Brighton Lite Interviews Local Comedienne Hannah Brackenbury

By Kayleigh Rose Lewis

Hannah Brackenbury is a Brighton-based musical-comedienne. Her hilarious songs and parodies have made her a regular fixture on Brighton’s comedy scene. She has been compared to Victoria Wood and Tim Minchin thanks to her hilarious and intelligent songs. Whilst her comedic talents will have you laughing her musical ability will make sure the infectious songs get stuck in your head long after her sets are finished. Brighton-Lite caught up with her to find out more.

Hi, so I hear you have an album?
I made the album two years ago when I moved to Brighton, hence the title Postcard from Brighton. I moved here from Derby, which is where I went to Uni. I ended up hanging around up there for 12 years after I’d finished, as you often do. I coincided producing the album with moving to Brighton.

Why did you move down here?
A lot of different reasons. I’d just turned 30, I wanted something different, I didn’t really have any commitments up there and I was fed up with my job. Which is where the opening song Tomorrow came from, it’s about quitting your job… But yeah, I just wanted some new scenery and a fresh start. There’s so much going on in Brighton music-wise and creatively. I’m a photographer, that’s my day job and there’s quite a lot of opportunities for that.

How is that going for you?
Alright, pretty good. I’ve been going freelance since I moved, I do a lot of weddings, a big chunk of my money comes from weddings and baby pictures and things like that! I worked in newspapers up in Derby and at the Derby Evening Telegraph, a local paper. I still do a bit of press here and there but it’s mainly the nicer stuff.

What is your passion, is it the photography or the music?
Oh, definitely the music. I’d love to be able to make a living from the music, the photography actually came along a bit later on. My degree was in music and that’s what I wanted to follow but there are so few opportunities, well, there aren’t in photography but I just sort of stumbled into that by accident!

So how did you get into music?
I’ve been playing piano since I was five years old, I had my first piano lesson at five, we always had a piano in the house as my dad’s quite musical. All my dad’s side of the family are musical, my uncle is a performing musician. So I’ve always had a piano and a guitar in the house, my dad plays a little guitar too. I had [piano] lessons right through school, so I suppose I’m what you’d call classically trained. I went right through to A level doing the classical stuff and then I was like right, I’ve really had enough of this, I enjoyed song writing so instead of doing the traditional classical degree I did a pop music degree.

So music wasn’t always a comedic thing for you?
No, not at all. After my degree I performed for four or five years as a straight singer-songwriter. The usual depressing songs of heartache and despair, as a lot of female singer-songwriters do! I did write that for a while and I enjoyed it whilst I was doing it but I got to the point where I was just sick of it.

So where did the comedy thing come from?
Well, I’ve always been a big fan of Victoria Wood, she’s my biggest influence. I was hosting a women’s music night, in Nottingham on a monthly basis and I started slipping in a couple of Victoria Wood songs at the end of the set. I really enjoyed playing them so I thought I’d have a go performing them. They went down really, really well and the reaction I got from that was so completely different. People appreciated what I was doing with my song-writing stuff but the reaction from getting a laugh was a whole different matter.

Did you enjoy that more?
Yeah, and I got the buzz for that. My parents had been on at me for years saying “why don’t you have a go at writing comedy stuff, you could do what Victoria Wood does?” I always use to say “no, no, no, she’s really clever I couldn’t possibly do anything like that!” And then I went to see Tim Minchin, he’s my other big influence. I went to see him in concert in Derby and that totally blew my mind. I was like wow, he’s amazing, he’s cool as well as being funny and clever and that’s everything I would love to be able to do! And I thought right, I’m really going to sit down and write some stuff. I just went home, scrapped all my miserable songs, started writing and never looked back!

So did you always think that you were quite funny?
No! I still don’t think I’m very funny! The idea of doing stand-up or anything like that I just couldn’t stand, I just wouldn’t know what to do. I’m just not quick enough!

But your songs are quite funny…
Well they’re quite funny because I’ve got time to sit and think and write and plan them out! I think I’m a good comedy writer but not necessarily funny, I don’t have the wit of a stand-up.

So you think that being good at writing comedy doesn’t necessarily means that you are naturally hilarious all the time?
Exactly, I think I’m just lucky that I’m a good comedy writer and I’m quite a good musician as well, and I’ve managed to combine the two to produce a good act. I mean if you ask my girlfriend she’ll probably tell you that I’m quite grumpy most of the time!

So what is the inspiration behind your songs?
(Laughs) They’re so random, people ask me that all the time! Some of them come from real experiences and people I know but some of them are just completely random. It actually worries me where they come from some of the times. Like the Frying Pan song, that’s about having a partner who’s a cannibal and keeps cutting part of your body off to cook and eat you, but still sticking with them because you love them anyway! I’ve no idea where that came from!

Genuinely no idea?
Well, I think I had the idea of the title ‘Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire’ and sort of developed it. Really went off on one! I’m also doing a lot of parodies now.

Do you find they go well?
Yeah, they do, and I really enjoy doing them as well because you get a different reaction when people have some idea of the song already, but then you put a twist on it. A favourite is The Carpenters’ Close to You, they’re one of my favourite bands of all time. But my version is called Your Head is Made of Bread… It all came from the opening line “Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?” Well, it’s because your head is made of bread!

Having appeared at Bent Double at Komedia last week you can see Hannah at Funny Girls, which she organises, at the Caroline of Brunswick on the second Friday of every month. You can catch the last Funny Girls of the year this Friday (9 Dec).

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