“Tell Me Who I Am” From Germany’s Hanne Kah


While I was in Germany earlier this year, I got a text from a co worker Ellie Quintero saying “We are interviewing this Queer German folk singer tomorrow night, so go listen to her music”. I didn’t have enough time to listen to it all, but what I did get in over the next several hours was wonderful.


We sat down in a coffee shop in Mainz Germany and talked to this incredible singer, Hanne Kah. She is an introvert, quiet, and a very deep thinker. She speaks fluent English, and is a very unique voice in Germany, as there are almost NO Germans singing “Americanist” Folk. She was releasing a new version of her song “Tell Me Who I Am” about the anxiety of coming out to her family. Her message transcends the borders and cultural norms between our countries.  Here is some of the conversation we had. Unfortunately I did not manage to get this up before her set of shows in the states in May, they were very successful.

Jeremy Hinks: SO, I got introduced to your music last night, and not enough time really, I loved it. You have a very “Appalachian Pickers” sound, from the Appalachian mountains on the east coast. They have a folk style called “pickers” and your vocals are interesting too. I know “Fawn” is what I think of when I hear “German Folk” music, and there you are singing these songs in English. They are very powerful.

Hanne Kah: I think that’s what Germans think folk music is, bands like “Fawn” and that’s the difference we make, because we are singing in English, and making folk music sounding Americana, but our lyrics are rooted in Germany and Europe. We are going back on a small tour in the Appalachian mountains, we are playing a few folk festivals. Texas, and Virginia, Nashville.

JH: Man, you’re hitting the good places. So, you write your songs, all about the German folk experience, and the song “The Highwomen”.


HK That is a Brandi Carlisle cover, she put together a supergroup called “The Highwomen”, and they did their version of “The Highwayman”.

JH: Well the original poem was about a thief, bandit.

HK: Brandi and her supergoup covered it.

JH: Well, I was listening to it, “I sat on the greyhound bound for Mississippi, and my mother asked me if that ride was worth my life” Then “I was baptized in the mighty Colorado (river)” I live just a few hours from there in Utah. So, have you BEEN to any of these places?


HK: NO, but I WILL BE… (Laughing), these lyrics are about these places in America, and a lot of us like this song and its message, so I reached out to all of these women and said “Let’s cover it, so show how powerful women can be”.

Myself and Hanne Kah

JH: Which brings me to my next question, it started with you singing, then there were two people singing, then four, then by the end there were 24 or so of you.

HK: Yes, it’s my friends, and their kids, and my grandmother, I told her to sing, she is dead now, and she wasn’t able to sing in English, so I told her German words, comparable to the English words, so she could sing them. “And I’ll take that ride again,” I told her to sing “Ente Ganz, Ente Ganz” which means “Duck and total”, that way she was able to sing it.


JH: That song is about the human spirit, and I should have known it was Brandi Carlyle. It reminded me of a friend I had in Boston, he was my anarchist mentor he was a Magistrate, and he was telling me about in the ’60s he rode a bus down to the deep south to fight for civil rights as a “Freedom Rider”. He told me that it was my duty as a Christian and an Anarchist, to find a cause, to help my fellow man, who is oppressed, to help the underdog. He would yell “Has God given you that yet?” and I found it when I saw that I needed to help the queer community. He told me stories about being chased by dogs, firehoses, and all that, which did sound like a lot of fun. That song took me to that, and you did it very well.

HK: Thank you, even though I am a German, and have no idea what it means to have that in my history.

JH: So, are you going to get baptized in the Mighty Colorado?


HK: No, but I might take a swim.

Ellie Quintero: Yeah, if you come to New Orleans, you might not want to come back (to Germany), you might just want to stay.

JK: So, your song Breathe, “Cold night air wouldn’t clear our heads, the stars tell us it’s all part of the plan” beautiful intro. And you keep saying “How can we forget, speak the word we breathe it out”, what was going on with that? Were you going all “Fawn-Pagan” on that one?

