It has been a busy few months for PIXX, the moniker of 23 year-old London-based musician Hannah Rodgers. Her second album, Small Mercies, dropped in June on 4AD, prompting a North American tour and flurry of festival dates around the UK – one of which will be Birkenhead’s Future Yard in August. Regular spins from the likes of BBC Radio 6 Music and a handful of support dates with Interpol have only added to the hype. Sonically, Small Mercies shifts towards a heavier, guitar-based sound in comparison to the synth pop aura of her first offering. Injecting a buoyant, hopefulness into her music was the intent, she tells us, despite the record’s sometimes serious nature – something which she has expressed through poetic examinations of love.
As she gears up for her first tour overseas, Brit Williams caught up with Pixx to reflect on growing up in a small town, the value of surrounding herself with strong, creative women and the importance of having a voice in the music industry.
You’ve just announced your first North American tour. Congratulations! What do you look forward to the most now that you’re about to tour Canada and America?
Yeh, the feeling is quite something. Me and the guys are romanticising about all the little things, even the gas station stops will be exciting since it’s our first tour there. I’m really looking forward to meeting people after the shows, too.
I noticed you posted a photo with your friends Alice and Edie who have both helped you with your creative projects. How important is it for you to connect with them on these projects and have you learned anything by working with the women around you?
I’m eternally grateful for the women in my life. Working with Alice and Edie has little to do with the fact that they’re women and more to do with them being straight up talented. I’m just lucky enough to have women around me who like to collaborate and with whom I share a mutual passion for many things. I’m surrounded by a hell of a lot of women who I am constantly learning from. The women in my life have taught me patience and helped me to rediscover self-worth, which can be easily lost when not protected right in this society.
I heard you once say you tried not to pigeonhole yourself into one musical genre and your new album Small Mercies feels like such a departure from your first. Was this done so on purpose, or do you feel like it was a natural progression as an artist?
It was a natural progression. I started playing more guitar than I had done in years and rekindling that love was important as far as songwriting goes. In the studio I work with two different producers, Simon Byrt and Dan Carey. In both cases there’s a strong, trusting and open relationship that’s been built between us over years. The more I go into the studio the freer I feel.
Did growing up in a small town influence your visual palette? Did you feel it was necessary to leave and move to London in order to grow as a musician?
I was happy to grow up surrounded by nature rather than concrete. There just comes a time in everyone’s life for change; I don’t think I’ll stay in London forever. When I moved I was surrounded by a lot more live music which definitely shaped the way I approached the recording of Small Mercies. Bitch, Mary Magdalene, Hysterical and Blowfish were all recorded live with the band I tour with at the moment. Right now I’m in Leipzig visiting German pals; it’s very nice to have a short break from London.
Is music your only outlet, or do you find ways to keep yourself creative by doing anything else?
For me, reading is a crucial part of keeping sane. It’s the best way to escape reality for a little while and delve into somebody else’s story. I make collages from the free newspapers and sometimes I paint, too. Though these things are only for myself.
Your dad has had a massive influence on you musically and gave you your first guitar. Which three albums that define you would you give to your future children?
Neil Young – On The Beach; Nina Simone – High Priestess Of Soul; Supertramp – Crisis? What Crisis?
As a young female artist, what do you believe is the most important message you’d like the younger generation to take from your music?
Speak out about the things that you struggle to understand. Bring attention to your passions and never be ashamed to do so. Communication is one of the most important parts of self-growth.
How have wider contemporary social issues fed into your music and do you feel that it’s important as an artist to have a say on these topics?
I think it comes down to the individual and what music is to them at that point in their life. I often get driven to write by things that fire me up, so, personally, talking about difficult things through music is necessary for me. I don’t know what better way to use the platform than to tackle issues that many have to face and aim to assure those people they are not alone.
Why is music important to you?
It took me a long time to realise, but music gives me a sense of belonging. I always knew I loved it because I would sit and listen to records with my dad for hours when I was growing up. It completely changed me when I started to play and realised I could write lyrics, too. It gave me a way to channel things that otherwise may have eaten me up.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Try to be as honest as you can. Don’t mould yourself to fit into any ‘scene’. Trust yourself… and be conscious of other people’s art too. Everybody who puts their heart and soul into creative works will be sacrificing parts of themselves with the aim to connect and help others. So be kind.
Pixx plays Future Yard festival on Saturday 24th August. Small Mercies is out now via 4AD.