The Awakening: Hannah Baiardi Chronicles Spiritual Journey and Personal Transformation on “Phoenix” Album


Hannah Baiardi clasps her hands and rests her chin upon them.

Hannah Baiardi features intimate lyrics, cathartic instrumentation, and soulful vocals on Phoenix. Photo courtesy of Hannah Baiardi.

For Hannah Baiardi, Phoenix represents a bold spiritual awakening.

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter, pianist, and producer chronicles a personal transformation while encountering unrequited love on her latest album.

“The album shows that certain people come into our lives to be catalysts and light us up. Sometimes, our imagination is a huge part of the creative process and gets the best of us,” said Baiardi about her sophisti-pop release.

“It’s a beautiful thing to catalyze for music, albums, and songs, but when you come back to reality and the present moment, it doesn’t often translate.”

In her musical realm, Baiardi easily converts that inspiration into a mesmerizing concept album filled with intimate lyrics, cathartic instrumentation, and soulful vocals.

The dozen tracks featured on Phoenix explore the cycle of a potential relationship and the powerful emotions that accompany it.

“It almost felt like this was a fantastical world I had entered, or I had found this portal—like a rabbit hole. While I was making sense of it, the album was coming together,” said Baiardi, who wrote, recorded, and produced the album. “I started to see the early days of it as I was healing and getting into this surrender mode and soothing the heartbreak.”

I recently spoke to Baiardi about the album’s storyline and creative process.

Q: How did you arrive at the spiritual themes featured on Phoenix?
A: I was having trouble putting this album into a box. Writing this material took over two-and-a-half years, so it was hard for me to say, “OK, I’m going to pick five songs, and that’s it.” By the time I had 12 tracks, I thought, “Oh, this is the last two years of my life chronicled.”

I started to see a theme and story arc emerge. I had been doing a lot of self-study with spiritual and mystical thought leaders and books and videos. I was getting into the Akashic records and spiritual awakenings, and this kind of education was going on while I worked very closely with somebody. I started noticing changes in our working relationship, and it went alongside my spiritual journey and path.

Q: How do the dozen tracks on Phoenix reflect your spiritual journey at that time?
A: It was enlightening and exhausting. It was a lot of fighting against my ego, working with perceptions that I had in my head, and realizing that they didn’t match reality. Being mindful that sometimes the inspiration is fuel for art, it’s not going to be permanent. Some things we have to transmute to harness and then release. My brain was glitching with accepting that it was time to start a new chapter and move on and let go. I was clinging to this almost fantastical person in my mind because the image of them was almost like a rock during the pandemic and an unstable part of my life while struggling with depression. When you meet somebody you feel safe and comfortable around, it’s easy for that person to take over your world.

Being in proximity to this person inspired the album. When that proximity ended—when there was no longer any contact with this person—that’s when I started writing those songs about three-quarters of the way through that say, “I’m feeling the heartache now.” It took the last year without being around this person and this energy … to realize this was a time and a reason, but not a season. And that was one of my lyrics, too, [in “This is Goodbye”]: “A time and reason / But darling, it’s been too long of a season.” It was time to release.

Q: How did writing, recording, and releasing this album represent a creative rebirth for you?
A: There were a lot of dark days, and I thought, “I don’t want to write; I don’t want to revisit it.” I was working with my counselor on this because just to go near it caused immense pain, so I was trying to run away from music.

But there was this song in me that had to come out. It needed to be expelled, and the only way to get through it was to touch it and release it. That was walking through the fire part and coming up.

When it came out, I felt super empowered and thought, “Wow, not only did I write this, but I produced it, and I can prove to myself that I can do this now and be an inspiration for other women in production.”

Q: What inspired you to make Phoenix a concept album?
A: I had been wanting to do a concept album, and I’ve been inspired by other artists who have done them. It came together organically and quickly after realizing, “Oh no, it’s time to release this; it needs to be public.” And then all the elements came together, and there were 20 tracks that I had written.