HK: For me the most important thing in my life and my mantra is to meet people with love, it sounds a little cheesy, but to be open, and always be nice to people is the first rule. The second is to be open and full of love, even if they are mad at me, but to be open. My band took that mantra for themselves as well. So in my chosen family, I have a feeling that through the music we do, people learn how to become loving beings, I think music has the power to open doors and build bridges between people and generations. Breathe is about that, we all have this compass and it always points to love and how we should love each other.


JH: I used to be a Christian, and I believed, that the whole concept of Jesus comes down to two things: The Parable of the Good Samaritan, do good to your neighbor, love your neighbor. The rest of what he said is “Thou Shalt Not Be a Dick” Those two things would make the world a better place.

HK: Especially in Europe, the world has gone crazy right now, it’s more important than ever to send a message of open-mindedness to the world.

EQ: The song “Tell me Who, I am, Who I really am”, being accepted, was this your experience as a child?

HK: Yes, I was really lucky that my family is really open, they are open to other lifestyles, colorful loving happy people. I was lucky when I outed myself as a queer woman. My family said, “OK we hope you don’t have any rocks in your way”. It’s a German saying, meaning I hope that you walk through life even though the world might not accept you as you are. My family was cool about me being queer, I wish that other people can have this experience as well. That is what “Tell me who I am” is about, is outing in a family, and how families can do that.


EQ: OK so, in the video, there was a mirror, I think that we are all mirrors, but your lyrics “Will it change the way you look at me”.

HK: We chose the mirror, actually that was the old version of the video that you saw, we chose the mirror because we wanted it to look like people who look at themselves. There are two sides to see, the outside vision, you out yourself to your parents, and they change the way they look at you. If you come out as trans or gay, then they throw you out of the house. So something changed, the question I asked is “You have been this person since you were born, and you take away their love just because of your sexuality or because of their gender”, something I don’t get, so we use the mirror to say “does it really change the way you look at me?” these little flames are always inside of us.

JH: Was there a lot of anxiety in that for you?

HK: Yes, I grew up in this small village in Germany, in 2010 I came out to my parents, and before that, I was bullied in school because somebody thought I was a lesbian. I was really scared to tell my parents, and to them “Yeah we already knew” it was obvious. I was really scared because of the bullies at school.


JH: How old were you when you came out?

HK: I was sixteen, then shortly after I moved to Mainz and it’s been fine since then. In 2010 in that village, nobody was openly gay in my class.

EQ: Wow, 2010 wasn’t that long ago.

HK: No, and we didn’t have smartphones, before that I only had my computer where I could google people and artists that were queer as well. For example, Brandi Carlyle was a role model, because she was openly gay. I thought she is like me, because I wanted to be a musician, and I am gay.


JH: Aside from Brandi Carlyle, I hear a lot of different voices, you have probably never heard of Wendy Wall, but maybe Joan Baez.

HK: Well, yes my parents raised me well, Joni Mitchell, and Traci Chapman.

JH: Well we ALL worship Joni Mitchell… I need to hook you up with Mary Fahl, she is the lead singer of October Project, they opened for Sarah McLachlan in 1996 before you were even born. Who else did you listen to?

HK: My dad liked “The Hooters” Do you know them?


JH: Yes from Philadelphia, I know them very well.

HK: I met them in Germany and supported them as an act, I’m friends with Eric, they were my childhood heroes, now I know them, it was crazy.

JH: I’ve interviewed several German artists, but you are the first queer German artist. I interviewed Nick & June, Para-Lia.

EQ: DO you play locally ever?

Hanne and Eliquent (Ellie Q)

HK: I do, I have a few shows in Mainz, I do play Germany a lot, but we are on our way to Australia and Canada, Germany is fine but there better places to play folk music.

EQ: In Toronto or Montreal?

HK: No, places like Vancouver, and Edmonton.


JH: Those places are WAY out there, one of my fave Canadian bands is also folky, “The Cowboy Junkies”.

HK: I don’t know them.

JH: I’ll send you a couple of songs, you’ll get into them, you sound so much like them. I’d put you on stage with the Cowboy Junkies. So you have played in America though.

