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Tentacles by Christine Catalano

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Neptune’s Car

Lisa Shea

Neptune’s Car is a folk duo led by Holly Hanson, a talented singer and guitar player. She and Steve Hayes write poetical lyrics about lighthouses, love, and the wending ways of life. Mused talked with Holly about her songwriting.

Where did the name Neptune’s Car come from?

Neptune’s Car was a clipper ship with a female captain. This story caught my attention, and I was inspired to write a song about this heroic adventure on the high seas. During an 1855 voyage from New York to San Francisco around Cape Horn, the ship’s captain, Joshua Patten, fell ill. His young wife, Mary, who was pregnant with their first child, had learned navigation during their many hours at sea. Mary fought off mutiny and steered the ship safely through the treacherous waters and storms of Cape Horn to San Francisco. When I teamed up with Steve, we considered different nautical terms and references as a name for our duo. Neptune’s Car had the most significance to us because of Mary’s story.

How did you first get started on writing songs?

I was homeschooling my two sons and doing a great deal of research on the subjects we were exploring together. At the same time, I was also teaching them songs and how to play instruments. Somewhere along the way, I felt inspired to write my own songs for my boys and incorporate what we were learning into the songs. One example is the song “In the Blue Room.” We were studying constellations in the March sky in New Hampshire. I incorporated the constellations into a lullaby for my boys. I noticed how the boys were learning by singing along. This inspired me to keep writing and teaching in this way.

How do you craft your lyrics?

I do a lot of research and draft writing. I often link my feelings to the natural world. For example, in the song “The Last Orange” which is about a difficult break-up, I felt like a Black Hole when this relationship ended. This feeling led me to research how Black Holes are formed and that celestial event is referenced in the song to describe my state of mind.

How do you then arrange melodies to go with the words?

I write the lyrics first. Melody comes later. When I’m writing the lyrics, I am conscious of the beat of the song and try to stick to a pattern of syllables. When I take out my guitar and start trying to fit the words to different melodies, I see that I might have to add, cut, or change the words. It’s a very long process. Sometimes, I write several different versions of a song. I try to complete each version and decide which version is the strongest. Sometimes, I write two versions of the same song -- one in a major key, and one in a minor key -- to see how this affects the message of the song.

What’s the most challenging part of being a singer-songwriter?

For me, I guess it would be finding the time and gathering up the energy to write, practice, perform, book shows, etc., while juggling all of my other responsibilities -- I’m a single mom with two children and a full-time day job. And, sometimes, I pursue other interests on top of all this like acting in musicals in the theater.

If a young artist was wanting to follow in your footsteps, what advice would you give them?

Follow your dreams. Don’t put off your dream until later or someday. Don’t wait for someone to invite you to be a part of his/her project -- start your own project. Be yourself. Don’t pin your hopes on some moment of “fame” in the future, you’ll miss out on the goodness of where you are at right now.

Any final thoughts?

Planning for the third album is underway, and we're hoping for a late-2013 release. We are excited to share the new songs with you.

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