A soft and sweet piano intro sweeps open the curtains, allowing vocalist Hannah Baiardi to sing her latest release, “What Will Our Children Say.” A paean of positivity, the song is socially current and pointedly asks what kind of world we are leaving to our progeny. Baiardi deftly navigates this simple melody with imaginative lyrics and a catchy chord progression. If you look to her 2018 EP “The Quietest Place” her versatility is plain to see: she can go funky, bluesy and hip, playing originals and standards alike, one shining example being “The Nearness of You” which brims with emotion and is full of her trademark phrasing.
Why did you write “What Will Our Children Say”?
I wanted to use this song to point out the volatile times we’re living in and how sometimes one can take solace in looking to the next generation. I see young climate activists and social/civil right leaders emerge fiery and ready for change. Their drive inspired me to write this rally cry – this song to encourage people to take action and listen to the children and young leaders for solutions and optimism. This song asks us to acknowledge that decades of climate leadership inaction add up.
The message hits home when you stop and consider our survival and our children’s survival – right down to the air we breathe.
I believe we are truly living in a new age. We’ve turned a corner in history. Look at the nature of our responses to elections, pandemics and environmental/political crises. You see rallies, emerging leaders, group meditations, mobilizing social media campaigns, and musicians who are advocates as much as artists. Look at the number of young leaders emerging like Greta Thunberg and Helena Gualinga. I tried to hear their voices in my head as I wrote the lyrics.
What are your favorite types of songs for performance- ballads, torch songs, etc.?
In college, I was known as the B&B girl – I loved bossas and ballads – that’s my wheelhouse in the jazz idiom. The unique arrangements, like throwing in a conga instead of a drum set, are my favorite types of switch-ups. I also love oldies from the 80s and creating unique arrangements of them, the music my mom and dad grew up listening to and was blasted on the boombox when I was a toddler. Childhood nostalgia informs so much of my music.
How would you describe your voice?
I began studying voice much later than piano, when I was in high school. From a teen until now, my voice has changed dramatically. In my 20s, I think I am finally learning how to find my voice and my style which is very exciting, thanks to the excellent mentorship I’ve received. I would describe it as soulful and sultry with tinges of Sadé, Norah Jones and a hint of Sarah MacLachlan, depending on the style.
In your earlier work, “The Quieter Place,” how did you choose the songs?
It was a compilation of mostly original compositions written during my time as a college student at the University of Michigan. A collaborative effort of U-M music students, it was a very special experience to produce an album as an undergraduate using the University’s famed Duderstadt recording studio. The songs each told a story or shared a message about spreading unity, sharing our light and coming together. Other songs stemmed from personal stories and coming-of-age experiences.
What was it like to work surrounded by such instrumentally diverse talent on this EP?
“The Quietest Place” was a highly collaborative effort. The producer, Avery Bruni, is now out in California and has gone on to be a successful audio engineer and producer. At the time, everyone was a student. My mission was to collaborate across the genre-divide, with musicians from classical backgrounds and jazz alike. In keeping with the theme of unity, cross-discipline improvisation played a large part in the creation of the album. Each collaborator was also a friend and well-respected colleague of varying degrees, ages and backgrounds. It was quite a unique project and I’m grateful for everyone’s contributions.
What do you want for audiences to get out of your music?
My goal as an artist is to lighten someone’s day through sonic escape. If my music can alleviate stress, strengthen relationships or provide a moment of joy or wonder or pause, then I am happy. Music is such a mysterious and personal experience and is different for everyone, I just hope my lyrics and melodies can bring about a sense of heightened awareness and peace.
What other projects are you working on?
Currently, I am wrapping up the recording for my upcoming album “Straight from the Soul,” which will debut late fall 2020. It is entirely self-produced and will be recorded at Ann Arbor’s one-and-only Solid Sound Studio. Again, collaboration plays a large role in the album. Re-imagined arrangements, original songs and an homage to Carole Bayer Sager, Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Michel LeGrand, it will feature songs near and dear to my heart with a fresh, modern twist. I am very excited to release this album!
I try to reach a diverse cross-section of listeners and adapt my music for different contexts, such as live performance, rally songs, television and movie, and podcasts. I try to create music that is listenable and accessible to a diverse cross-section of music lovers. I also try to remain original to my voice and sound, and yet it is increasingly challenging to be original these days, as young artists are so often compared to another artist, genre or “put in a box.”
My mission is to be true to my ever-evolving sound and channel the purest form of my musicality. While I can’t control how I’m categorized or who I am compared to, I hope my music helps listeners cope, moves them or brings them some measure of joy.
For more information, visit www.hannahbaiardi.com/