John Wort Hannam is a favourite with CKUA listeners. We recently asked him about his life in music, his summer plans, and why he’s been a CKUA donor for many years.
You were a public-school teacher before you became a full-time musician. What led you to make that switch, and is there anything you learned or did in the classroom that helps you as a working musician?
I taught for almost seven years on the Kainai Nation in southern Alberta at both Kainai High School and Tatsikiisaapo’p Middle School. I learned a great deal about myself and the Blood Tribe during that time. It’s a chapter in my life I hold close to my heart and will never forget. I left teaching to pursue the craft of songwriting and performing for a few reasons. I love to sing. It brings me joy. I also left teaching because I think you get one kick at the can in this life. I don’t think there’s anything else once we leave this world. Life is short. It goes fast and if you don’t reach for the things that bring you joy, then you just may regret it later. I also think that it’s good to do things that scare you. I like the feeling of being slightly out of my comfort zone.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
This is always a tough question for me because there are many artists and bands that were important in shaping my love of music that don’t show up in my sound, the Clash being the most important, but also Billy Bragg. And there’s a ton of others: The Beatles, The Specials, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, John Prine, and Fred Eaglesmith. These days I’m listening to a ton of Hayes Carll, Kevin Welch, Jason Isbell, Malcolm Holcombe, and Patty Griffin.
How do you spend your time when you’re not performing or recording?
I have an 11-year-old son and a lovely wife who keep me on my toes. My small family becomes more and more important to me as I get older. I love them both, but more importantly, I really like them. They are a great hang. We spend a lot of time cooking in our house. We are kitchen people. We always end up in the kitchen, sitting on the floor, just enjoying each other’s company.
You’re a favourite with our audience, and often requested during fundraisers. When did you discover CKUA?
I discovered CKUA when I moved to Lethbridge in 1993. There was a fundraiser at a local venue that I was asked to sing at. Tom Coxworth and Andy Donnelly showed up to MC the night. I’ve been a monthly donor for years, and have often said I owe my little career to CKUA.
What are you working on next, and what will your summer include?
I’m attempting to write new songs. I hope to make a new recording before the year is out and have a release in 2024 but don’t hold me to that. I have a summer full of shows and festivals. I’m also taking time out to go to Mexico for a few weeks with my wife and son, and I’ll get in as much hiking, running, and camping as I can before the season is over.