In 2006, Holly Hanson was looking for someone to accompany her during performances. Steve Hayes heard some of Hanson’s songs on her MySpace page – remember MySpace? – and contacted her.
“We decided to meet and play some songs,” Hanson said. “I started playing one of my songs and Steve jumped right in there and added his gorgeous guitar melodies. I was amazed because he’d never heard the song before. We’ve played together ever since.”
The duo, based in Sutton, MA, a bit west of Boston, will be in concert Saturday, June 25, on The Bowery Stage at Winnsboro Center for the Arts.
Hanson played music all through school, then took a 20-year hiatus to raise her sons, now 18 and 14.
She started writing music for her children’s lessons – “In the Blue Room” (Letters from the Road), grew out of a lesson about the constellations. After a successful open mike appearance, she made a return to performing.
Hayes comes from a musical family, from a grandfather who played guitar, banjo, and ukulele, to his brother, a founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show.
He’s an award-winning guitar player who can play just about anything with strings; from his first gig at age thirteen, to his 10-year association with Hanson, he’s played all kinds of music including rock, country, jazz, funk, blues and, of course, folk.
Hanson was raised in West Bolyston, MA.
“It’s a small town where everywhere you go, you see someone you know,” she noted.
Hayes, who now lives in New Hampshire, was raised in Massachusetts, too.
According to their website, the duo’s unique name comes from the true story of a clipper ship captained by Mary Patten.
In 1857, despite being pregnant, caring for her sick husband, and fighting off mutiny from the first mate, Patten successfully navigated the ship, Neptune’s Car, around Cape Horn to San Francisco.
Together, Hanson and Hayes have made waves in the world of Americana music.
“Strawberry Moon” charted at #4 in September 2010 and included the #1 song “Lighthouse Keeper.”
“Letters from the Road” charted at #21 in October 2012.
“The 45th Parallel” charted at #2 in February of 2015 and ended up as #20 on the Americana charts for the year.
The duo has also won its share of awards, including New Hampshire Country Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year (1998), Official Showcase Artist at Folk Alliance Region Midwest (2015), Grassy Hill Emerging Artists at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and Outstanding Achievement in Songwriting -Folk/Americana – at the Great American Song Contest in 2015.
Hanson and Hayes sat down to answer a few questions before hitting the road.
The Winnsboro News: Your music has been compared to John Prine’s. How does it feel to be in such rare company?
Holly Hanson: He is one of best songwriters out there. I’m amazed and deeply grateful that someone would compare our music to his.
Steve Hayes: It’s flattering. John is great.
TWN: Did you know it was a good match for the two of you from the get-go?
HH: Yes. He was playing along so beautifully and creating these wonderful melodies right on the spot.
SH: I think so. We’ve been told since the beginning that we have great chemistry.
TWN: Your harmonies are so tight and smooth. Do you know when you’re really in sync? Can you feel it?
HH: Wow. Thanks for saying that.
Yes. I love singing in harmony. It is such a pleasure to raise up your voice in song with another person.
SH: Thank you. Yes, I can definitely feel it when we’re in sync, and when we’re not.
TWN: Who travels with you? Do you drive or fly?
HH: It’s just the two of us, and we drive everywhere.
TWN: How many gigs do you do a year?
HH: Not enough
TWN: What’s the best thing about traveling?
HH: Seeing new places and meeting new people
SH: The best thing is playing on a variety of stages and meeting new folks.
TWN: What is the worst thing about traveling?
HH: Driving and living out of a small car that is totally packed with gear.
SH: The worst thing is sleeping in the car when it’s necessary.
TWN: What do you hope your audiences take away from a Neptune’s Car performance?
HH: During a performance, we’re all in it together. We’re having a great time, and we bring the audience along with us. We talk with the audience from the stage. Sometimes, we all sing along together. We tell stories. It’s a fun night for everyone.
SH: It would be great if they were excited about the songs, and think that it was well worth taking the time to come to our show.
TWN: Talk a little about the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.
HH: It was such an honor to be selected as an Emerging Artist and have the chance to perform at this festival. Of course our moment on the Main Stage was a wonderful experience, but one of my favorite things about this festival is that it highlights the work of songwriters.
I loved hearing the other artists perform, and I loved meeting them. And, it was wonderful to play for such an attentive listening audience.
SH: It’s a community of folk musicians and fans. Everyone is so supportive of one another. It’s one of the more popular festivals in New England.
TWN: What’s next for Neptune’s Car?
HH: We’ve got enough new, original songs for album number four. So, what’s next is playing those new songs out on the road and then recording a new album.
SH: Hopefully, we’ll tour a lot, too.
TWN: What kind of guitars do you each play?
HH: I play a Blueridge guitar.
SH: I play a Bourgeois Guitar, crafted in Lewiston, Maine.
Doors open at 7 p.m. Show begins at 7:30 p.m. Wine is allowed. Staff will uncork bottles for a small fee. Light snacks and water will also be available for purchase. Advanced tickets are $12 for general admission and $20 for reserved -$15 at the door for general admission.
Call 903-342-0686 or visit www.winnsborocenterforthearts.com to purchase tickets. Tickets are also available at Winnsboro Emporium.
For more information about Neptune’s Car, visit neptunescar.com.