Essential Listening – New Artist Spotlight  – Gretel Hänlyn

01 New Artist Spotlight  – Gretel Hänlyn.

So rather than waiting for the year to draw to a conclusion, we thought we’d start recommending artists throughout the year, hence the imaginatively “Future Essential Listening” highlighting our favourite emerging new artists.

And kicking off this groundbreaking, hugely innovative new feature is the quite brilliant Gretel Hänlyn, a 19-year-old singer-songwriter from London who has yet to play her debut gig.

After three hugely impressive singles, she certainly sounds like the future (baby) and has been picking up plaudits since her debut single “Slugeye” landed.  Released in October 2021 and written & co-produced by Hänlyn alongside music producer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and all-around whizz kid Mura Masa, it highlighted her exquisite voice and ear for sombre yet darkly beautiful avant-pop.   It’s a voice that perfectly fits Hänlyn’s oeuvre and her predilection for dark baroque pop-noir, having been raised on the crepuscular poetry of renowned chucklemeister Nick Cave.  Furthermore, she possesses a voice imbued with a timeless quality and captivating depth, one that conjures up black ink being slowly poured into cream, full of doomed grandeur and faded glamour.  Hänlyn has stated that “Slugeye” “is about a ‘low-life’ character that isn’t very liked. He has unfortunate qualities that even the best of us show at times. I guess he became less of a character created in one of my songs and more of an ongoing symbol of all the bad qualities we have and that we shouldn’t be quite so ashamed of*.”  (*unless it was voting for Boris Johnson obvs, right kids ?) 

Her next single “It’s The Future Baby” was even better and showcased her ability to utilise her darkly expressive vocals as an instrument to drive her songs forward and to weave compelling goth-pop narratives, as thematically she navigated the path from darkness toward the light. Of the single, she stated, “It’s The Future, Baby is me talking to a part of myself that used to be in a really bad state. I didn’t see much of a future for myself before I started writing music and as I wrote this song, I started to realise that I was living in the ‘future’ that everyone says to wait for, like that light at the end of the tunnel cliche.”

Hänlyn’s first release of 2022  “Motorbike” was a grunge tinged pop rumbler that Wolf Alice would doubtless have been proud to have written. When Hänlyn shouts the line “hey you’re not being loud enough” it’s a genuinely liberating fist in the air moment and you can ‌easily imagine festival crowds bouncing whilst singing along with a life-affirming post covid sense of brio. The video also features a cast of bikers and features a cameo from her Mum and Dad who seem to be enjoying themselves just a little bit too much dressed up as a latter-day Sid And Nancy!  ( Did they ever give the clobber back? :) )   (a bit more on that HERE)

As well as being a fan of Nick Cave, Tim Buckley and Wolf Alice,  Hänlyn was also a fan of Nirvana and initially began performing under the name “Maddy Bean” (incidentally her real name is Maddy Haenleinher) taking inspiration from Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love’s daughter Frances Bean. Whilst it’s highly unlikely she would never be confused with the hapless rubber-faced irritant played by Rowan Atkinson, in retrospect “Bean” probably wasn’t quite the vibe she was going for. As  Lizzie Grant discovered, hitting on a name that kind of encapsulates your music can certainly help. I mean, would Nick Cave really be able to exude the same sort of dark gravitas if he’d release his music under the moniker Gavin Turnip? She finally settled on Gretel Hänlyn, which has just the right sort of dark exotic mystery and is also based on her familial name as well as a great aunt, who was raised on a vineyard in Germany and who, in her youth, bore a striking resemblance to Maddy. With the possibility of fewer Covid related disruptions, and based on her trio of stunning releases, 2022 looks set to be a big year for Gretel Hänlyn. Her debut EP is due to drop and you can get a ticket for her debut gig here if you’re interested, and quite frankly you should be!) 
   

As well as being a fan of Nick Cave, Tim Buckley and Wolf Alice, Hänlyn was also a fan of Nirvana and initially began performing under the name “Maddy Bean” (incidentally her real name is Maddy Haenleinher) taking inspiration from Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love’s daughter Frances Bean. Whilst it’s highly unlikely she would never be confused with the hapless rubber-faced irritant played by Rowan Atkinson, in retrospect ‘Bean’ probably wasn’t quite the vibe she was going for. As Lizzie Grant discovered, hitting on a name that can encapsulate your music is certainly helpful. I mean, would Nick Cave really have been able to exude the same sort of dark gravitas if he’d released his music under the moniker Gavin Turnip?  Maddy settled on Gretel Hänlyn, which certainly exudes a dark exotic sense of mystery and is obviously based on her familial name as well as a great aunt, who was raised on a vineyard in Germany and who, in her youth, bore a striking resemblance to Maddy. 

With the possibility of fewer Covid related disruptions, and based on her trio of stunning releases, 2022 looks set to be a big year for Gretel Hänlyn. Her debut EP is due to drop and you can get a ticket for her debut gig here if you’re interested, and quite frankly, why wouldn’t you be?

Gretel Hanlyn



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