Over the next two years, Hinder built a local following by playing at an Oklahoma City club called The Blue Note. The band eventually earned enough money from the shows to fund the recording of their first EP entitled Far From Close. The disc caught the attention of several labels - Atlantic, Roadrunner and Universal - after selling around 5,000 copies in and around Oklahoma. Hinder chose to sign with Universal and that's when everything fell into place for Winkler and his band mates.
In 2006, Hinder hit it big with "Lips of an Angel," a power ballad about Winkler's experience with an ex-girlfriend. What most people don't know is that Winkler and Hanson churned out the tune in just 20 minutes while sitting in Hanson's living room. These days, more cooks in the kitchen have made it harder for Hinder to maintain their independence, but just as committed to writing emotional songs that connect with fans as they were ten years ago.
Cody was kind enough to take some time from the Hinder's writing and recording sessions to tell us about some of Hinder's hit songs, what it's like to work with a major label, and why the band doesn't mind the constant comparisons to Nickelback, 3 Doors Down, and other bands in the active rock genre.
Cody Hanson: Yeah, we are.
Songfacts: How is the material shaping up compared to your last album, All American Nightmare?
Hanson: Well, it's kind of all over the place at this point. Right now we're just kind of going back and forth with the label. Labels are always thinking that they need to be a part of the creative process, which is kind of creating a little bit of a pain. I guess that's part of the game, right? But I mean we have songs that are really all over the place. We're doing some things that are a lot different from things that we've done in the past and we're really experimenting on new sounds in the studio and trying to come up with a whole new fresh thing. I'm really digging it so far, so hopefully the fans will, too.
Songfacts: How does the songwriting process work for you guys? Do you cut a bunch of songs and take the best ones or do you decide on a musical direction first?
Hanson: We do it all kinds of different ways. Usually, we just kind of write a song with an acoustic guitar or whatever and then we'll do a demo. Just a rough acoustic demo, and we'll pick the songs that we want to record that way. If we know there's a song that's just amazing right off the bat, then we'll take it right into the studio. For the most part we do acoustic demos first, pick the songs, and then go in and do full productions afterwards.
Songfacts: What's inspiring your lyrics right now?
Hanson: We try to make everything either personal experience or things we see other people going through. It just depends on what's going on at the time. I mean, we're writing all kinds of different things now, so there are songs about everything pretty much. We're writing a lot of material.
Hanson: It's kind of hard to remember, that was so long ago.
Songfacts: That was 10 years ago, I'm sure.
Hanson: Yeah. You know, a lot of those songs, actually, at that time writing, it was more just me and Austin. So the majority of that whole first record was both of our experiences. We'd throw elements of both of our lives in every song. So for that one, chances are it was definitely a past experience of one of us or both of us.
Songfacts: When you listen to that song some people will hear melodies based on Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" and others hear a little bit of Aerosmith's "Dream On." Would you say that it's similar to either of those songs, or was it influenced by a different song?
Hanson: It was definitely influenced by them. I remember there were two different versions. Before we got our deal, we had done that song. And then once the label got involved, they thought a couple of things should maybe change. I remember one of the things we talked to them about was the intro. It was like "Hey, man, let's do an intro that kind of like pays tribute to Aerosmith. Obviously we're influenced by that band, so we're kind of paying a little tribute to them in the intro."
Hanson: Yeah. That one was actually one of Austin, who's our singer, it was an experience that he had. He came over to the house and we were writing, and I had the slow guitar progression. He had just finished telling me the story about what happened and then we sat down to write. He just kind of belted out, "Honey, why you calling me so late?" and we just kind of stopped and had this moment. We're like "Oh, my God, that's what we have to write the song about." And so we just sort of whipped it out real quick. We didn't work on it very long. It took maybe 20 or 30 minutes and the song was done.
Songfacts: That's incredible. It turned into a big hit song for you guys.
