Think Out Loud

Portland musician Hannah Glavor performs new songs

By Sage Van Wing (OPB)
March 7, 2024 12:46 a.m.

Broadcast: Thursday, March 7

Hannah Glavor writes about hope and loss in a new indie-rock album.

Hannah Glavor writes about hope and loss in a new indie-rock album.

courtesy of Hannah


Hannah Glavor’s music used to lean toward singer-songwriter folk. But her newly released single, “Otherside,” shows an indie rock side to the Portland musician. She writes about loss and hope, and about darkness and the light on the other side. Hannah Glavor joins us in the studio to perform songs from her new album.

Note: The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.

Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Dave Miller. “Breathe out all of the dark days,” sings Hannah Glavor on her new single. “Breathe in all of the life,” she urges us, “because what lies ahead outshines the night.” It’s a mantra, a reminder to embrace a light in the world that can be full of darkness and it’s squarely in Glavor’s music and art. “Otherside” is the first single from the Portland musician’s upcoming full-length album. She joins us now with the band to give us a preview of some of her new songs, Hannah Glavor, it’s great to have you here.

Hannah Glavor: Thank you so much for having us.

Miller: Let’s start in with a song if you don’t mind. Can we hear “Hold On”?

Glavor: Absolutely.

[”Hold On” by Hanna Glavor plays]

Miller: That’s Hannah Glavor and her new song, “Hold On.” Can you introduce your band to us?

Glavor: Yeah, absolutely. I have Kevin Liu Rogers on bass Moog and deep low sounds. I have Jake Smith on lead electric and then I have Matthew Halbert-Howen playing keys and drum machine and wearing a good mustache.

Miller: Very true. A mustache, sadly, can’t be captured on the radio. That refrain, “Oh, but hold on, what’s lost is dead and gone. Oh, but do hold on, hold tight.” Where did that song come from?

Glavor: Oh, man, I wrote that song maybe a year or two ago and I was trying to… A lot of my songwriting, it feels like a bit of a journal entry. So I felt in some way, I was writing something to myself in the midst of a lot of loss and uncertainty, whether it be from job or pandemic - I mean, this is a year and a half, two years ago, however long I wrote it - but it was like the worst possible things are happening. There has to be something past it. So in the midst of the worst possible losses, I’m begging myself to hold on. I’m begging other people who are in the midst of the worst suffering to hold on, even though there’s no visible, actual proof of things getting better, and sometimes things don’t get better. So it’s my plea for myself and also it’s for other people as well.

Miller: The last verse is, “Whispers in the dark, come away from the fight. Hold it forward up to the light.” Where do you find light?

Glavor: I mean, I think in a lot of love and relationships, I find hope. Past circumstance, that is, I think it’s found in a lot of one another. I think the way that we carry each other. The most recent maybe tangible thing that I could see in the last couple of years, is the way that friends and family have carried one another. Maybe during the years of the pandemic, whether it’s financially or actually in the midst of loss of loved ones, the ways that you show up and it’s not necessarily like physical gifts. It’s the way that you show up physically, relationally or just emotionally, the way that we listen to one another, extend love and dignity towards one another in all circumstances.

Miller: When you write a song like that, that you said it, it was sort of like from a journal. How do you decide this is something I want to share with the world, this sort of personal journey, I want this to be a song for people to listen to when they’re walking their dog?

Glavor: Yeah, I mean, it depends on the song, obviously. Sometimes it’s like, I can’t not have it come out of me. It’s in a way that’s almost, I have to share this and it’s not because I need to be heard. It’s that there’s something creative and expressing out of me. And I don’t know that I ever write with the intention, at least in this body of work, like I’m going, I want to write this bop so someone can walk their dog and get a little pick me up. I’m writing in real time, not necessarily for that. I can spend time and write a song that’s a bop for somebody to shake their booty to, while they’re doing groceries. But maybe in the case of this song, in particular, it’s a bit more…I don’t think I intended it to be heard. It was like it was self-soothing and maybe something I kind of wanted to say out into the world as true and something that I hoped for the world and myself. And then it turned into something that we could also sing. That also makes it way more vulnerable because I’m revealing myself in that sense, that maybe I’m not doing well or that I want to wish that towards myself, for other people.

Miller: Can we hear another song?

Glavor: Oh, absolutely.

Miller: About losing someone. At least that’s how I hear it. That’s how I read it.

Glavor: This is, “Be Where You Are”?

Miller: “Be Where You Are.” Anything you want us to know before we hear it?

Glavor: It’s taken several iterations. I mean, this is more of a caveat than necessary. And it was written kind of like in loss of heartbreak. But it was also written during the pandemic, so I think that the loss of someone that you cared about hit deeper. It wasn’t just somebody, you’re like, oh man, my heart is broken. It’s like, no, I’ve been estranged from the world. And so when I wrote it, it was so heavy. And now that I’m singing it and I’m not in that emotional space, we’ve kind of added some levity to it. And also I think it just rings true that I don’t want people to be alone. I still want to be with one another. So it’s a funny thing to sing now. So it’s just a funny creative caveat, I guess more than a necessary story.

Miller: But also an example that songs have lives of their own and they’re written in one brain space, then they come out in the world and the world changes and you change.

Glavor: Yeah. And I’m happy to share a new iteration of this song and then of myself. It’s as I personally take shape and these songs kind of warp with me. It’s fun to still love them and find ways to love them and find value in stories that are no longer immediate.

Miller: This is “Be Where You Are.”

[”Be Where You Are” by Hannah Glavor plays]

Miller: What a gift that you can turn heartbreak and pain into solace and beauty for the rest of us. Thank you.


Glavor: Very kind words.

