Pennsylvania native Hannah Richardson is a peanut butter obsessed, Irish fiddle-loving, Harry Potter addicted teenager who is ready to be the next breakout country-pop sensation. This summer, she will be releasing Chasing Rainbows a collection of songs blazing with mandolins, cellos, electric guitars, and lyrics sweetly laced with Southern twang. In advance of the album's release, Hannah kindly took the time to answer some questions via email about the new album, her roots, and more.
Being 16 years old, when did you being singing and decide that you wanted to pursue music professionally? (where are you based?)
Well, I grew up in a small town called Waynesboro, PA but moved to State College, PA in 2013…I have to say, although I’ll always have my roots, State College is so incredible and living here is the best. So, I officially started singing at six years old in my church choir, but got my first solo when I was seven. My pastor was nice enough to offer that the girl singing obnoxiously over all the other kids (that girl being me) get her own song. I think the moment I first realized I wanted to pursue music professionally was when I got offered my first job. At seven, I was offered a position with a dinner theatre about thirty minutes away, (a woman from church had recommend me after that one solo!). My parents initially said no, but after consistent begging, a meeting with the owners, and being told that I'd get to perform in front of hundreds of people every night plus get money, my parents just had to say yes. I also think some “fate" was at play there. There’s no way that after one solo at church I would’ve gotten recommended for an opportunity that offered over 150 performances without some God helping me out.
Are you in school and if so, how do balance music and those responsibilities? Do you have a supportive family?
Well, I find it very hard to balance music and school, but not for the reasons most people would think. My school’s administration is supportive about my traveling, the teachers are helpful about giving me time to catch up, and I'm almost obsessive about keeping my grades up, (I actually have a 4.0 GPA). That being said, I just think the hardest part for me is staying focused while actually in school. You know, people in the music industry are always quick to shout out “school comes first!”, but then they start talking about that homeschooled girl your age who gets to write music all day, and it can make you go, “Wow, I wish I were home writing music instead of here!” However, I have to keep reminding myself that without all of my “adventures” so to speak at school, I personally wouldn’t have half the inspiration and therefore wouldn’t be half as good of a songwriter.
Who are your musical influences/inspirations?
Looking back, I think my parents definitely influenced my music tastes. Some of my favorites are still Fleetwood Mac, Allison Krauss, and Led Zeppelin. Modern-day wise, I love Florence Welch, Taylor Swift, and Ed Sheeran as well as a lot of the film composers like Thomas Newman, and of course John Williams.
Described by Time magazine as someone who “writes songs with the same urgency that compelled the Lost Generation to write novels,” Peter Himmelman has long explored a diverse array of creative outlets from solo albums and children’s CDs (including the Grammy-nominated My Green Kite) to composing scores for television and film. On August 11th, the singer-songwriter released his latest full-length, the stunningly crafted There Is No Calamity. Recently, Mr. Himmelman graciously took the time to speak about the project, including working with Steve Berlin, and more.
There Is No Calamity was produced by Steve Berlin [Los Lobos] who had a large hand in choosing the songs for the project, which to me seems to involve both relinquishing some control and a lot of trust.
At this point in my career, I’ve done so much on my own, but in many aspects of life, having a partnership is something that’s desirable to me. I really wanted some input on the album, and I did trust Steve. In fact, I started trusting him even before I heard his production stuff. I trusted the way he spoke on the phone. I liked what he had to say and the way he said it. Then I went back and listened to what he’d done, and I thought he had this muscular rock sound, but it wasn’t WROQUE. It sounded like things that I liked - it sounded lean and tough, but also had production value to it. I liked what I heard, so we went forward.
I wrote all of the songs he picked from, some I liked less and some I liked more, but had he not picked a few like “Rich Men Rule The World,” I would have thrown that one on there. Then, there were a couple that were done as country demos that I would have canned if he wouldn’t have chosen them. So, in a sense, I didn’t give up control; I had input, and if I was firmly against something, it was out.
Central Texas-based Chris Fullerton delivers truths – both hard, heartwarming, and hopeful – on his debut full-length, Epilepsy Blues, due August 11th. The singer-songwriter crafts songs that are candid, mixing sonic palettes of honky-tonk, folk, blues, and psychedelia, that provide the musical backdrop for stories anchored in his experiences and love for his wife. In advance of the album's release, Fullerton graciously took the time to speak about his epilepsy, the album, and much more.
Epilepsy Blues, your full-length debut, is releasing this Friday. Have you been playing and pursuing music for awhile?
I’ve been around music since I was a kid. My mom, who is one of seven, comes from a musical family where they all play instruments and sing, so I grew up around hymnals and old country music like Hank Snow, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash. I started playing guitar when I was seven, and around ten or eleven, my Mom and I would play “Amazing Grace” at funerals in Camden County [New Jersey]. We did that for a while and then I had my first taste of punk. Once I heard The Clash, I formed punk bands until I eventually segued back and forth between that and country.
That's a diverse combo!
Before moving to Austin, you lived in Boston. What spurred the move to Texas?
I moved to Austin six years ago, sort of on a whim, and I love it. While I was living in Boston, I had a western swing band that was gaining traction, but I started to have seizures, learned I had epilepsy, was drinking a lot, and had a girlfriend who was cheating on me. Things were not going good, and I knew had to get out of there. So I packed up and moved to Austin because I knew all of these songwriters who I loved, like Adam Carroll, Townes Van Zandt, and Dale Watson, were from there. Right away when I moved, I met my wife, Lindsay, who is an angel, and we had a son, Townes, who is almost five. Lindsay really helped me make this record because every time I wrote, and I mean every time, she helped, me edit lyrics and she helped me with the mixing and production process by letting me know how things sounded. She didn’t mean to be in this business, but I think I kind of accidentally threw her into it (laughing).