HK: I played a festival in Charlottesville, the women’s folk festival, that’s how I fell in love with America.


EQ: Do you see yourself living there?

HK: That’s a discussion with my wife, I don’t think she would want to, but I love to travel, and meet people, get together, and create. It’s more difficult in Germany, there is more “Competition” between artists. When there is a competition I don’t feel well, in America, people are more open-minded.

EQ: Do you do anything special before you perform?

HK: Yeah, I brush my teeth, it’s a ritual.


JH: How big is your touring band?

HK: Just me and a pedal board.

EQ: I want to know where you really want to perform, what is an idea for a place to play?


HK: Maybe some big locations, but I would really love to perform with Brandi Carlyle, support her, or even just meet her. She did something great in my life, she gave me the confidence to go out and do what I do, like Melissa Ethridge. She is amazing, she laid down the way for us, for female queer artists to go on stage.

JH: Was her song “Silent Legacy” your story?

HK: No I don’t know that song.

JH: It’s about the young queer kid trying to come to terms with it, and refusing to be silent about it, and saying “We’re stopping this now”.


HK: That’s not the only one, it’s about going out and being proud, making a point. Anyway, I think I want to perform at folk festivals.

EQ: Have you heard of Jazz Fest, it’s in New Orleans, we are in Mardi Gras right now, and Jazz Fest happens in April and May. There is so much culture and all of these stages. Folk artists, and everyone else.

HK: Yeah that sounds great, but in places like this, it has to have a good feeling.

JH: So what is your day job?


HK: I’m a speech therapist, I wanted to learn something close to being a singer, so I learned how the voice works, and how it works in a medical way. So I learned how to treat my voice.

JH: Is that how you learned to sing in American English? Cause you sing in American English, without an accent.

HK: I learned to sing in English, listening to American singers, I was in 5th grade, and I started playing songs in English, and I don’t know why I don’t have an accent.

JH: So when did you get married?


HK: In 2021

JH: And nobody cared?

HK: Well, the mayor of Mainz is gay, and a friend of mine, so yeah, it’s a very open city. No one was in the room except the guy from the city ordinance office, and then we went home and had dinner. Then my family came over.

JH: You didn’t have a ceremony?


HK: No, I just wanted it to be the two of us, not an expensive dress or anything.

EQ: Did you sing her a song?

HK: No.. (laughing)

JH: Is your wife a fan of your music?


HK: Well, she is, but she is also my biggest critic. I think she prefers if I am doing more pop, when I produce and it’s only banjo and mandolin she isn’t really into that. But I love the 80s, and mixing it up. My all-time favorite 80s song, is “Heaven is a Place on Earth” because I love the lyrics. Why would we work for something in heaven if we can have it here?

JH: OK, well she is in my top 5 most beautiful women in the world, who else?

HK: Cyndi Lauper.

JH: You can’t go wrong with her, she is also beloved of the queer community, and did Prince better than Prince? Let’s talk about folk then, Do you like Leonard Cohen?


HK: Yes, of course, I was actually going to tour with his son Adam, but then Leonard died.

JH: You were going to tour with Adam Cohen? Then you are absolutely amazing, I’m sitting here with royalty man, you were going to tour with ADAM COHEN, WOW.

EQ: What are your favorite songs to play?

HK: That’s hard, like picking your favorite babies, but, most importantly “Tell me who I am”, I also have a song about holocaust survivors this song called “100 People” cause in Germany we have a party called “AFC” Alternative Fur Deutschland, it’s far right, it’s horrible to see them getting bigger.


JH: Yeah we have it in America, it’s called MAGA.

HK: There was this old lady who went to give a speech to the German Parliament, and spoke to the youth of Germany she said “Hate is only a poison that poisons yourself”, and I asked myself how someone who experienced these horrible things of the holocaust forgave the Germans, and be so wise, so I wrote that song about her speech and in her honor. I am glad that “Tell Me Who I Am” is being re-released because it needs to be heard.

The rest of this interview, with all the tangents, and pieces of German convo, can be found here.


Here are her socials:


Politely lifted from her instagram page

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