The list of Molly Hagen’s influences is long and varied. Consisting of both well-regarded contemporaries like Rufus Wainwright and Thom York and greats like Stevie Wonder, Jeff Buckley and Tom Waits, it’s the sort of list you’d expect to see from a graduate of the University of Miami’s music school and an aspiring performer in her own right.
But there are some names, some not on the official influence list that have had a similar inspirational impact on Hagen: Rene Moffatt, Adrian Krygowski, Ken Wenzel. Haven’t heard of them? You may soon if you frequent the District’s music scene.
Since starting out in D.C. after moving up from Miami, Hagen has performed with several of those songwriters at IOTA Club and Café’s open mic night and through The Nine a regular gig at DC9 featuring (you guessed it) nine area artists and quarterbacked by local bard Justin Trawick. While the series has helped Hagen, and others, to gain exposure in the District, it’s also helped her from a songwriting perspective.
“I find I get a lot of inspiration from people I watch at shows, whether it be local or not,” Hagen says. “Just hearing how other people write. Sometimes I’ll just hear someone play and it will be like, I never thought to write a song like that, that’s great. Or somehow it will subconsciously work its way into my process. So you kind of use that inspiration to fuel your next idea, which I think is great.”
At the moment, the music Hagen has made available by way of MySpace and a summer 2009-released, four-track EP, falls mainly in the realm of Norah Jones. Acoustic guitar pairs with Hagen’s seductive vocals for a traditional, albeit engrossing, listening experience. But, as you may expect from someone who studied classical voice and jazz bass in college, Hagen’s musical horizons expand well beyond those of the stereotypical coffee-shop singer-songwriter.
“I’ve kind of started to write with more of an edge, more blues, I like to have a little bit of R&B blues influence in my writing, like something people wouldn’t expect if they were to look at me,” Hagen says. “A year ago I’d say I wrote in a pop country kind of a way but now through a couple of experiments I’ve discovered I like to write more bluesy, tracks that make people think and make people laugh at the same time. One week could be completely different than next week. And then you have this giant reservoir in all these different genres.”
Feeding that reservoir, which she’ll put on broader display with an upcoming full-band album, are the influences from those she’s met in the D.C. scene, one which she says she’s found to be quite welcoming.
“I realized that the music scene in D.C. is very welcoming and very encouraging,” Hagen says. “It’s not the biggest music scene, New York, L.A., Nashville, those are kind of the Meccas of music. But in D.C., the people I’ve met at open mics and the people you play shows with, they’ve kind of kept me here for the moment.”
She’ll share the stage on May 2 with eight of her area peers as part of the first all-women lineup for The Nine Series: D.C. Ladies. That night, Hagen will team up with Kim, Tiffany Thompson, Steph Modder, Amanda Lee, Margaux LeSourd, Maureen Andary, Olivia Mancini and Jessica Louise.
“The vibe is just great. We all get along, we all know each other by now and it becomes a collaborative effort,” Hagen says. “It’s about exposing local artists and getting everyone involved. It’s fun to get to know new artists and collaborate with the people you do know.”
And maybe pick up some new influences along the way.
• For more on Molly Hagen, visit myspace.com/mollyhagenmusic.