Hanna – McEuen

Cousins Jaime Hanna and Jonathan McEuen believe in keeping things in the family. As not only the sons of twin mothers, and of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band cornerstones Jeff Hanna and John McEuen, they don’t have much choice.

The virtuosity of Hanna-McEuen reflects the shared musical DNA, but the family ties don’t stop there. Hanna-McEuen is co-managed by Nick Hartley, the son of Mark Hartley, who has managed everyone from Paul McCartney to Olivia Newton-John and is the principle of The Hartley Fitzgerald Co.

If that weren’t enough, they were all brought together by co-manager Chuck Morris, more commonly thought of as a promoter and president of Chuck Morris Presents in Denver. He went to college with Mark Hartley and was with John McEuen the night Jonathan was born.

He was there for the birth of Hanna-McEuen, too, as the NGDB progeny performed on the supergroup’s Will The Circle Be Unbroken 3 album. Sense a theme yet?

“Both of our mothers, who were twins, had a professional music father figure. It’s natural we kids were stoked to want to take up music,” McEuen told Pollstar. “But the kids who really wanted to had to work for it. They had to do the piano lessons. They had to have choir and band.”

And, according to McEuen, they had to be very careful to clean up after themselves when they snuck into the family studio to play with the recording and video equipment. That background would serve them well as they recorded their eponymous debut album.

“We sang the album. The tracks were cut live, which is our upbringing,” McEuen explained. “If you can’t get it by the second take, it’s not worth taking.

“With today’s recording technology, anybody can make an album. But when they try to recreate that sound on stage, they can’t do it. The audience gets pissed: ‘They’re fooling me. They’re faking it.’ When we go live, we stand a chance of sounding better than the album, which happens sometimes.”

Growing up with musician parents, and access to instruments and equipment, isn’t enough to forge a career of one’s own, and McEuen is acutely aware of that.

He and partner Tony Barnes recently started a project called “Peace Thru Music,” hosting assemblies in public schools. In addition to donating a Taylor guitar to one lucky student, he brings along some unusual visual aids

including an old tour bus.

“We do an assembly of music and four-track recording that includes audience participation. We show them the bus and what it’s like. And one lucky kid gets taken to lunch and goes home with a guitar.

“It’s so cool to watch these kids. They come to the assembly all pissed off and angry and, by the end, they’re all clapping their hands and singing when they walk out.

“It doesn’t take much to turn a kid on to music.”

Hanna – McEuen

The same might be said about the business end of music, to hear McEuen talk about Nick Hartley’s own multi-generational heritage.

“When Nick was a kid, his dad was managing the superstars of the era,” McEuen said. “Nick was in the studio, backstage, behind the bus. There’s about 15 years worth of stuff you don’t need to learn; it’s just embedded in your cellular memory. He was my first pick.”

Though Hartley already knew Hanna and McEuen, it took Morris to bring them together professionally after the Circle 3 recording sessions. Morris sensed magic and went to work.

“Chuck started calling and asking, ‘When are you going to start working with this band?'” Hartley told Pollstar. “He’d call other people and I’d hear it from them, too. Agents, everybody. ‘Chuck wants to know when you’re going to start working with them on this project!'”

Hartley flew out to hear the fledgling band and signed on. “We’re both really excited

how can you not be with such great musicianship, songwriting and real artistry?” Hartley said. “It’s not just the story

it’s what they can do together. Chuck and I decided we were going to work it together and we’ve been doing it ever since.”

While Hartley handles day-to-day management duties, Morris brings his relationships to the table. His deal with Clear Channel Entertainment allows him to manage artists as well as promote concerts, but he is very particular about who he takes on.

“Hanna-McEuen is an amazing project. They’re slightly off center from straight country but they have something that’s really special,” Morris told Pollstar.

“Five labels wanted to sign them. I brought them to Nashville and we literally played in five different label presidents’ offices. They all offered contracts; they didn’t have to hear anything else.”

Hanna-McEuen signed on with William Morris Agency-Nashville agent Jay Williams and DreamWorks Nashville, now MCA Nashville, won out for the recording contract.

“When they get big and get a chance to do full production, they can do things like harmonica to piano to drums. Name it. It’s going to be fascinating and brilliant,” Morris said.

As for Hanna-McEuen’s personal goals, McEuen already has plans. “I’m planning the next three Circles albums with the third and fourth generations of the family. With all these kids, you’ve got to do something with them!”