Street Sounds: Jim Hanft & Samantha Yonack

Jim Hanft, a Philadelphia area native, and Samantha Yonack are touring as a singer-songwriter duo. They will perform at World Cafe Live Oct. 3. ( COURTESY PETRA MARTEN )
Jim Hanft, a Philadelphia area native, and Samantha Yonack are touring as a singer-songwriter duo. They will perform at World Cafe Live Oct. 3. ( COURTESY PETRA MARTEN )
Jim Hanft, a Philadelphia area native, and Samantha Yonack are touring as a singer-songwriter duo. They will perform at World Cafe Live Oct. 3. ( COURTESY PETRA MARTEN )
Jim Hanft, a Philadelphia area native, and Samantha Yonack are touring as a singer-songwriter duo. They will perform at World Cafe Live Oct. 3. ( COURTESY PETRA MARTEN )

The moment Jim Hanft and Samantha Yonack began collaborating together musically, they realized their true connection and their potential to grow as a songwriting duo.

Hanft, who describes their music as being singer-songwriter with a country vibe, self-released his first album, “Backyard Waltz,” in 2008 before being picked up by the Swedish-based record label, Veranda Records for his and Yonack’s collaborative effort on the album “Weddings or Funerals,” which was released in 2012.

Hanft grew up just outside of Philadelphia, but moved away to California where he met Yonack through a mutual friend.

Although Hanft no longer calls Philadelphia home, Pennsylvania has an influence on his songwriting. With the slight country tone to their music, the influence of nature and the atmosphere of Pennsylvania can be heard.

Hanft and Yonack will be performing at World Cafe Live tomorrow, Oct. 3.

THE TEMPLE NEWS: When did you realize your chemistry and that you should collaborate musically?

SAMANTHA YONACK: I think it came from really just the first time that we played together. We were like, “Oh, that really sounds good” and it just started growing and growing and little by little we grew and grew.

JIM HANFT: For me, there’s a specific moment, there’s a song called “Superhero” that isn’t on the album. It was on an older thing that was released and there’s a video for it. I think that it was that song for me, when we sang on that and a friend of ours came and shot a video of us playing in my garage in L.A. For me, for that moment, it was like, “Oh, this is the thing I’ve been trying to do.” That’s kind of where it started. We still try to play it from time to time because that was the first time that it kind of captured that.

TTN: Jim, how has growing up near Philadelphia had an impact on your music?

JH: I think the biggest impact that it’s had is that I left it. I think that the No. 1 thing is that Philadelphia and the East Coast have such a huge place in my heart and my thoughts, and when I’m writing, it leads its way into it. I think if I lived here, I probably would have written about someplace else. I would have imagined someplace else, but because I don’t live here anymore, I have these memories. Today, [Yonack] and I were driving and we saw this farmland and [Yonack] was overwhelmed by how scenic it was and how different it is from where we live in Santa Monica. A lot of our music has sort of a country touch to it. Lyrically, there’s stuff about nature, about a lot of the scenery that you would see in Pennsylvania.

TTN: How has your experience been working with Veranda Records, seeing that it’s based in Sweden?

JH: It has been amazing and crazy. You know, just the idea that if you told either one of us 10 years ago, that “Oh, you’re going to work with a bunch of Swedish people who are going to make your music.” Prior to going to Sweden, when that first came up, you instantly think of Ikea, meatballs and blonde people. Now it has become such a huge home for our music. The sound from the “Weddings or Funerals” album is such a product, sonically, of Sweden and of these musicians. I think for both of us, it has made us way more open and to kind of get out of your bubble and go “Wow, there’s a home for us a nine-hour flying distance away.” I think that for everyone who plays music that is the dream, to find a home for it, big or small. Just to find a home of people who become your musical parents and treat you like their kids. It is really cool.

TTN: Do you feel that you have a set definition of home? You have Sweden, you have Philly and you have Santa Monica. Do you feel that you have a home in each location?

JH: For lack of sounding cheesy, I think for [Yonack] and me, home is being in all of those places. Home is being with Sam and being on stage and singing together. That is the thread. Even if we’re in a car singing about Wawa or something, I think that’s it.  All of the other places are sort of backdrops to a play in a sense. Santa Monica is our home. That’s where our address is, so that is our physical home.

Taylor Farnsworth can be reached at taylor.farnsworth@temple.edu. 

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