Flirting with songwriting
John Wort Hannam takes a novel approach when singing about love
Sailors, farmers, truckers and soldiers have all haunted Fort MacLeod songwriter John Wort Hannam’s songs. However, on his third album, Two-Bit Suit, a new ghost lurks in the lyrics – love. Writing a straight-up love song might be cliché for many, but Hannam says it is novel for him.
"I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing the stories of the folks that live in out of the way places and have odd little quirky experiences," Hannam says. "That being said, I am always flirting with expanding my writing. On the new CD, the song ‘Sweet Sweet Rose’ is a good example of this. Two years ago I would not have thought of writing and recording a straight-up love song; I just never saw myself as that writer and was uncomfortable stepping out of this blue-collar style. But, lately I have been listening to a lot of Steve Earle and Townes (Van Zandt) and they can write some killer love songs without going to the ‘ooohh baby baby’ style of love song."
With three years passed since Dynamite and Dozers, Hannam has focused on playing in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Ontario. While he envisions himself on the road with a full band, he states that as a "no-name" songwriter, finances force him to travel solo for now. His perception of himself as a "no-name" may change now that he’s won the Calgary Folk Music Festival/Ship and Anchor Songwriting Contest. He also won in 2004, which means he has won the contest precisely half the times it’s been held.
In spite of the fact that Hannam is winning songwriting contests and still searching for the balance between creating and promoting his music, he found time to write enough fine songs to make Two-Bit Suit a charmer. From the opening notes of "10,000 Acres," where Hannam’s trademark voice carries the melody across open prairie and into a father’s dreams, to the classic-sounding "Damn It, Gwenivere," the songs draw you in with imagery as much as with what is left unsaid.
"Infantryman," with its snapshot of a boy coming home from war to his father, is a striking, fill-in-the-blanks song that reserves judgment for the listener. When Hannam performed the song on the CBC’s "Sounds like Canada" last year, e-mail and phone calls poured in, including one from the mother of a soldier who never made it home. She just wanted to say thank you for writing the song.
Which proves that Hannam has always been skilled at writing love songs to a life well earned by the common man.