This has been an era all around this particular individual. Being around them catalyzed my musicality through the roof to the point that every time I would see them, I would write a song. It was a gift and a blessing because I didn’t want to be around this person knowing there were unreciprocated feelings.

But at the same time, I wanted to because I got that rush, and all those creative juices started flowing. I had 20 tracks, but I wanted to pare it down to 12. This new phase is about new beginnings and being like a phoenix that’s now taking flight.

Q: The “Introduction” features excerpts from videos by Abraham-Hicks/Jerry and Esther Hicks, Gabi Kovalenko, The Priestess Temple, Twin Flame Guides, and Maharishikaa. How do these excerpts help set the tone thematically for Phoenix?
A: It was the first track on the album that I wrote. Part of my spiritual journey included spending a lot of time on YouTube, and I was listening to a lot of twin-flame counselors or people who specialize in Kundalini energy. I bookmarked a few of my favorites, and I thought it would be cool to include them. I did reach out to them and get permission to superimpose [excerpts of their quotes] over music.

In that song, I quoted “Seduction” from Magic a few times on the piano just to be a nod for anyone who’s on that wavelength and might think, “Oh yeah, they’re connected.” I wanted to take it out of my voice and put it into the voice of other people. It’s like a validating thing—it’s not just in my head. This is an experience other people around the world are having with partners and connections. I wanted to contextualize it to show as “Oh, you’re having a spiritual kind of awakening,” and you can encounter someone who’s on that same wavelength. I thought I could spread it together in that way and break up the album.

Q: “Twin Flame” explores finding your other half and being with someone who complements you. How did you apply the theory of twin flame to this track? How did writing this track help you feel like you were connecting with someone on a spiritual level?
A: I’ve been learning a bit about it through Jerry and Esther Hicks—Esther is a channeler for Abraham-Hicks—and through different esoteric books I’ve been reading. Back when I was writing Magic in 2021, that’s when this burgeon started. Through now, I’ve been in a deep course of study. I realize there are a lot of opinions out there about it … so I’m very aware that it’s a taboo, contentious topic. Not all mediums and spiritual practitioners believe in this concept.

But with that being said, I applied it to this connection and felt it resonated. This was somebody who spoke my spiritual and musical language, and we were open-minded to spiritual things. It’s about synchronicities and encounters that I noticed while being in this person’s presence and during this time of knowing them. I started noticing interesting phenomena that were happening to me. I felt like I could read their thoughts, and I felt like I could be with them even when I wasn’t. There were a lot of feelings that came up. I started seeing a lot of patterns in things we would talk about and work on together.

And the more I started reading about twin flames, the more it started aligning. I thought, “Oh, wow! Maybe there’s some credence to this; maybe there’s something to it.” The quotes were a way for me to say, “Oh, it’s validating. Other people have experienced that—it’s real.”

Q: “Possessed” highlights being drawn to someone and sharing your true feelings with them. How did writing this track help you open up to that person?
A: This was me speaking directly to that person in this song—just without a filter. This is what I think and feel, and it’s very vulnerable to do that in a track. I wanted to do a bit of speak-singing where I’m talking, and I go into the singing portion of it. I took [inspiration] from Sarah McLachlan’s song, “Possession,” and she’s such a beautiful light in person. I can tell she has a real spiritual side just through her music, too.

Q: “What Did You Do to Me” raises questions about the person you’ve become and the one who stole your heart. How did this relationship with that person impact you? What did you learn about yourself during that time?
A: That’s what I call a turning point because that’s when I was so deep in the infatuation, lust, and love that I felt like I was almost mixed in with this person. It felt like we were one body and it goes back to the twin-flame concept, and we were connected like one soul. It felt like I had merged spatially with this person.

The first time I started working with this person I had a premonition that came over me and this message to download: “You’re gonna fall for this person. It’s normal, go with it, and you’re going to end up using it to write [about it]. You have to see it through and go through the fall to come out the other side.” I thought, “What? This can’t happen. This person has a partner. This is not the right environment—we’re working together. This can’t happen.” And then it did.