Miller: Doctors found a large tumor in the center of your brain in 2017 and they removed it because there shouldn’t have been a tumor there. And then you had a long recovery. All that was a long time ago now, it was six or seven years ago. When you think about the recovery time, are there images that come to mind?

Glavor: Oh, man. I think about [how] I felt trapped in my body. I could have and should have died, based on the size and location of everything. And I was so trapped. My brain was very awake but my body could not catch up with everything. So I was just physically exhausted but mentally spinning, very awake and aware of everything. And so I think of the things that I regretted, that I couldn’t change. Like, what if I didn’t get to say goodbye? What if I couldn’t play the guitar again? Because I didn’t know, because everything was overstimulating.

I couldn’t listen to music. I couldn’t watch television. I couldn’t get up and walk around because it, like any motion, was exhausting. It took everything out of me. And so I thought of all the things that I just didn’t appreciate enough when I was very able bodied, not knowing what could be retained and what would be lost. And so I think of just this unknowing, and just inability to change the circumstance.

Miller: How much of any of that emotional state has stayed with you?

Glavor: That’s a good question. I think honestly, there’s almost this sense of desperation, like I have to play music, I have to express myself and not in a sense that I demand to be heard, but this is the only life that I get.

Miller: That what’s inside has to come out whether or not people listen.

Glavor: That and it’s holistic. So you could say that creatively, but I also mean, relationally, it’s like I have to live this life with the people I care about around me because what if I don’t see them tomorrow? If I don’t try playing music in a new way that I’ve always wanted to, I might not get a chance tomorrow. If I don’t attempt, if I don’t leap, if I don’t dream, there’s just no guarantees. And I mean, that’s true across the board, but I really, palpably feel it. So. Yes, absolutely, it doesn’t change.

Miller: We’ve heard two live performances but we’re going to listen now to the first studio single that you’ve released, that’ll be on this new album. It’s called, “Otherside.” Let’s have a listen to the beginning of it.

[“Otherside” by Hannah Glavor plays]

Miller: This may be totally off base, but when I’ve been listening to this song, the last couple of days, I keep thinking about George Harrison, somehow not the exact sound of it, but just like the mix of dark and light and the kind of spirituality and even some of the melodic lines. I’m just curious, who were you listening to in the last couple of years as you’ve been thinking about this album and thinking about these songs?

Glavor: Oh, man, I mean, the last couple of years, I was deep in to like Andy Shauf, really loved his stuff, you can hear it in a lot of vocal layers. Imelda was another big one. This one I almost feel like has a Kishi Bashi-like percussiveness, to some of the stuff that I was doing. I have a pretty broad range of music tastes. I don’t know what, specifically. This one felt very liberating to write. I normally don’t sing such big highs and low lows and then kind of launch and sing kind of sassy. So it was a very fun, liberating song to write in general. It was probably all of it culminating.

Miller: You do all the art, basically, the visual art for your work in addition to having a separate career as a visual artist?

Glavor: I don’t know if I have a career as a visual artist, but I do things like fabrications and art installations. I did all of the stuff for the single and the album art and I had a whole flower wall. We’re doing a music video, I’ll do art direction for music videos. I used to be an art director back in the day. Yeah.

Miller: I ask because the boldness and the color and the pop of your visual art, it seems in some ways, less melancholy, less bittersweet than your music.

Glavor: Absolutely.

Miller: Do they come from different places?

Glavor: I think something about visual art, I just feel more permission to express, which is silly to say…

Miller: Because you’re a musician.

Glavor: Because it’s the same me, it’s like I’m always just me. But for some reason, visual arts, I feel I can kind of launch and leap at goofiness and kind of play around with bold colors and levity. But music, something about it, it also might just be how music affects me. I think of sweeping violins and I’m brought to tears. So it might just be, it’s evoking a different emotion. But I do feel this music that I’m writing right now is bridging that gap a bit, where I feel permission, I’m singing the low lows, but also launching into the highest as well.

Miller: That’s right. I mean, that last song we just heard, that has more of the flower brightness, color of the visual art. You’ve done gospel, put out Christmas songs, you’ve played in churches. What’s a connection for you between music making and religion or spirituality?

Glavor: Yeah. I grew up in the church. My dad was leading worship when I was a kid and that’s something that I grew up doing as well. And I always wanted to be consistent as a human across the board. I think there’s a lot of inconsistencies within modern evangelical church spaces in the world and I hated that divide. I hated the way that people treated one another. And if I was going to exist in one space, I wanted to be a voice of hope and truth and advocacy and inclusivity. I didn’t find a lot of that freedom to speak and live in that space, in the church world. And so I was able to find that freedom in my art. And I can actually write the songs that I believe and I can play those songs out, even though I have a basis of spirituality and belief of how we’re supposed to love one another.

But I think there’s limits, in some institutional spaces, of how that’s communicated. So I honestly found ways to bridge that gap of what I believe, as a foundation, and then to catch up to immediacy. I use it as a foundation, but I don’t know that I use it as a platform by any means, nor do I quite affiliate all the way. But I think I’m able to pull from it as an inspirational source. You’ll hear a lot of similar themes, a lot of hope, a lot of life, a lot of light. And I think that’s true across the board. I don’t think it’s limited to the vocabulary of those that grew up maybe in the evangelical church, I think it’s for everybody. And I think everybody has a seat at the table and everybody is welcome. I don’t think enough people hear that.

Miller: Let’s hear one more song, “Left Without A Trace.”

[”Left Without a Trace” by Hannah Glavor plays]

Miller: Hannah Glavor, thanks very much.

Glavor: Thanks for having us.

Miller: That’s Hannah Glavor on vocals and guitar, Matthew Halbert-Howen on keys, Jake Smith on guitar, Kevin Liu Rogers on the low notes, courtesy of a Moog synth.

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