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Meet Adam Hanson of Northwoods

Today we’d like to introduce you to Adam Hanson.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Adam. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My grandmother was a classical pianist. She let me into the world of the great composers from Mozart to Stravinsky. She was so happy when I would get up on the ottoman and conduct along with Mozart symphonies. She said I said, I wanted to be a Mozart conductor. I guess that would be my first declaration into wanting a music career. My father, along with being a career engineer, played an assortment of string instruments and would bring me to bluegrass festivals while I was still in my superman pajamas. My stepfather, who I mostly lived with along with my mother was an accomplished local rock n roll guitar player and singer. Along with having a full time job as a school superintendent. He would have band practices in our basement throughout my childhood. One day when I thought no one was looking, I went downstairs and started to hit his drummers. From that day on I never stopped playing. I started to hear music differently as well. All of a sudden a light switch turned on and I was hooked. I’m pretty much still that 12 year old kid in the basement, hitting the drums with pure joy.

From then, my friends and I formed a band. By the end of high school the band had a few different members but we were almost the same since day one. Around this time is when I first attempted to sing and write songs. However, that was short lived due to my own judgement that I wasn’t good enough. I thought I better stick to playing the drums. Now, aside from my private attempt to be an artist, that period of my journey, being in a band was one of the most blissful times in my life. It was just pure music back then. There was no business, even if we thought we knew something. There was barely any money. It was just something we collectively loved to do and didn’t want to be anywhere but with each other. I learned early what being in a real band meant.

After high school I went to Umass Dartmouth for world music. There I found Jazz. I submerged myself in the style for years to come. Even though Umass was a great experience with great people, Dartmouth was right near where I lived. So, I lived with my parents. When I realized I have to move on before I become depressed and angry for still living at home I found myself then moving to Boston. I enrolled at Berklee college of music for business. There I spent more time on playing drums and experimenting with writing again and production as well. I also got a taste of playing with multiple groups and artists for the first time. It was my dream to play with all sorts of people. Berklee gave me an introduction to that. Also, it was during this time when my musical tastes widened immensely. My first roommate told me, “listen to what you can’t play”. I learned a lot from that. Now I listen to whatever I want but back then I wanted to be the best drummer I could be. And on that note, the relationships I made in college were the most valuable take away that still affects my life up to this day. If it wasn’t for the friends that I made in college, I wouldn’t be the musician and more importantly the person I am and am still working to be, today.

After College I settled in Los Angeles and have been a resident there for several years now. As I moved through the jungle of LA, I again made wonderful relationships and bonds that certainly would help me continue my journey as a person and musician. Now, beyond being in the studio with some big names and working with countless artists and musicians. I now play drums and tour with Platinum selling artist JP Saxe and I work on many levels with Hamilton star turned, famous actor and hot new artist Anthony Ramos.

Building up to my company and artist project Northwoods, has been a long time coming. Through the story I just told, there were hints of writing and production. These little glimpses gave me a fire that’s never gone out. In late 2018 I was asked to work for one of Universal Music Publishing’s commercial departments, Elias Music. They asked me to write some songs for one of their catalogues. Even though I had always put some time into writing and had written with plenty of people up to that point, there was something about this job that awoke the fire that was slowly burning for so long. I finally got over my fear and realized I believed in what I was writing myself. This led to finally putting a project together. Since then, I’ve been working closely with some of my favorite people. Just to name a couple. Zach Golden has been my backbone through this whole process as he’s become my producing partner and extremely close friend. Will Wells, was and is a huge part in my LA life, well life in general now. And is the reason I might be doing what I’m doing. He’s invoked my confidence, always had my back and has always invited me into professional and social situations that have only bettered my character and career. If you don’t know who Will is, look him up! And finally Haneri Milliona, a wonderful artist in her own right has been there as a friend and she is the only other songwriter on this project. I’ve learned a lot from all these people and continue to.

All I’ve ever wanted to do as an artist is spread hope. The kind of hope you have when you wake up on the right side of the bed, get in the car or subway or walk or whatever. Put on a song and feel like you’re on top of the world and anything can happen. That kind of hope. It’s seldom of a feeling for some but what a place to be when it happens. My music touches on a lot of different subjects, some not so happy. But in the end, to be hopeful is to be happy, it’s to be honest and know that your life is in front of you and you can do anything. That blissful feeling only kids have sometimes, ya know? To carry this with you through your life can be difficult. As we grow older and live, life throws all sorts of challenges at us. But it’s important to never lose that purity of vision, a vision for a better future.

