Back from the brink

Singer-songwriter Hannah White told David Hennessy about her song Car Crash which is about hitting rock bottom when she was arrested for stealing food for her and her son.

Escaping domestic abuse and becoming homeless with a baby. Even being arrested for stealing food for herself and her young child. These are all parts of Hannah White’s story documented in her powerful track, Car Crash.

Thankfully her more recent story also includes playing Glastonbury this year and touring with Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue. She will play her first Irish dates very soon also.

But Hannah has never forgotten what it felt like to hit rock bottom and how lucky she was to get out of that situation. She released Car Crash on International Women’s Day (8 March) in the hope it could help others trying to get out of similar situations.

Hannah told The Irish World: “It was (bleak). It was a difficult relationship, a bit of a traumatic relationship.

“It was after I had my son.

“The breakup was difficult and we basically ended up homeless, and we had to stay in hostels for homeless families.

“It was really grim.

“There were a lot of drugs around, a lot of things I didn’t want my son to be around.

“I just felt it was such a dark, dark time and the lowest point ever was when I’d been arrested for shoplifting food for us and I had my son with me. It was just awful.”

Hannah recalls that while help was then offered to her, there was no follow up, and she felt absolutely desperate.

“I felt hopeless and the police even said to me, ‘Do you need help?’

“And I said, ‘Yes’.

“They said they were gonna follow it up and that follow up never happened.

“And that’s just a recurring theme in my life: That when I’ve needed some external help, people to step in that it’s never happened.

“You can’t advocate for yourself because you’re just too broken.

“I really can see how people get in a situation where they can’t get out because that’s the system.

“I think it’s there to stop you really hitting rock bottom maybe.

“Although I felt like I was there, I wasn’t physically on the street.

“But it doesn’t try and help you get back on your feet.

“It really doesn’t. It is a hopeless feeling. It’s hard.

“It’s taken me a long time to pick myself up and be able to just function and make a positive contribution, that has taken enough time.

“And then to brave enough to sing my song.

“I’ve always written them but to share them, it’s been massive, taken me a long time.

“It wasn’t really a song I was gonna put down on a record.

“And I was really anxious about putting it out there.

“Because it’s so personal and nothing I’ve written about before or really even talked about before.

“So I was really anxious but the feedback has been really, really amazing.

“It’s such a personal thing.

“When I write, it’s a need I have.

“An itch, a scratch

“And a song will come out and it’s right for me but you just don’t know how it will feel for other people.”

The single was released on International Women’s Day and Hannah has had feedback from women in difficult domestic or violent situations.

“I just have so many women coming up to me who have either been in that situation, I’ve had one woman who is in that situation, who’s trying not to lose her child, and others who have been in domestic violence situations.

“And people coming up to me or writing to me on social media to tell me their stories.

“It’s so common.

“It breaks my heart but for me the personal benefit is that people being so open and sharing, and being so supportive and encouraging, has made me feel less ashamed of myself.

“It would be amazing if it helps others.

“If it does offer hope, that’s amazing. There is always hope.

“And there are people who are always willing to help.

“And there are ways out. But it does take a lot.”

Deacon Blue frontman Ricky Ross sent Hannah a personal invitation to join him on the road after playing her single Broken Bird on his BBC Radio Scotland show.

“Broken Bird is a bit of a nostalgic song.

“It’s a moment of just feeling nostalgic and aching for easier, more simplistic time and, and the people who aren’t around anymore.

“It’s a very kind of simple song but probably one that most people can relate to.

“I was tuning in, and he was saying some complimentary things.

“And then I got a call the next day to say that he wanted us to go do the tour with him.

“He’s so nice. We’ve become good friends.

“I’ve got a lot of affection for the man.

“And then I sort of take a step back and think, ‘It’s Ricky Ross from Deacon Blue’. And I can’t believe it because it’s just music that’s been around me all my life.

“I just have to pinch myself.

“I can’t believe it.”

The tour will take her to Ireland to play there for the first time.

“I have never ever played in Ireland.

“I’m so drawn to it because of the tradition of music. I can’t wait.

“We came to Belfast on a trip and found some trad music and it was so beautiful.

“Just these old guys in the corner of a pub playing brilliantly and then some people got up and did some Irish dancing and it really did speak to me.”

Car Crash and Broken Bird come from the album About Time which is the follow-up to 2020’s hugely acclaimed ‘Hannah White and the Nordic Connections’ which won rave reviews both nationally and internationally, and a UK Americana Award nomination for UK Album of the Year.

2022 has already seen her play Glastonbury which she describes as unlike anything she had done before.

“It feels like so long ago.

“I was quite scared because it was such a big thing.

“I’ve never done anything like that before.

“Obviously I’ve played festivals, but not on that scale, but it was amazing.

“Just incredible, definitely one of the highlights but to be honest, touring with Ricky Ross has been just off the scale.

“I’ve actually been feeling very lucky this year.”

Hanna White plays with Ricky Ross at The Sugar Club, Dublin on 23 November, St Luke’s in Cork on 24 November and Fitzroy Church in Belfast on 25 November.

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