my guitar with me on this next tour so I may be pulling that out during my live set, too, but I just need my guitar to mess around. I’m constantly writing, doodling, or just doing something.
You seem wise beyond your years. What’s one piece of advice you would give fans your age?
Carlie: I just want to tell people to be themselves. If you feel like you’re an outsider, that is completely f****** fine because I felt like an outsider my whole life, especially throughout high school, and look at where I am now. I am in LA making music every day and I’m going back out on tour. It’s because I’m being myself and I’m being honest with people. That’s the most important thing you can do, especially at this age. Being authentic and real at this age will only help you over time.
People tend to tell me that I’m honest and self-aware, which usually doesn’t happen until later in life, and I find that a little crazy. That’s how I’ve always been, and I just want others to be that way too because it makes life easier and you’re happier that way.
Carlie Hanson will join Bad Suns’ 29-date run starting this week. The tour kicks off in San Diego on the 3rd with dates confirmed in D.C., Austin, Boston, Brooklyn, LA, Seattle, and more. For tickets and more information on Carlie Hanson, click here.