By Jennifer Kotila
MORRIS, MN “There are few people who have a wide open heart, who give and love easily, and without reservation,” said Kristofer Hanson. “When this authentic kind of person is also creative, and puts vulnerability into their art, that inspires me.”
Hanson, a 1996 Dassel-Cokato High School graduate, and son of former Enterprise Dispatch cartoonist Ray Hanson, compiled a demo CD of solo guitar music this summer called “Playback.”
“As an album, it’s really pretty half-baked,” Hanson said, noting the attention he is receiving about his music seems out of proportion to him.
Wanting to have something to sell at a small outdoor performance last summer, Hanson sat down with a cheap digital recorder and a loop pedal, and started playing.
“Most of the CD was recorded in one sitting,” noted Hanson, who lives in Morris with his wife, Susie, and their three children, Elliot, 8; Nathaniel, 6; and Lilly, 4.
“Multi-track recording is so tedious, and I don’t have much time,” Hanson explained. “All the over-dub layers were recorded live, in one take.”
He calls the album a simple instrumental album, good for background music.
However, all the songs are original, and “some were spontaneously made up on the spot,” Hanson said.
Although Hanson played numerous instruments while growing up, including percussion, piano, and trombone, he did not pick up a guitar and learn to play until he was 19.
His inspiration for learning to play, and also to sing, came when he was a student at the University of Minnesota-Morris (UMM), from which he graduated in 2000.
When walking by the auditorium in the student center one day, he heard a sound that “grabbed him.”
“It was a gritty, unpolished acoustic sound, but something about it pulled me in,” Hanson said.
Sneaking into the back of the auditorium, Hanson watched two guys, with nothing but acoustic guitars, “blowing the place away pouring their guts out. That kind of unmasked expression really moved me,” Hanson said.
Hanson started sitting in with a group that played guitar, and learned some chords. He also joined the UMM Concert Choir, and took voice lessons.
Soon, he was leading worship service for UMM’s InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which “terrified” him, at first.
“But I learned the risk and reward of putting myself out there,” Hanson said. “Sixteen years later, I am still striving for that authentic voice that stops you in your tracks.”
Hanson has never had motives to make a career out of music, he said, but has always had a passion for it.
In fact, his first declared major in college was music, but he switched to human services in the first quarter because he thought classwork obligations would “steal the joy” he found in music.
“Music is just part of who I am, and it has worked well for me to gravitate towards music naturally,” Hanson said. “To take it as it comes and enjoy it at my own pace.”
He enjoys playing and performing, and helping people out when they need something, playing mainly for churches and nursing homes.
“Most people who know me and are around me, know me as a worship singer,” Hanson noted.
While recording the album, Hanson used a Taylor 714ce guitar formerly owned by his very good friend Jeremy Erickson, who passed away June 10.
“Jeremy was one of those truly authentic individuals whose life and influence cannot be described,” Hanson said.
Erickson and Hanson met while attending UMM, and Hanson considers him a kindred spirit.
“Jeremy was an experienced musician, and over our years of living and making music together, he helped me build my capacity to live, not merely perform and record,” Hanson said.
Although it was a stretch for Hanson financially, he bought the guitar from Erickson last October when Erickson could no longer play a full-scale guitar due to health issues.
On his blog, Hanson wrote, “Despite the shared pain and grief, there was also shared pleasure and joy as Jeremy passed this guitar to me. Together, we removed the strings. Jeremy reached in with a marker, and carefully inscribed a message on the label. At that moment, the guitar became more than a tool or a means of expression, as valuable as it is in that regard. It became symbolic, a token of our friendship.”
The inscription read: “Kris:Yours now. Go play. Love you brother Jer.”
When asked what he wants to accomplish with his music, Hanson said he hadn’t given it much thought until now.
“Music is a delight to me, and most times the pleasure of it is reason enough,” Hanson said. “But I suppose the ultimate would be that it may inspire someone to live and love more fully, even if that someone is me.”
Hanson's day job is working in the corporate office of Prairie Community Services, which serves people facing developmental and mental health challenges across the state.
Those interested in learning more about Hanson and his music, purchasing his album, or finding out where to see him perform, can visit his website at www.kristoferhanson.com.