Nevertheless, she knew it was finally happening. "I really discovered my sound with those guys, and I knew they were going to be a part of my project for a long time," she says. Next was a trip to Los Angeles, where she met Dale Anthoni, who executive-produces her music, and Brett McLaughlin (aka Leland), who introduced her to Dani Russin, her now-manager and "sister, mom, everything rolled into one."
Hanson is young. (5 Seconds of Summer was one of her first concerts as a tween). But she was old enough at 16 to get a job at McDonald’s in 2016, where she learned how to become more confident in talking to strangers, and her natural friendliness meant she meshed well with the other employees. Music sort of just began to happen at the same time. “I remember coming back after my first time in L.A., and telling my manager and people I worked with, 'I think I'm going to sign a record deal,'” she giggles. “They were like, 'Yeah, sure.' I think everyone was and still is shocked that I'm doing this.”
Hanson says her career turn wasn’t something even her friends expected, as she’d never been a show-off in school. “I was never about [starring in musicals] or anything. I did choir, but I never enjoyed singing that stuff,” she shrugs, before affecting a cheesy tone and singing a line of what is, presumably, a chorus song. “I was like, ‘I'm not trying to sing opera, I'm trying to dance and sing hip-hop,’ or whatever.”
Some moments, like press stops at adored outlets like MTV and occasionally driving around in chauffeured cars, still fill Hanson with wonder. Certainly, it was a lot to take in on that first trip to Canada. “I was like, ‘I can't believe I'm doing this right now. 'This isn't real, I'm not singing to this mic right now.' It was very surreal." Shortly after, at seventeen, Hanson moved to L.A., and as she settled in, Russin, who also manages Troye Sivan, introduced Hanson to him and his boyfriend Jacob Bixenman. (Hanson, for the record, isn’t sure how she identifies at the moment, though the word "flowy" applies, and she came out to her mom, then her fans, in 2018.)
The couple ended up shooting photos for Hanson (two were used as artwork for her songs "Only One" and "Why Did You Lie?") before she’d put any music out, and she opened for Sivan his Bloom Tour in September 2018, playing venues like New York City's Radio City Music Hall and the Greek Theater in L.A. Hanson was inspired watching his show each night -- "He’s just so who he is, his own individual" -- and began mapping her own path. By the time she met Warner Records CEO and co-chairman Aaron Bay-Schuck, there was no questioning her dedication.
Russin introduced Bay-Schuck, then-president of A&R at Interscope Geffen A&M, and Hanson about a year before any real label conversations, and they hit it off. Bay-Schuck remembers their first dinner. “She wasn’t fazed at all by the fact that she was sitting with the head of a label,” he says. “She spoke her mind, you could tell that she was very confident in her abilities and the vision for her artist project -- but at the same time, so excited and willing to learn and just enjoy the process.”
Once Bay-Schuck began at Warner in October 2018, Hanson became a mission of his, and by February, pen was put to paper. He recounts Hanson's swift progress since then, citing growth across ticket sales and streams. Next is more music, and hopefully a debut headlining tour in early 2020. After all, Hanson is more than game -- she is determined to play Madison Square Garden one day -- and she, too, saw Warner Records as an immediate fit. “He understood me,” she says of Bay-Schuck. “You know when you just feel something is right? That's how I felt when I met with Warner."