Turning a singular subject into one with a universal connection is another measure of a true songwriter. But there’s something else that separates Hanke from the pack: his Midwestern-born work ethic.
“You have to treat being a musician like a job,” he says. “If you’re not doing shit, it won’t get done. If you wanna drop acid and start a drum circle in South Austin, go do it. But it’s not going to get you anywhere.”
That’s why Hanke recently went to Nashville to pair up with other writers in the Carnival Music Publishing stable. (Carnival, it should be noted, is owned by Frank Liddell, Miranda Lambert’s producer and Lee Ann Womack’s husband.) He’s not sure whether more sessions will follow, but in the meantime, he’s got two collaborations on this album: one with Sarah Pierce (“Burn It Down,” inspired, he says, by the small-mindedness in the Texas town his girlfriend is from) and one with George Ensle.
“He’s one of the top troubadours in Texas, in my opinion, though not many people know about him,” Hanke says of Ensle. “He came out of the Houston scene in the ’70s with Guy Clark, Townes and those guys.” The song, “Hope Your Dreams Come True,” has a gentle, early soul/R&B tone. “It’s a nostalgic song that has to do with some of my favorite things: old cars, baseball,” Hanke adds. “It’s sort of a blessing to the people who listen to it.”
Next to the lyrics in the album sleeve, there’s a photo of his dad as a Little Leaguer. The paternal images — not to mention one of a very young Hanke with his first guitar — represent links to his past and his strong family ties; he also has a passion for history.