And now, I just look forward to putting out music. I will be putting out a few singles with a hearty EP to follow by the end of the year.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
This road has been interesting. Smooth isn’t the adjective I would use. After College I decided to begin my career in Los Angeles. I ventured out with 3 friends. But let’s go back two months before I left. I’d been out of college since the end of the summer and moved back home to Mattapoisett, MA. My plan was to make as much money as possible then head west. However, aside from working a lot and making money I was partying way too much. I didn’t really identify the partying as a problem yet, that being I was still in my early 20’s. Everyone was partying! Suffice to say, after not really preparing at all to get to LA besides making a few extra bucks. I went somewhat in a broken state without realizing it. There was also moving out there during a relationship that ended up failing and helped catapult this feeling of emptiness. I ended up struggling with addiction for years. As I began my process to get through some heartache and fear of failing in my career, I used weed and alcohol to numb my feelings. The thing was though, it became my priority over everything quicker than I could admit. Getting somewhat drunk and crazy high was how I went about my days. As the days went on it only increased. I lost gigs, potential gigs, relationships and most all the ability to process things on a healthy level and be present. My journey in such a crucial moment was lost, because I was totally lost. This lasted for 6 years until I was finally all done. I’ve been sober since 2016. In my first two months of going clean I endured the passing of my Grandfather, Grandmother, my best friend’s mother and my dog. All within 3 weeks. And I only mention this because it gave me a perspective at that time that I needed to not take too much stock in the noise of the world and hone in on what’s important. Stick with love. I can also guarantee I would have never found the inner strength to get through that time and put my artist project in motion without being sober and part of a recovery program.

I still struggle today but my struggles are manageable. I’m my own worst enemy. But if I find the strength to let down my guard and get out of my own way then the light shines through and I’m off and running.

Please tell us about Northwoods.
This is a new company. While Northwoods LLC is a legal entity, my artist project is also called Northwoods. That being said, talking about it solely as a company seems limiting. Even though I admit that’s what it is. I’m an artist and I write songs to work out my own feelings and experiences. My specialties have yet to be shown and I’m new at this part of the music business. Of course, music is all I’ve ever done. So, I’m not new at some aspects like performing, writing, or producing. However, the sole art of being an artist and a frontman is new ground. Ground that I’m still working through. And probably always will. Luckily I’ve gotten to play and still play with wonderful examples of some of the best around. However, with a pandemic on hand, it’s hard to work the muscle of performing at all, but I do my best.

I’m most proud of the fact that this is me, a totally honest expression that I hope many can take something from or just feel. The thing that separates this project is that there’s no other Adam Hanson and no other Northwoods like this one.

No one else is going to write these songs. This goes for everyone who makes art. No one else has your experiences. But we are all connected and have common ground. Expressing that is the unique part. Art is capturing a moment. No matter what medium it is, that moment will never happen again. So, if you’re one of the lucky ones that gets to capture those things, do it and put it out there for the world to hear or see. We need beauty and truth more than ever right now. And I’m not toting perfection, just an honest moment. Writing songs is the only thing that seems to bring me the closest to myself. And in that, it’s not only personal but sometimes becomes more relatable to others. The feedback from my first single “Take Me Back” has been pretty positive. Most seem to just say, “yea, me too”! At the end of the day, I write and do this more for myself because it’s a part of me. I can’t hide it any longer. But then again putting myself out there has made me more vulnerable than ever. So, when I do get that good feedback, it honestly means the world.

I look forward to building my company not only through my personal works myself as Northwoods and with the artists I play and work for. But, who knows maybe I’ll get to help artists along their journey as well. For now, look out for the next single.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Followed my heart/gut and done the things that felt right rather than what I thought I should do. I’m still working on that. But this project is a big step in that growth. And if I’m real honest, I would have made the same decisions 100 times over in the moments when they happened. Everything I’ve been through has brought me to this moment. And though tomorrow is not promised I can use what I’ve learned for a better today.

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Image Credit:
All photos by Matthew Takes

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