Hannah Connolly’s Bags Are Packed and she’s ready to go in her sweetly soothing new single — premiering exclusively on Tinnitist.
The second single from the Wisconsin-raised, L.A.-based singer-songwriter’s upcoming sophomore album Shadowboxing, Bags Are Packed is as laid-back and lighthearted as a country drive on a Sunday morning. As Connolly’s sunny, shimmering vocals floats atop gently strummed, intertwined acoustic guitars, it’s the next best thing to a holiday. Which is no accident.
“Bags Are Packed is about escaping the pressures and stresses of everyday life, to go into nature and connect with friends,” says Connolly. “It became so fitting because we wrote this song before we knew where we’d record, but it’s the exact feeling I had every time we packed up all of our gear to go work on the album up in Idyllwild with friends. Just this lightness, hope and joy. Kind of youthful.
“I am hoping this will also be a song that people will connect with as they are getting ready to go on adventures of their own. I’m deciding to release it second, so that it’s out during the summer also feels fitting as the world is opening up again and many people are getting to finally take trips they have been wanting to take for a long time.”
Connolly’s career has certainly taken her places. Originally from Eau Claire, she has been writing songs since she was a young teenager, crafting thoughtful, image-rich music that takes vivid snapshots from her own life and makes them feel universal. In 2020, she released her debut album From Where You Are — a work that drew heavily from the loss of her younger brother Cullen, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2015.
In some ways, Shadowboxing — due in early 2024 — picks up where From Where You Are left off, confronting the grief that Connolly still carries. These songs, though, are lighter both sonically and thematically, and written from the kind of open, compassionate perspective that only healing can bring.
Connolly began work on Shadowboxing in late 2020. The pandemic forced her and her collaborators to work and write remotely, and she found that the quiet and solitude gave her space to write. She created many of the songs with Jordan Ruiz, who produced From Where You Are.
“I had a lot of lyrics piling up. In order to have some more time to write, I took off work for three days,” she says. “I literally pretended like I was going into the studio, but it was actually the extra bedroom where my boyfriend and I had recording equipment set up. (Jordan and I) wrote almost three songs a day for a few days straight over Zoom. which was really fun. All of the sudden it was like, ‘Whoa, there’s so much coming out here.’ ”
She and Ruiz finished those sessions with nine new songs, many of which appear on Shadowboxing. After a few more months, she had over 30 tracks to choose from, a testament to her prolificacy. Alongside a group of close friends, she traveled to Idyllwild, to record Shadowboxing. “It’s a forest town outside of L.A.,” she says. “At the top of the mountain range that creates the valley in Palm Springs, the Joshua Tree area, there’s this little mountain town and it’s really sweet. There are big pine trees and log cabins and local restaurants — it feels like it’s untouched, almost.”
Her friend Jon O’Brien was building a studio there — and having worked on From Where You Are, he was a natural fit for Shadowboxing. Connolly stayed in a bunkhouse next door to the studio, which she describes as, “away from everything, like a little artist’s retreat while you record.” Recording was a community-driven effort, with friends she has made in Los Angeles taking part. Players include Ruiz, Ben Greenberg, Eric Cannata and O’Brien, with contributions from Dan Bailey, Via Mardot and Adam Bradley Schreiber.
The band recorded live in the studio, adding a sense of immediacy to the songs. “We were able to do so much with that group live, which was really fun,” she says. “It was the first time that I’ve really recorded in that way. It felt really exciting because you can hear everything at once. And as you’re singing, it just feels like there’s a lot of energy in the room at the same time.”
With nearly half her life spent as a songwriter, Connolly is unusually seasoned, thanks to her natural gift for turning life’s important moments into song — and to the experiences that shaped the person she is. Shadowboxing is the work of an astute observer of the human condition, one who no doubt will have many more stories to share for years to come.