Hanson: Yeah. It's probably the biggest song we've ever had. So, I mean, that's kind of how it goes, though. Those songs that are real personal experiences that other people can relate to, those seem to be the ones that go.
Hanson: No, actually that was a news story that we had read. We were sitting around in a writing session and we read a story about this girl that was pretty much your all-American girl. She was the most popular girl in high school and homecoming queen and the whole deal. She got wrapped up in the wrong thing and the wrong guy, and got into drugs and eventually kind of became - I don't really know what the word I'm looking for is, but I want to say crack whore, but that's not quite right. She went down the wrong path and had a bad result, basically.
Hanson: "All American Nightmare" was the last song that we did for the album. We wanted to take the band in a whole new direction, because we were always known for our ballads. There was a lot of shit talked about us in the rock world. We wanted to come out with something a little more heavy, a little more edgy, a little more tough, so we wrote "All American Nightmare." As soon as we came up with the title, that very last line of the first chorus, we knew that that had to be the title of the album, so we went with it. That's probably one of my favorite songs, just because it's so fuckin' mean sounding. I mean, it's cocky, it's got attitude.
Songfacts: Yeah, it's wicked. Over the last ten years, what's been the biggest struggle you've faced as a band, musically or otherwise?
Hanson: Struggle? I don't know. It's always tough when you get too many cooks in the kitchen, you know what I mean? If we could do the things that we wanted to do as a band without other people getting involved, I think the thing would run better and I think we'd be in a different spot. Our careers are kind of controlled by a big business and people that don't really care about you personally. It kind of throws a wrench in things and things don't always go according to plan. I think that's probably our biggest struggle; there are too many people putting their nose in everything.
Songfacts: It seems like from the beginning people have always wanted to lump you into the same category as bands like Nickelback, 3 Doors Down, Theory of a Deadman, etc. Does that bother you or is it more flattering for you to be compared to those kinds of bands?
Hanson: You know, it kind of bothered us a little bit at first, just because we were kids when we first came out, basically. You always want to be your own thing and be known as you, you know what I mean? But now that's cool, I mean, look at Nickelback; they're still one of the biggest bands on the planet. If we're compared to them, fuck yeah, bring it on, that's cool with me.
Songfacts: For sure, they're huge.
Hanson: Yeah, and they're a great band; they have a lot of great songs. So if we can be compared to them, then yeah, I'll take it, for sure.
Songfacts: When you look at Hinder's entire catalogue, which songs are you the most proud of?
Hanson: That's a tough one. My favorite songs always change. I'll forget about songs and go back and hear it and think, "Wow, I love that song."
"All American Nightmare," is one of my favorite songs. "The Best is Yet To Come" off the second record is another great one. Man, I don't know... there's just a bunch. "Better Than Me" off the first record is a very personal song, I think that's really cool. There are a lot of them that I really like. I just wish that more of them would have had a chance to be put out to the public through radio. I just wish we would have had a chance to release more stuff, but you know how that goes.
Songfacts: Have you been surprised by the songs that have become big hits or by the others that were really great but just didn't get promoted enough or just didn't catch on?
Hanson: Nothing surprises me anymore (Laughs). Definitely on the second record, though, there was a big shock whenever the rug kind of got pulled out from underneath us. We weren't expecting that. But, like I said, nothing shocks me anymore. Who knows what's going to happen?
Songfacts: When can we expect to hear the new record?
Hanson: That's a tough question, too. I've heard a couple of different things. We'd talked about having a single out by the summer, and definitely a record out by September. I would like to definitely stick to that game plan. We're ready to go, we're just waiting on the powers that be to make the call to let us put this thing in high gear and get it going. For now I guess that would probably be fairly safe. I know for sure we'll have the record before the end of the year.
Songfacts: That's great. I'm looking forward to it.
Hanson: Yeah, man. Me, too. I just want to get started on the damn thing (Laughs).
We spoke with Cody Hanson on April 18, 2012. Get more at hindermusic.com.
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