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Hunter Hanson Wins John Lennon Songwriting Contest in Electronic Category


Hunter Hanson, NYU screen scoring alum (MM 20) and adjunct professor, recently won the 2021 Session ll Grand Prize in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest (Electronic Category) for his first solo release “Breezeblow”. We spoke with Hunter about the surprise of winning, the solitude he needed to compose “Breezeblow” and what he’s working on now.

Hunter Hanson singing and playing guitar

How did it feel finding out you won?

I was astounded. I couldn't believe it. I’ve put out two albums with my band Gregular, but this was my first solo release. I liked the way it turned out so I thought what the heck and entered it. A few weeks later, I was notified that I was “Winner of the Week,” which meant I got to appear on their Instagram live and perform the song. I felt like I had achieved everything I could want from the song. Then a few weeks after that, I got an email saying I was a grand prize winner. I was freaking out internally, but tried to downplay it because I was at work in the studio at NYU. I was overjoyed!

Sunset over a lake view from the family cabin of Hunter Hanson

How did “Breezeblow” come to be?

In the summer of 2020, as I was finishing up my master's degree in Screen Scoring, the city went into lockdown. I left New York and went back home to Wisconsin. After a few months I was going stir crazy and decided to go stay in my family’s cabin in New Auburn alone for about a month. It was a good experience, but very isolating. “Breezeblow” came from a place of loneliness. I wanted to see if I could re-frame loneliness into serenity. I also needed to take control of something because everything in the world felt so out of control. It was just me and my guitar. When I got back to Brooklyn, I added the electronic elements and brought in a friend to sing backup

In what place do you most like to work? 

Here in my apartment, in my room. I made a loft bed over my desk so I can fit everything I need in here. I’m a nerd when it comes to music technology. I could be very happy locked away in a room with my computer and a guitar. I like to use a few different tools like Logic Pro and Max/MSP to manipulate sounds.

What’s your songwriting process?

It depends on the song. I always keep a list of ideas and words in my Notes app. Later, I’ll look at it and pair it with music I’ve already written. The order is normally the guitar chords first, followed by the words and then the melody. The electronics and arrangement always come later.

What advice would you give someone who is new to producing electronic music?

If you’re feeling it, take away the pressure to create something, and just open up and see where it goes. I’ve found that fun is one of the greatest educational tools.

What made you choose New York?

I received my undergraduate degree in Music Composition at Northwestern. I worked with several student directors during my time there and decided to pursue film scoring as a career. I came to NY because of my acceptance to NYU and to be in a place that is surrounded by the arts. Moving wasn’t easy. A month before the program started, my apartment fell through. I couch surfed for a month, but that’s a story for another day.

Hunter Hanson in a recording studio

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new LP and a few short films. I also freelance as a composer’s assistant and music tech consultant. Most recently I’ve assisted Tamar-kali Brown on a couple of projects.

Who are your musical influencers?

I like artists who push the boundaries of genre. Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead, who was just Oscar nominated for his score for The Power of the Dog, saxophonist and film composer Colin Stetson, and the band Porcupine Tree to name a few.

And, if you had to choose a favorite album today?

Tough question, my favorites are always changing. Right now I’d have to say Bjork. Her album Homogenic start to finish is fantastic.

Side note: winning the grand prize included two guitars, speakers, plug-ins, music software, audio interface hardware and more.

Hunter Hanson

Music Adjunct Faculty and Scoring Admin


Available on Spotify

It's not that I couldn't go, I could
It's not what I couldn't show, I should
It's just that your dark-lit eyes
Have sent away all the stormy skies
How will I know
Where the breeze blows
I've wasted so many days out here
But it's not the loneliness I fear
It's just that your warm embrace
Deletes the things that I can't erase
How will I know
When the breeze blows
What will it show
When the breeze blows
How will I know
When the breeze blows
What will it show
When the breeze blows


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