Americana

Album Photography for The Hello Strangers

Band Photography, Lifestyle Photographer, Ryan Smith I have the very good fortune of being married to an amazing singer and songwriter. My wife, Larissa and her sister, Brechyn, started a band named The Hello Strangers in Austin, TX and have worked hard to create an authentic sound that highlights their sibling harmonies. I love their music. It’s not just because I’m married to Larissa. It’s because their songs are filled with stories and each is executed with precision and grace. They are the kinds of songs that you can listen to over and over again without ever getting tired of them.

As someone who spent his youth listening to punk rock and heavy metal I never envisioned myself being married to an Americana musician. The fact is that we all grow in one way or the other and years ago I opened myself to all kinds of music and am a much better person for it. I love music and I enjoy seeing how different bands present their stories, emotions and poetry to the world.

There are numerous benefits to being married to a musician. Aside from getting in to shows for free, hearing new songs first and feeling cool for being married to a musician, I also get great joy from collaborating with The Hello Strangers on their image and identity. Larissa, Brechyn and I have been collaborating on photos and videos for years now and each one has it’s own unique set of challenges and rewards.

I am exceptionally thrilled about The Hello Strangers' self-titled debut album. They worked extremely hard with Nashville producer, Steve Ivey, to create an album that is excellent. And I’m equally thrilled about working with them to create the photographs used in the album packaging. I’ve worked with them on other projects and have worked with other bands for promotional photos, but this was my first time working on photography that would encase the entire album. These photographs needed to introduce The Hello Strangers and to build a story in the viewer's mind about what they were going to hear on the 13 track album.

We worked together to craft a general idea of how we wanted to present the music and this idea changed multiple times over the course of this project. What we ended up with is new and old photography that shows who The Hello Strangers are while also creating a mood and story about music. The images we shot and selected went through numerous changes, and with expert guidance from Designer Carl Nielson, we were able to lay everything out into a unique package that introduces The Hello Strangers and their music to the world.

Their songs have a wide stylistic range, but at it’s core each song is meant to be sung by two voices. The harmonies are key, regardless of whether they are singing a murder ballad, a love song or a honky tonk number. These photos are about the love and respect Larissa and Brechyn have for one another as sisters, musicians and friends while also paying homage to the dark stories they create.

I’m proud of the creativity, love and hard work they have put into this album. I’m also proud of the photographs I helped create. These photos help give their songs and voices a visual identity. I couldn’t be more grateful to have been a part of this process.

If you have never heard their music, take a listen to a couple of my favorite tracks. It's really hard to just pick three, but these are my current favorites live and recorded alike.

If you like what you hear, then please consider downloading an album. The albums aren’t yet available for mail order so when the opportunity arises for you to come to a show, be sure to check out the schedule. You can pick up a real hard copy of the album then.

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The Hello Strangers - My Favorite Band Wins a Record Deal!

It's not every day that I get to brag about something this cool. For those of you who don't know, I am married to a beautiful, charming, caring and intelligent woman named Larissa. Not only does she exhibit all of these qualities, but she is also a talented songwriter and musician. But here is the big news. I am so incredibly excited and proud to announce that The Hello Strangers recently won the grand prize package for the “AirPlay Direct Win an Americana Record Deal” contest. Check out the press release HERE. This is a huge deal and a major boost for the band. It is a well deserved honor and I can't wait to see how the next album turns out. I've already heard all of the songs and know there will be some real gems on this next album, but I can't wait to see it all come together. Check out their current EP HERE.

And here is a bit more history about the band. In the fall of 2006, Larissa and her equally talented sister Brechyn, started writing songs together in a small cottage in South Austin, TX. I've been fortunate enough to see the two of them develop their music for the past 5 years into the remarkable package it is now. I'll spare you the entire history with a quick summary. After moving from Austin back to their hometown of Mercersburg, Pa in 2007, the sisters (known as The Hello Strangers) began to form a full fledged band. Fortunately, we are surrounded by many talented people here and they quickly found a perfect match of musicians for their band. Kevin Shannon is on guitar, Dave Holzwarth on bass and Katie O'Neil on drums. (Here's an interesting side note. Katie and I played in a punk band together when we were 16. Dave used to run me over on the basketball court when I was 12. As for Kevin, I didn't know him when I was a teenager, but can say now that he's a pretty cool dude.)

Anyway, since this is a blog dedicated to photography and the business of it, I need to talk a little bit about that. So on top of having the privilege of watching The Hello Strangers evolve, I have also been fortunate enough to work with them in building their visual identity. I can't begin to describe how much fun it has been conceptualizing and photographing The Hello Strangers year after year. Below is a selection of some of my favorites from the past few years. These were all fun to produce and many of them have been in my portfolio at one time or another. I can't wait to do the next round of pics.

Congratulations to The Hello Strangers!

 

 

The picture below is nostalgic because it was shot after their very first show in South Austin.