Northampton musician Abbie Morin on how juggling multiple jobs infuses her music and Hammydown’s new EP, Pizzaface.
Musician Abbie Morin knows full well what it takes to try to make it as a fulltime musician—a lot of part-time, maybe less than satisfying odd jobs. The bills, after all, must get paid. And so Morin, who is 27, has been a pizza delivery lady, wait person and house cleaner. All for the cause of making music.
Her latest project, Hammydown, released its debut EP Pizzaface this summer. It explores, not surprisingly perhaps, the emotional and physical tax of coming home every day from work with sore soles and still feel like a slacker. “I think we all feel this pressure that hopefully whatever fulfills us in life will also make us money, and I just think that we were all super set up for failure with that,” Morin says. “I think it’s rare that actually what you love tends to be enough to be comfy.” The conundrum is disheartening, but its ubiquity affords an opportunity to come together around it. “I think we all forget that everyone’s in the same boat.”
Hammydown may be a new presence, but Morin is no stranger to the New England music scene. Growing up in New Hampshire, she discovered a passion listening to records of Queen, The Beatles, and Nirvana with her father. For almost 13 years, Morin played acoustic guitar. It was her trusty partner through her start as a solo artist; during her almost in a self-titled band out of Burlington, Vermont; and during a four-month tour as an acoustic duo. Morin describes her sound during that time “folk, Americana-style.”
After the tour, though, her sound began to change. “Once I returned from that trip, I found myself beachside in Long Beach Island, New Jersey at a family house,” Morin recalls. “I was sort of starting to feel really boxed in by my acoustic guitar in general. I couldn’t play a show without breaking a string, and I just was feeling a little tired of my wistful country love songs.”
So she experimented with her great-uncle’s Gretsch drum kit. “It was exactly the change in energy that I needed to start finding the new voice of what I was wanting to say, at this stage of my life.” she says. “I put down the acoustic and started writing from the drum kit and that’s when the Hammydown stuff started to emerge.” She bought an electric guitar—a Fender Jazzmaster—and moved to Northampton to join her best friend, Hannah Mohan, of And The Kids fame. There, she met bassist Josh Speers and drummer Jacob Burnstein. They began playing as Hammydown this past January.
Whereas Morin’s memories of New Hampshire and Vermont’s bucolic landscapes and lush nature informed her earlier folk music, Hammydown’s unadorned, unpretentious garage-pop “takes place right at the dishwasher or something.” Strenuous jobs, unearthly hours in an unfamiliar town provided Morin space for introspection and reflection on her goals. As she hunkered down in her apartment after work, exhausted, practicing on her electric guitar, she had the space to reflect on “letting it be okay to write about what most people find to maybe be mundane, or just writing about the everyday things in life. I used to kind of feel like I have to write about this huge event, or love, or loss, and this time I was just like this is just where I’m at right now.”
In Northampton, Morin found a community of people at a similar place in life. “New England is such a kindred-feeling place,” she says. “I’ve always felt like my community is around. The states I call home—I like to think my music kind of creates that kindred spirit, like ‘We’re all in this together.’” Hammydown’s music is purposely lighthearted to make it universally enjoyable, in appreciation of the kindred spirit. “As much as we want to get heavy, it’s important to me that it’s something you want to sing along to,” she says.
Despite the strain, there is a net positive outcome to all the work Morin has shouldered through. “There’s always an opportunity to make connections with someone,” she says. “I think I’ve learned that I can’t let my weariness and my exhaustion sometimes make me blind to the fact that even the customers that are coming in—there’s an opportunity to meet people and be close to people and to be continuing to just foster that community.”
Want to hear what Morin listens to for musical inspiration? Check out our Take a Listen Spotify channel to hear what’s on her playlist and on the playlists of other musicians we’ve featured.