TWENTY YEARS AGO, UNDER THE TURBULENT, ENERGETIC ZODIAC SIGN OF ARIES, HANNAH WICKLUND WAS BORN TO NANCY MITCHELL AND MATT WICKLUND OF HILTON HEAD ISLAND.
Fast-forward to this fall, when fans will watch her reap the harvest of a life nourished by music. Her band, The Steppin’ Stones, will tour the West Coast for the first time, accompanied by some big names, and then head to Europe. It’s all coming full circle for Hannah, who came of age playing for visitors at sundown under Harbour Town’s Liberty Oak.
While no stranger to touring, Wicklund and her band are in new territory with this West Coast adventure. The tour is a step up for the group and includes shows at Los Angeles’ famed Viper Room, once owned by Johnny Depp, and the Kaaboo festival, where they’ll share the bill with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, one of Wicklund’s longtime heroes.
efore making the leap to Nashville, which Wicklund now calls home, she played five summers on the island and more than eight New Year’s Eves in Harbour Town. It’s no wonder that she, along with her older brother Luke Mitchell, now based in Charleston, have become synonymous with Hilton Head Island’s small-but-proud music scene. Locals and visitors alike have watched Wicklund and The Steppin’ Stones grow from teens riffing classic rock classics into a touring band rocking Wicklund’s take on her bluesy rock heritage.
Channeling the decades when women and men alike wore their hair long; the band’s music is rock ‘n’ roll without gimmicks or frills. Almost all of their songs are originals, though Wicklund does love to perform a cover of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s, “Ohio,” an anthem that urged grassroots activism in 1970. She was clearly born in the wrong era; her almond eyes, long curly hair and big smile — not to mention her powerful vocal range — recall the haunting sounds of Janis Joplin. Her solos unfold as if she’s in no hurry, milking her Tom Anderson guitar for every note. She was made to rock, and was steeped in classic tunes from a young age by her father, who would back her on drums in the garage. It was there she fell in love with music by Eric Clapton, Joe Walsh, Steppenwolf. It was in these garage jam sessions that the band was created: The name The Steppin’ Stones is a fusion of Steppenwolf and The Rolling Stones.
At age 9, she and her early bandmates enjoyed their first paid gig, performing for the Italian-American Club of Hilton Head’s bocce ball tournament. Her father managed the band and soundboard until Wicklund was 13; at that point, she began negotiating her own contracts.
“After speaking with Hannah, no one ever said, ‘Let me talk to your dad,’ ” said her mother, Nancy Mitchell.
Today, The Steppin’ Stones include Wicklund, Egan Miller on bass and Houston Matthews on drums. In early 2018, the band will release its third full album and set off on a “sibling rivalry” tour with brother Luke Mitchell’s band, the High Divers — who also happened to get their start on Hilton Head.
Sadler Vaden, a Charleston native and guitarist, is producing the band’s upcoming album, to be released in January 2018. The album was recorded at Smoakstack Studios in Nashville. A track cowritten with Cage The Elephant’s Lincoln Parish appears on the album, which will be released independently and distributed digitally through TuneCore. The band will film a music video in Nashville this month.
Hannah and the band head to Europe next month for their first international tour, which kicks off Oct. 26th in Hamburg, Germany.