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Carlie Hanson on tour

Carlie Hanson recently completed a run opening for Troye Sivan on his Bloom Tour.

I have to admit I felt kind of dumb not knowing until quite recently that a young woman from Onalaska named Carlie Hanson is ripping it up in the music business. I mean, she’s just flat-out killing it, with 47 million Spotify plays on one song alone, and she just completed a concert tour as opening act for Troye Sivan, a major pop star from Australia.

I definitely try my best to keep on top of our local music scene, but here is our hometown girl knocking it out of the park with “Only One,” her first big single, thanks in part to having Taylor Swift include “Only One” on her Spotify playlist of favorite songs. Granted, she didn’t exactly pay her dues locally playing for peanuts at the Popcorn.

“Only One,” which she co-wrote with Dale Anthoni, came out about a year ago, and she’s released another four singles since then, including “Us,” “Mood,” “Goodbye” (which is on the movie soundtrack for “Sierra Burgess is Loser”) and her latest, “Toxins,” which came out last month.

Confession: The first couple times I listened to “Toxins,” I thought the chorus had her singing “all I need is you and your Tysons.” I felt like it was weird that someone would be obsessed with Tysons, which I assumed was what the kids these days are calling chicken nuggets, you know, kind of a brand name check, like Gucci and Versace.

Well, duh, the name of the song is “Toxins,” so it’s not Tysons, and nobody is going to sing a pop song about chicken nuggets.

To try to get up to speed on the burgeoning pop star career of Carlie Hanson, I turned to the internet and found she already has a sizeable collection of write-ups chronicling her adventures in the music business. There’s definitely a lot of buzz about this young woman.

But get this. I dug deep into the archives for the Onalaska Community Life, the Tribune’s sister weekly paper (now merged with the Holmen Courier and West Salem’s Coulee News into the Coulee Courier), and I found gold.

It turns out there’s a great chance I can claim to be the first one to write a newspaper story about Carlie Hanson.

I found a story that came out 10 years ago, when Hanson was an 8-year-old in the third grade at Irving Pertzsch Elementary. The Onalaska Recreation Department started an essay contest for youngsters on the theme of what they’re thankful for. Hanson’s teacher, Jackie Pitel, had the whole class write these thankfulness essays, and then Pitel submitted them for the contest.

Hanson was chosen as the winner, and her prize package included dinner at Fazoli’s, an engraved plaque and a picture in the weekly newspaper with Mayor Mike Giese, taken by yours truly.

Carlie Hanson

Onalaska third-grader Carlie Hanson and Onalaska Mayor Mike Giese were all smiles after the announcement that Carlie had won the city's holiday essay contest. This was the first year for the competition, open to kids in grades 1-3.

Here’s what 8-year-old Carlie Hanson wrote in her essay:

“I am thankful for my parents because they cook for me and help with lots of other things like math and reading.

“And I like to play games with my parents, like my dad and I play football sometimes. And that makes me feel very happy.

“I’m thankful for my brain because my brain has a lot of knowledge and I want to have a lot of knowledge so I have a great job some day.

“My brain has a lot in it like math, science and school work. If I didn’t have a brain, I wouldn’t know any of those things. I love that about my brain.”

That’s some pretty good writing for a third-grader, I’d say. I should have recognized her talent then, I suppose.

Just a few years after writing this essay, Carlie Hanson was filling her notebooks with song lyric scraps and ideas, dreaming of following in the footsteps of teen pop heartthrob Justin Bieber. Someday, there could be thousands and thousands of people claiming to have seen her public performance debut at age 11, singing Bieber’s “Baby” in the November 2011 talent show in the Trygve Mathison Fine Arts Center at Holmen High School.

I had a chance last weekend to have a nice talk with Carlie Hanson at The Root Note, where she and her friend Paige Espe performed during a few open-mic nights before Hanson got her big break and moved to Los Angeles. It’s a simply amazing story that starts with her posting a video on Instagram from the Valley View Mall parking lot a couple years ago, and one thing led to another, and now she’s writing songs with some top-flight people and being managed by the former longtime manager of Bruno Mars.

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I’ll tell you all about it in a Sunday Tribune edition sometime real soon.

I have to say Hanson has got me really looking forward to hearing her next release, probably an EP that should be coming out early next year, when she also is going on a European concert tour. I really like what I’ve heard of her music so far, but she told me that she has been doing a deep dive into Kurt Cobain and Nirvana and plans to infuse more rock elements into her music while retaining a pop aesthetic.

Rock on …

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Contact Randy Erickson at randy.erickson@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @Troubadog.

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