Need a drummer? Young gun Cooper Hannahson gets it done

It was a wild summer for drummer Cooper Hannahson.

The 25-year-old Mohawk College graduate spent 50 days on the road during a cross-Canada tour with the Niagara-based funky brass band My Son the Hurricane, before flying to Iceland and then Sweden to be part of music festivals across the Atlantic.

“It was an absolute whirlwind of shows,” he says. “Watching this group grow since I joined nearly nine years ago has been incredible.”

That tour also led to the creation of a whole new project. That summer, Hannahson and a few other touring members of My Son the Hurricane started a band called Little Nerves and toured Ontario in support of its single No Time Like the Present.

With influences that range from James Brown-era funk to ’90s punk rock to modern indie-pop, Hannahson has proven to be an incredibly versatile musician who has performed with orchestras, jazz-fusion acts, hip-hop groups and heavy-metal bands.

Trained by reputable names in Canadian jazz education including Pat Collins, Anthony Michelli and Adrean Farrugia, this young talent is now teaching students of his own at Long & McQuade in St. Catharines, while continuing to prove himself as a touring machine and a reliable session player.

We asked this former participant in our Jazzology program to tell us more about his adventures in music, his professional development so far, and his plans for the future.

Recommended Links

My Son the Hurricane seems to be the type of band that brings the house down at every show. What are those gigs like?

My Son the Hurricane is the powerhouse group of my musical career so far, without a doubt. The shows are some of the sweatiest and dance-filled memories in my life. As the percussionist who is used to the role of a drummer, I love the change of pace of standing and moving around on stage. After each show I get comments about my rambunctiousness and energy while performing. I believe that because I’m often sitting while performing, I take the opportunity to be up and dancing and making a fool of myself as often as possible.

You travelled a long way this summer. What are some of the most memorable parts from that cross-Canada tour?

If you haven’t driven across our beautiful country, you have got to try it at least once. There’s nothing like pulling up to the mountains for the first time. The biggest highlight would be playing on Haida Gwaii, off the coast of British Columbia. It was such an incredible experience to play on such remote territory.

What was it like playing in Sweden? What did you learn about the music scenes there?

Sweden was amazing for several reasons. My first trip to Europe was paid for and earned by performing music with my friends, which was a nice feather in all our caps and hopefully the first of many. We made what felt like thousands of friends, as we performed three sold-out shows to the beautiful faces at the Live at Heart festival in Örebro. Many venues, hundreds of international acts, and hungry listeners everywhere you go.

My Son the Hurricane playing at Cicada Music & Arts Festival in St. Catharines
Credit: Stephanie Montani

How did Little Nerves come together?

Little Nerves is the Franken-child of My Son the Hurricane’s east-coast tour last year. Hurricane was touring with our dear friend Oscar Anderson-Shortt, who is an immensely talented singer-songwriter who goes by DRFTR (Drifter). After long drives together, Oscar and I discovered our similar tastes in music and discussed forming a group. We joked about the idea of adding the Hurricane string section of Chris Sipos and Justin Blake. But that joke turned very real when less than a year later the four of us were recording our first 10 tunes.

What are you going for stylistically? What are some of your influences?

The influences for Little Nerves come from classic and modern takes on soul, R&B and jazz melded with distorted crunchy guitar effects. We try to make all our written parts and sounds work together to achieve a theme for each song. We often will catch ourselves watching NPR Tiny Desk concerts and finding a great deal of inspiration from artists there.

What are some of the best gigs you’ve played recently?

Lately I’ve been lucky enough to perform with my good friend Miles as part of the Miles Evans Band, performing Motown and soul hits. He is releasing some of his debut original material under the name Miles From Nowhere late this year and I’m very excited to be a part of that as well. Watch for his December release show at This Ain’t Hollywood in Hamilton.

Cooper Hannahson performing with singer-songwriter Katey Gatta
Credit: Stephanie Montani

How was your experience with the Jazzology program? What did you like about it?

It was such a memorable experience as a college student. I spoke to Heather Bambrick, who I’d grown up listening to with my dad on JAZZ.FM91, and I still remember the phone call when I told him I’d be on air being interviewed by her, and how thrilled he was.

How did the program help with your personal and professional development?

The program was a great example of practising public speaking and personal advertisement as an entrepreneur. It also gives you a wonderful platform to express your thoughts about the music you perform or listen to, or dive into your opinions on music education or the scene in general. I think that the more you can talk about music, the more you come to understand it.

If you could thank our donors that support the Jazzology program, what would you say?

Thank you for donations that support the growth of music and the young musicians who supply it.

Why is music education important to you?

Education in music is important to me because I remember when I finally discovered that music was a career option and what that did to my outlook on the future. It gave me hope that I would have a job I was passionate about and enjoyed waking up and taking part in every day. I had such respectful and inspiring music educators in my life from birth to graduation and today. They have inspired me to do the same with students of my own each and every day.

What about other plans for the future? Where would you like to be years down the road?

I can only hope to be as happy and fulfilled as I am now. You can catch me performing more with my band Little Nerves as we tour our debut material this November and December, and we’re releasing a new song every Friday until the end of this month. Plus, My Son the Hurricane’s last two shows of this huge tour are this month. (Friday, Nov. 22 at Lee’s Palace)

You can follow Cooper Hannahson on Instagram, or check out Little Nerves on Bandcamp.