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Hannah Yoter

Hannah Yoter of Anchorage is a singer, songwriter and founder of the Hannah Yoter Band. Her love of music started when she was a child and inspired her to study and play Americana music.

    2017

  • Project Award
  • Music Composition

'The Best Therapy for Anything'

Hannah Yoter could barely form sentences when she discovered her passion for singing. And that was just the start. Today, as she balances music with her day job as a care coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska, Yoter is lead singer and songwriter for The Hannah Yoter Band.

Her parents hoped Yoter and her sister would get into music, so when Yoter was 12 they found her bluegrass guitar lessons near their rural home in Hope, Alaska. Later, a young Yoter played at Hope’s Seaview Cafe in front of people for the first time.

From the womb, a love of music was instilled in Yoter. The family home harbored the sounds of her father’s guitar playing, neighborhood jam sessions and various folk, bluegrass and old-time records from Bonnie Raitt, Tim O’Brien and the like.

These sounds inspired Yoter to study Americana music in college. In Asheville, North Carolina, Yoter was saturated by all kinds of music including Appalachian tradition. Yoter began to write her own tunes and find her specific sound, which she describes as a combination of the music of her youth and what she was discovering on the other side of the country.

“I think it has a lot to do with the music I heard when I was growing up and then just stuff I collected along the way,” Yoter said. “In Asheville there’s so much music around there and all kinds of music. I guess I collected the little tidbits that I liked and made them work for me. I’d say my genre is Americana. I feel like that’s just a huge term that kind of encompasses a bunch of music, but it really is. I’ve kind of drawn influences from it and from all over.”

Yoter said she enjoys elaborating on the idea of Americana as a genre. Integrating the sounds she listened to growing up with new sounds she likes best, she created her own Americana-type style.

“I liked the idea of taking these old-time songs I liked and maybe playing them on a bluegrass banjo instead of an old-time banjo,” said Yoter, who picked up the latter in North Carolina. “Americana is kind of a mix of a bunch of genres that I like, and that are mixed together without getting in trouble.”

She formed The Hannah Yoter Band in 2014 including drums, electric guitar, fiddle and pedal steel. The debut album, “Something Good,” was released in 2016. Her second album, “Say Goodbye,” is nearly complete.

“Oh my gosh, it’s so different,” Yoter said. “There’s nothing really about it that is the same. The first one we practiced and we practiced and we had all the songs down perfect. The second album, I think it has the same kind of sound, but it’s a little more acoustic than the last one.”

For “Something Good,” Yoter and her bandmates went back to her roots to record with musician and fellow 2017 Individual Artist Award recipient Evan Phillips at a cabin in Hope. They recorded the album over the course of five days.

For her new album, Yoter hired a producer and recorded live in an Anchorage studio. Yoter writes all the songs for her albums, one of her biggest challenges as a musician.

Another one is “making the time to sit down and practice,” she said. “Finishing what I actually started is something I’m not very good at. It takes me awhile to finish songs.”

Writing music and singing songs has been a way for Yoter to express herself. She says it’s a creative outlet, an escape and a fun way to challenge herself.

It’s “also something I can do with my emotions, because I don’t know what else to do with them or how to keep them under control, so I just sing,” Yoter said. “I love writing songs, but I think that singing is my favorite part. It’s the best therapy for anything.”

Yoter prepares for her next album release with eyes set on her music goals. She dreams of releasing more albums over the next decade, sharing with people outside of Alaska her cabin-crafted, Alaskana-Americana sound.

 

Victoria Petersen is a reporter at the Peninsula Clarion newspaper in Kenai, Alaska. Petersen is also the founder and editor of The Spenardian, a hyperlocal magazine for Anchorage’s Spenard neighborhood.

Image credits - Gallery images are courtesy of the artist.