From the moment Carlie Hanson walked into the golden-yellow-painted dressing room in the rear of Detroit’s historic Fox Theater, any trace of tension vanished. She greeted me with a smile and open hug. She’s as relatable as can be: going off about astrology (she’s the most Taurus person you’ll ever meet), stanning Harry Styles, wondering what the hell Justin Bieber is doing, eating her feelings and figuring it all out as she goes.
At 18, she sits opposite me on the millennial / Gen-Z cultural border: loving Soundcloud artists, growing up on Usher’s Confessions and Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds and rebuking any labels, especially in terms of genre and sexuality. Hanson, who recently took a turn with Billboard Pride’s Instagram account, will be dropping an EP early next year and has begun infusing her traditional pop sound with rock-inspired guitars, undoubtedly primed by the Metallica and Five Finger Death Punch her mother played growing up in Wisconsin.
“I want to tell you all about (the EP) but I can’t. It talks about a long-distance relationship I have with a girl. I’m still figuring it out myself. I don’t even know how to label my sexuality and I don’t know where I am. So, I don’t know how much I’ll put into my music but I don’t want to not talk about it,” she said during our conversation.
Hanson reminisces about her home life, grapples with her new life — in the studio, in L.A. and on the road — and does so with an infectious confidence, only revealing the magnitude of her achievements through the bewildered excitement in her voice. Her performance at The Fox last month was her first joining Troye Sivan on The Bloom Tour, fresh off a summer of making music in L.A., visiting friends in Wisconsin and playing a handful of festivals to get her feet wet. (By showtime, it’s clear she has already found her sea legs).
“Festivals aren’t my favorite right now because not a lot of people know me, so I’m definitely more for the sweaty venues and intimacy,” she said, sitting with her leg up on a fold-out chair opposite of my couch. “(The Fox is) so big I’m going to freak out. The ceiling and everything? Oh my god. Have you seen the Beyoncé and Jay-Z video? The one they shot in the … Louvre? Yes! It looks like that.”
She’s not wrong. As most of her friends from Wisconsin are about to end their first semester of college, Carlie has just ended the Bloom Tour. Hosting the back-to-back-to-back queer, blonde ambition of Hanson, Kim Petras and Sivan, the historic Fox Theater’s intricate architecture reads as equally revolutionary and religious.
The singer’s synth-pop package is especially “of the moment.” She knows you think she looks like Billie Eilish. She knows you might even think she is Billie Eilish whose EP release party she attended last year.
“I take that as a fucking compliment, she’s a badass … like damn, I’ll take it!” she said.
This year, she found herself on Taylor Swift’s personal playlist and moving to Los Angeles.
“I hated (L.A.) at first — well, not hated it — but (my apartment) was so bare and I don’t know how to build anything or make furniture, but (my best friend) Dale helped me build everything, and I love it now. It’s cozy,” she said of her studio.
She lights candles beneath Nirvana, “Call Me By Your Name” and Mac Miller posters. But despite the beach sunsets back-dropping her writing sessions, Hanson finds herself at a loss on how to make friends as an 18-year-old in the city without a fake ID, hoping to eventually get rich and move all of her friends out.
“Yeah, I definitely (feel lonely sometimes). It’s hard because I’ve lived with my family my whole life. Now I turn 18, and I’m all on my own. It’s such a weird transition,” Hanson said. “I have two sisters at home, older and younger and I have an older brother. He lives in Texas. Anyway but, it sucks being without them. My friends and I used to go hiking in the bluffs, I miss doing that. And I fucking miss driving. I miss my Toyota.”
Before picking up on the Bloom tour, Hanson opened for Jeremy Zucker on a club tour, making a stop at Ann Arbor’s own Blind Pig in September.
“I remember getting to the dressing room. I’m a huge Nirvana fan, and I was like I wonder if Kurt or someone signed the wall and I saw his name with the year ’91 and I went on YouTube and saw the video,” she said before clapping in a moment of clarity: “That was the concert where I had the moment! I came off stage and was like ‘holy fuck this is really what I’m doing?’ It happens really randomly and I think tonight it’s going to hit me too. I know Troye fans are just die-hards,” she said. “I think tonight I’ll definitely feel that way.”
As we wrap up, she hugged me again, thanked me and with sincere excitement said: “That was so fun! It’s going to be a fun fucking show.”
She wasn’t wrong. Hanson’s strongest asset remains her personability, which exudes from her music and stage presence.
“I’m super excited to go back to (my apartment) and sleep after this tour,” she said, on the first night of the tour, but surprisingly has not been able to sleep since getting back (per her Instagram).
Carlie Hanson’s new single, “Toxins” is out now, and her EP is expected in early 2019.