Before she arrives on stage, Hannah Schmidli is unassuming, a seemingly young, bubbly artist getting ready for her gig – but the second she gets on stage her whole mood changes.
I was invited along to the Paris Cat Jazz Club by Pam Lyons, the director of Maldon Folk Festival, to see Schmidli in action. To say she’s impressive is an understatement.
Schmidli wasn’t alone on stage in the upstairs room of the venue. Along with her band of seasoned musicians – including her father on drums – Schmidli also had emerging songwriter in her own right Sadie Mustoe, aka Girl on the Hill, along with her.
Mustoe and Schmidli have known each other since primary school, and the two harmonised like they’d been doing this forever.
“I honestly can’t remember when I started writing, but it was with Hannah – we basically grew up doing it together,” Mustoe says.
Mustoe is a wonderful performer and a joy to watch on stage. It is all the more impressive that she is only 15 years old.
Bearing her musical prowess, Schmidli knows how to work a crowd. She kicked off her first song ‘Manual’ by letting us know it’s “a brag that I drive a manual car”. She was funny and clever with the audience, while showing maturity in her songwriting and musicianship – no wonder Maldon Folk Festival welcomes her back year after year.
“The festival is very dear to me. I grew up there and it’s where I started performing,” Schmidli says. “Pam Lyons kind of picked me up off the street with my little band, me and Sadie as well. She picked us up and she gave us a stage to perform and we kept coming back every year.”
Maldon Folk Festival has a few very special and unique drawcards, one of which is the Roddy Read Memorial Songwriting competition. The competition is open to songwriters of all levels and professions and is sponsored by Maton Guitars, which means the grand prize is a SRS60C Maton Guitar with a pick up and a hardcase. On top of the guitar, there’s also a guaranteed spot on the Maldon Folk Festival lineup the following year.
Schmidli had been a finalist in the Roddy Read competition in 2016 and 2017 before finally taking home the prize in 2018 with her song ‘Ellanore’.
“It was very emotional,” Schmidli says. “I named the guitar after the song that won me it.”
Schmidli played her Maton to perfection all night – the beauty of ‘Ellanore’ was laid bare for all to hear. It’s the type of song that stays with you all night, and in the car ride home.
A brilliant, and now award-winning, songwriter, Schmidli has drawn most of her inspiration for writing from highschool.
“It’s kinda cheesy to say,” Schmidli says. “I just poured my lyrics into the experiences – which I thought were a big deal at the time, and probably were a big deal at the time. It’s grown since then and I’m writing a bit more out of the box, a lot of storytelling and I’m delving into the protest songs a bit, just trying to branch out more.”
Sure, you could say high school is a juvenile inspiration – her song ‘Wireman’ is about her “pain in the arse art teacher”. Nevertheless, her songwriting is anything but juvenile, it’s rather sophisticated and emotive.
Although Mustoe won’t be hitting the Maldon Folk Festival this year, Schmidli will be returning again alongside her Maton guitar with her latest EP, Modern Martyr.
“Festivals are getting harder to get into these days,” Schmidli said. “That’s one of the reasons I love Maldon. Maldon and Pam have always been there for me, and I’m really grateful.”
Hannah Schmidli performs at Maldon Folk Festival when it comes to the country Victoria town from Friday November 1 to Monday November 4. Grab your tickets via the festival website, maldonfolkfestival.com.