When you hear that an artist is releasing their debut project, you might assume they’re new to the business or still discovering who they are. But in the case of Connor T Hennessy, a debut project is a celebration of years of hard work, refining musical skills, and finding your footing. His Another Year EP explores difficult subjects like depression, insecurity, and fear for the future with an effortless grace that makes it hard to believe that this is just his first offering.
A California native who grew up in Brentwood, Tennessee with a musical father, it’s no surprise that Hennessy fell in love with music from a young age. He felt left out at school and had trouble in classes, but things started to fall into place for him when he started guitar lessons at age seven. His teacher was Tom Leadon, best known as the co-founder and guitarist of Tom Petty’s Mudcrutch band, and he wrote his first song just a month after starting to play.
As he got older, Hennessy encountered more difficulties that cut deeper than anything he had experienced before. After getting a film degree, he worked in admissions at a school that scammed its students, his sister suffered a miscarriage, then COVID-19 took the world by storm. After some time focusing on his well-being at a psychiatric hospital, he emerged with a better mindset and a new determination to experience every part of life fully, even the suffering.
Over the course of nine days, Hennessy managed to pour his experiences into a thrilling five-track EP, fifteen years after he started writing music. The project is mostly on acoustic guitar, serving as a full-circle moment and a reminder that passion can carry you through even the toughest parts of life.
“I had definitely slipped into a comfortable stride with my songwriting, my producer was looking to get back into creative work, and (as you may have noticed) a global pandemic put my other aspirations on the back burner,” he explains. “In addition to pressing pause on, well, everything, the pandemic also proved to be adequate provocation to my weak mental health. After reaching something of an existential climax, I was in this position of vulnerability that really allowed me to tell a story that was personal and real – the result was Another Year.”
Hennessy kicked off this new chapter in his life with the release of “Believe in Me” back in August. The song became a pivotal moment for him that became symbolic of how he could turn the mediocre into masterpieces and struggle into success.
“‘Believe in Me’ was sort of the redemption arc of this project,” he admits. “It started as a song of middling energy that we just weren’t all that passionate about. One day, I sat down and resolved to make the song something I felt anything with. It transformed completely from this self-pitying song of doubt to an anthem to true self-belief. When I brought it to the studio, [producer Tyler Coday] simply said, ‘I think this is the single.’ The rest is history.”
The EP’s opening track, “Where You’re Goin’ (I Don’t Care)” is about accepting life’s defeats and persevering in spite of them, seeing Hennessy admit to self-doubt and feeling unwanted. It mixes acoustic pop and electronic elements as it balances heavier thoughts with more hopeful sentiments, showing his current optimistic outlook.
It also contains a series of lyrics that Hennessy says “captures the essence of the whole work”:
I worry ’bout the fact that you can’t see
All you need is right beneath your feet
And you don’t need to be lookin’ for answers every weekConnor T Hennessy, “Where You’re Goin’ (I Don’t Care)”
Another standout moment on the project is the closing track “Go Away,” which likens loving someone to writing a song. A guest verse from Caro, also known as Caroline Martinez, adds some fun variety to the EP with pretty harmonies:
I’ll stay and you’ll stay
And you won’t have to go awayConnor T Hennessy, “Go Away”
Another Year explores various ups and downs in a hopeful, lyrically vivid manner, following a talented young artist as he comes to terms with what life is and imagines what it can become. After what was a very tough year for most people, it reminds us to stay hopeful and appreciate how far we’ve come, while acknowledging that we’ll be able to overcome difficult times we face in the future.
“The project is not what I first thought it was, yet it is everything I hoped it’d be,” Hennessy shares. “I came with a vision and yet it absolutely transformed. So I’m left feeling accomplished and simultaneously humbled. This is my baby, and it’s something I never would have imagined by myself. Lucky. I feel, more than anything, lucky to have had the chance to make this music.”
You can find Another Year on your favorite streaming services now, and get to know Connor T Hennessy on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and his official website! Keep reading for more from our conversation with the rising singer-songwriter.
Even though Another Year is your debut project, you’ve been writing songs for fifteen years. How did you know now was the right time to put your work out there?
