Interview: Hazlett talks new album, starting fresh and future plans

Brisbane-born, Stockholm-based artist Hazlett has returned with his debut album Bloom Mountain, released 13 January. His unique brand of ballroom indie-folk is the ideal soundtrack to long drives and candlelit dinners. After three EPs and a string of solid singles since 2016, the 10-track record showcases delicate guitarwork, moving vocals and warm textures to create a comforting and evocative body of work.

With humble beginnings as a ghost-writer and filling in for friends’ rhythm sections, Hazlett moved to Sweden to craft his own tales as a solo project. Having amassed more than 50 million streams, he toured Germany twice and performed at Reeperbahn Festival in 2022, as well as in London and The Netherlands for 7 Layers Festival. Not bad for an artist who has been releasing music for seven years and only started playing live after the pandemic.

We had a chat with Hazlett about the move, new album and year ahead.

Congratulations on the new album! How does it feel to have it out in the world?

It felt a little scary to some extent. The album has been my whole life for a couple years, so for the process of making it to finally be at the end is kind of strange. But on the other hand, the space it’s left is slowly getting filled up with kind messages from strangers and their interpretation of what the album means. So now it’s taking on a second life that I get to watch from the outside which is pretty exciting.

How did it all come together, and how much of it did you do yourself?

It started shortly after my last EP which unfortunately was around mid-2020. Because there were no live shows or ways to get out and really show people the music, I decided to kind of just shut it all down and take some time away to write. I didn’t put a time limit on it or any stress, I just wanted to see what happened. Everything I do is always with my friend Freddy so we go back and forth a lot with voice memos, riffs, thoughts, ideas etc.

Bloom Mountain has a very distinct, original sound. What were some of your influences for the record?

There’s always something new that gets a chokehold on me, but for the most part on this one I really dug into some of my old staples like Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young more. I wanted to lean on that affinity for the songwriters of old because I wanted this album to be a storytelling album. A balance between moments specific to me, but also moments where people can see themselves in it.

The songs are warm and delicate with melancholy undertones. What inspired the sombre lyrics?

I think I’ve always taken on writing as some kind of self-therapy. It usually starts with a reflective thought or something that’s happened that I’m trying to work through. This album was a big collection of those stories and reflections because I had a lot of solitude and time in my own head up here in Sweden the past couple years. I think as you said, melancholy is a great word for it. Sometimes melancholy comes across sad, but for the most part it actually stems from a happy or hopeful place and that’s what I try to put in everything I write. If you read into it, there’s always some kind of light or lesson at the end of the tunnel.

Originally being from Brisbane, what made you move to Stockholm before launching your solo project?

It was actually because an old friend saw a video of me playing a song. He called me saying “You didn’t tell me you could f*****g sing!” and I replied, “I can’t”. But he said he ran in some really good music circles up in Sweden and that I should go on a trip. I’d just gone through a breakup back home so it seemed like the perfect time to run away for a bit. So, I jumped on a plane and the very first person I worked with was this guy called Freddy. We clicked straight away, and we’ve done everything together ever since.

How has being an artist in Sweden benefited or hindered your development?

It’s been nothing but benefit overall. Moving was a lot lonelier at times than I thought, but even in the low moments it’s been a place to just purely focus on music. There’s no safety net of friends or hometown routine to fall back on when you’re this far away from home. So, it was either figure it out and find a way or don’t and head back home. I think that pressure kind of forced me to make decisions to figure out who I was as a writer and probably more importantly who I wasn’t.

You’re coming off the back of a strong year with tours and festival slots. What have you got in store for 2023?

Well, I just started working on the next album, the day Bloom Mountain came out actually. But aside from that, the whole reason I got into music was to play my songs live and as nervous as it makes me it’s become my happy place. So, at the moment just planning plenty more touring all over the place.

Will there be any chance of a hometown reunion in the near future?

Absolutely. I miss home dearly. It’s been quite a while since I was back there, but if feedback from the album is anything to go by, I need to get back there as soon as possible.

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