I came through the other side, and now I’m able to say, “In hindsight, that was pretty correct—that download.” I knew that I was going to be falling … and I was aware of this simulated experience in a way. I’m sure it’s not uncommon that this kind of thing happens, but I think especially for people who are artists, it probably is very common.

Q: “Invitation” proposes a clandestine meeting with another and aims to keep a relationship private. How does this track represent a vicarious rendezvous for you?
A: I was saying, “Here I am showing up. Name the time and place.” There was only so much that my pride could allow. I was never going to contact this person. This was my overture and final gesture to this person by saying, “This is your last chance.”

Q: “Ring Meets the Rock” beckons the other person to sever your connection and move forward. How did writing this track serve as a plea to that person?
A: This track is more of a taunt telling the other person, “You get on so that you can release me from this.” That was one of the very first songs I wrote for the album. It’s the next turning point: You’re taunting someone, you’re upset, and then after that, it’s radio silence and the healing starts. Then you’re on the mend, and it’s the finale. It was also like a James Bond-kind-of-theme and my version of an Adele heartbreak song like “Skyfall.”

Q: “This Is Goodbye” closes that relationship chapter and focuses on the future. How did writing this track help you find closure?
A: I wrote that one weeks before the album came out as a very truncated song. I felt the album needed some sort of closure to balance out the beginning and the whole “Introduction.” I was going through this whole Celtic vibe with a lot of the plugins that I was using for MIDI. I thought, “Ooh, this pipe organ sounds cool, and these bagpipes sound cool.” I took it in a new direction, and it has more Sarah McLachlan vibes there.

Q: You wrote, recorded, and produced the 12 tracks featured on Phoenix. What was your creative process like for the album? What did you learn while overseeing your production for the first time?
A: When I started doing and creating the production, things moved quickly. I used GarageBand, and it’s not a super-sophisticated platform, but it’s free and it gets the job done. It helps get past the belief of “Oh, even though it’s not the best program I could use, it’s still a product that I was happy with.” I also used Melodyne, an auto vocal tuner for my vocals, and I got into the EQ compression reverb world and edited and comped my vocals.

For the first time, I played around with some drum beats, drum plugins, and bass plugins. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this even though I had told myself I couldn’t be a producer, but I am now and I can do it. I wanted the emotiveness—the feeling—to come through more than anything. In keeping with the theme of vulnerability for the album and being really honest, the [production style] fits it.

Q: How did Jim Kissling help you finalize Phoenix through mastering?
A: He mastered Magic, so I thought because the albums are very similar he’d be great to keep the cohesiveness between the two. He blew me away with the difference I heard between what I sent to him as a raw mix and what I got back as the final master. Jim’s incredible at bringing the voice into a whole space of its own, boosting the low end, and getting that nice mix that sounds good in a myriad of contexts.

Q: What plans do you have for performing material from Phoenix at live shows?
A: Coming out of this big writing phase has left me a little dizzy and discombobulated. I feel like I need to reground and figure out a way to take the music and translate it to the stage. Right now, it’s a great studio album, but then what does it look like on stage? Who are the instrumentalists? How does it come together? I haven’t gotten to that point yet. I want to perform this album, get it out, and start writing new stuff right away, too.

Q: How does your follow-up single, “Just When You’re Around,” serve as an addendum to Phoenix? How do your other singles—a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “As” with your mother Sally Clement and “Align Your Chakras (Guided Meditation)”—reflect the next evolution of your sound?
A: It’s like an extra … and kind of a bonus track. It starts a new kind of sound. I’m hoping to write something more upbeat and uplifting with a catchy beat. I’m dabbling more with drum sounds and getting into more world influences. That’s just the tip of the iceberg—I think I got bit by the production bug. I want to learn how to create curious sounds and something that’s more toe-tapping. It’s always been a standing challenge to write a listenable song that’s more top 40.  

I’d also like to get some [more] collaborations going. When you work on your album, you start getting your head so much in it. I just miss that collaboration feeling quite a bit.

Lori Stratton is a library technician, writer for Pulp, and writer and editor of