Several things sort of lined up all at once. I had definitely slipped into a comfortable stride with my songwriting, my producer was looking to get back into creative work, and (as you may have noticed) a global pandemic put my other aspirations on the back burner. In addition to pressing pause on, well, everything, the pandemic also proved to be adequate provocation to my weak mental health. After reaching something of an existential climax, I was in this position of vulnerability that really allowed me to tell a story that was personal and real – the result was “Another Year.”
Another Year is a cool mix of acoustic elements, vocal harmonies, and upbeat drums, drawing from genres like pop and alternative. Who are some of your musical influences?
Growing up I was exposed to a litany of classics – the Eagles, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton – but the giant in my youth was my dad’s favorite, Dan Fogelberg. He was like a classic singer-songwriter and my tastes followed that direction as I got older. A few of the larger influences for this record were John Mayer, Julia Michaels, and Ben Rector.
The opening track “Where You’re Goin’ (I Don’t Care)” describes an “it is what it is” attitude towards life, accepting what comes even if it hurts. How did you get to that mindset, and how did it affect the creative process for Another Year?
As I mentioned, I was in a pretty vulnerable place psychologically speaking and I was grasping for some sort of reprieve. Some magic bullet to get me out of that headspace. I don’t know how fully I was able to live it at the time, but my answer was to accept what was clearly given in each moment – good or bad. The result in the studio was that the project was fully collaborative between myself and my producer, Tyler, and that when we decided to take some hard left turns from our initial vision, I shifted with ease and the tracks are better for it.
Songs like “Wake Up” have really personal lyrics, talking about life’s challenges and your mindset at the time. Was it hard to be that vulnerable with something you’re putting out into the world?
It was actually a relief. I know I’m not unique in this, but I deeply desire to say something meaningful and true with my art. So in that regard, it’s totally natural to say these sorts of things publicly. On the other hand, I don’t usually bring up the fact that I genuinely struggle to see the bright side of life. That I feel stuck often. My friends and family tend to think of me as the light-hearted, fun guy. That’s a nice space to occupy, but sometimes I just want to be
like, “Hey y’all, I’m hurting here.” This felt like a good way to do that.
You released “Believe In Me” back in August with a fun, nature-filled music video. What made you want to release that song as the EP’s lead single?
“Believe in Me” was sort of the redemption arc of this project. It started as a song of middling energy that we just weren’t all that passionate about. One day, I sat down and resolved to make the song something I felt anything with. It transformed completely from this self-pitying song of doubt to an anthem to true self-belief. When I brought it to the studio, Tyler simply said, “I think this is the single.” The rest is history.
While you wrote the lyrics on the EP by yourself, you recruited talents like Carolina Martinez, Nick Castor, and Tyler Coday for vocals, instruments, and production. What was it like to see your solo vision come to life?
The feeling is hard to put into words. The project is not what I first thought it was, yet it is everything I hoped it’d be. I came with a vision and yet it absolutely transformed. So I’m left feeling accomplished and simultaneously humbled. This is my baby, and it’s something I never would have imagined by myself. Lucky. I feel, more than anything, lucky to have had the chance to make this music.
Is there a certain lyric on the EP you’re particularly proud of?
The one line that captures the essence of the whole work comes in the first song, “Where You’re Goin’”: “I worry ‘bout the fact that you can’t see / All you need is right beneath your feet and you don’t need to be lookin’ for answers every week.”
If it weren’t for COVID-19, what would your dream EP release cycle/promotions look like?
Strangely, I have to give COVID appropriate credit for giving the conditions for the EP to exist at all. But in a perfect world, I would have loved to have been able to plan out a full-fledged release tour. Even if it was small venues, small towns, small everything. That would’ve been a nice rite of passage to cross off.
Hi! I’m Madison Murray, a pop culture and music writer who also loves writing about lifestyle and fashion. I have credits on sites like TREMG, The Honey POP, Genius, Young Hollywood, and Audible Addixion, as well as my own Melodic Musings blog. Find me on socials @madisonmwrites!