Music has always been a part of Hanorah’s life. She grew up in Montreal with musician parents who held band practice in the basement—her father is a drummer and her mother a singer—so it made sense that it would be something she is drawn to. But it took some time for her to forge her own musical identity, which started as a way to heal after being sexually assaulted in 2012. In the years following the incident, she slowly began writing as a way to cope and better understand her feelings. Through that process, Hanorah discovered that she was actually composing songs, which not only helped in her own recovery but also spoke to a wider audience once she began performing them.
After appearing on La Voix (Quebec’s version of The Voice) in 2017 and landing a record deal thanks to her powerful vocals and soulful-rock style, Hanorah released her first full-length EP, For the Good Guys and the Bad Guys, in 2019. When the pandemic hit, she had been touring Canada with her band to promote the album. Like the rest of the music community, Hanorah was forced to hunker down and figure out a way forward, so she began writing, working on new songs and trying to come up with ideas on how to keep music—and performance—alive. Her answer came in the form of Montreal-based Huis Clos, an independent cultural media initiative run by Guillaume Gueras and Laura Derrey, who approached her about doing a virtual performance of her entire EP. A passion project with the aim of bringing performance and music into our homes, Huis Clos’ collaboration with Hanorah is just one example of the Canadian music community’s perseverance and resilience. Ahead of the show’s premier, we spoke with Hanorah about her inspiration, finding music and the importance of this particular show.
On her musical influences “As a vocalist, I think it’s already what’s inside of you. I grew up listening to some of the big singers, like Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding—just really powerful voices that have something to say. I also loved Amy Winehouse and Joss Stone in my teen years. In terms of my musical style, there’s a lot of classic rock and a lot of funk, some jazz—basically whatever’s swirling around in my subconscious is going to come through. I just try to be as honest as possible in my storytelling and sing in a way that makes me feel right. That’s how I find my sound.”
On healing through music “After I was sexually assaulted, I started writing to process what had happened, what it meant, why it happened, what did it say about social issues at large, what did it say about me and my life and how I could move forward. I was writing these poems, and these poems turned into songs, and then I had a flash one day in 2015, three years after the assault. I was living with so much anger and so much hate because of what had happened, and I decided that I wouldn’t carry that for the rest of my life. So I focused on living the best life I could, talking to people, forming a band and choosing these healthier ways to live so I could achieve my goals. I decided that I deserved it.”
On the virtual performance “Laura and Guillaume from Huis Clos had the creative vision behind it. They came to me with the idea to shoot at the Centre St Jax, which is this deceptively spacious cathedral in downtown Montreal. Having acrobatic dancers from Le Monastre during our performance was also really special and lent a new layer of meaning to the songs too. They did an incredible job.”
On getting back onstage with her band “It was so good! I’d spent months just writing songs at home and had forgotten that I am a performer too. It was overwhelming at first—I felt a little rusty—but once we got rolling, we were right back in our element. I’m lucky to be so well surrounded, and it meant so much to get onto a stage again. It felt somewhat like a dream. I got to visit with that feeling of letting it all out onstage before the clock struck twelve and I had to face the reality of this pandemic again. It was the opposite of isolation. It was a connection, and I really needed it—I know we all do.”
On the future of live performance “It’s hard to say what the future will look like. I was lucky to get to do this one show, but I’m not sure how sustainable it is to rely on online performances for career momentum or income, especially for up-and-comers. I still hold out hope for the return of traditional in-person concerts. For me, the music comes alive when you’re there with an audience, sharing in the creation of a unique experience together. No two crowds are the same, no two shows can be identical and having a live audience breathes life into me as a performer. It reminds me that I have to own my message.”
Click here to stream Hanorah’s live performance, premiering April 29th at 8 p.m. EST.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.