On August 18th, the Josh Abbott Band will release their fifth album, Until My Voice Goes Out, a string and horn filled collection that offers a hopeful look into the future while embracing life and its potential. In advance of the album's release, Abbott kindly took some time to speak about the album, fatherhood, and more.
While Front Row Seat was laid out into acts, Until My Voice Goes Out consists of two preludes and one epilogue. What influenced your decision to organize the album that way?
Every other album we’ve ever put out always started off with a real banger, an upbeat fiddle heavy Texas Country song that’s fast paced and fun. This time, with strings and horns being the theme of the album, I wanted to do something different.
Until now, “Amnesia” was probably my favorite song we ever recorded, but during the process of recording the album, "Until My Voice Goes Out" emerged as the song that I just loved and the one I wanted to start the album with. When I talked with Rob [Mathes, who composed the strings on the album], I asked if there was any way he could write a couple different twenty to thirty-second string compositions around the song. I liked the idea of having one to start and one to end because I think they set the tone for the record, which is a little more thoughtful in terms of the ballads, but when the horns come in, they take the album in a fun direction.
Being that they’re not the conventional instruments featured on a JAB album, how did strings and horns make their way onto Until My Voice Goes Out?
Dwight [Baker, who produced the record] and I met in December, and talked about doing something different this time around - and once the idea of using strings, and then horns, came up, we couldn’t stop talking about it. We weren’t really scheduled to record until around now, but after that meeting, I called the band and said were recording as soon as we could get in [to the studio].
Until My Voice Goes Out also has a different tone than Front Row Seat. Many times when artists go in different directions with an album, they use a different producer, but once again you worked with Dwight Baker.
Not that the other guys who have produced my records were not my friends, but Dwight and I hit it off. We get along so well, hang out a lot, and talk shit to one another during sports. So, I think the familiarity is there, but if you look at his resume, Dwight isn’t a specific kind of producer, he has a very eclectic production list from Bob Schneider and Kelly Clarkson, to his band (The Wind + The Wave) and Missio. He’s recorded so many different types of music that I thought he could crush this again - and he did. And honestly, if wasn’t for him, this album wouldn’t be this album because he was the one who insisted we do “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” and the one who connected us with Rob Mathes.
Rob, who as you mentioned composed the string arrangements, has worked with an incredible array of artists such as Tony Bennett, Bruce Springsteen, and Sting.
Rob is one of the world’s most respected string composers, and we were incredibly lucky to have him. He not only composed the arrangements, but hired a quartet from the Austin Symphony as well as the Austin-based Groove Line, who spent the last few years touring with Zac Brown Band and Jason Mraz, for the horns. We were very fortunate to work with these talented people who brought experience, professionalism and great sounding material to the table.
Nashville-based artist Julia Capogrossi is a country music singer and songwriter who began performing at a young age, and only grew to love it more as she became older. After her freshman year at Indiana University, Capogrossi decided to relocate to Nashville to pursue her musical dreams. And now, Julia is seeing much of her hard work pay off. She recently released her new single, "Busch Light Budget" and is preparing to head to Argentina to play the San Pedro Country Music Festival - as the sole performer from the United States. In advance of the Festival, Capogrossi took the time to answer a few questions via email about her roots, traveling to Argentina to play the festival, and more.
You began performing at a young age, did you know early on that you wanted to pursue music professionally?
From before I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a singer. I started doing talent shows at age 8 and theatre musicals at age 10! I continued theatre through high school because it was an outlet for me to sing, but always knew that country was what I wanted to do! I went to Indiana U for a year, but within a few months there, I realized that I belonged in Nashville. With my parents’ blessing, I moved to Nashville that September and started pursuing my dreams professionally!
And was it always country music you gravitated to?
Yes—I’ve always loved country! From the time I started singing, one of my go-to songs was “Sin Wagon” by the Dixie Chicks! I had no idea what it was about of course, but I felt so happy singing it and knew that was the type of music I wanted to be a part of forever.
Do you have any particular musical influences across any genre?
I grew up listening to mostly country and rock. Like I said, Dixie Chicks were huge, and Carrie Underwood has been my idol for most of my life. My mom used to always have us listen to Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, and Bruce Springsteen, who I still listen to and adore today!
Your new single is “Busch Light Budget.” Did you write it and if so can you relay the story behind the song?
I wrote Busch Light Budget right after my friends and I got home from a grocery store! We were looking at all the fancy wines and more expensive beers, and we ended up buying the cheaper stuff because it’s all the money we had. Once we got into the car, I realized how lucky we were that even though we don’t have a bunch of money, we have the best times just because we have each other! So I wrote it about being grateful for that aspect in my life.
Fourteen year old country newcomer Bailey James has already performed at the Bluebird Café, CMA Music Festival, and showcased during Country Radio Seminar. A vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter, Bailey is a standout artist who combines elements of classic country with contemporary sounds and energy. Recently, Bailey released her new single, "Run Girl," a song championing hard work and pursuing one's dreams, and kindly took the time to answer a few questions via email about the track, her involvement with The Jason Foundation, and more.
Being fourteen, when did you begin singing and playing guitar, and know that you wanted to pursue music professionally?
I have been singing since I could talk. My dad sang a lot of Johnny Cash, George Jones and Hank Sr. to me from the time I was my baby. I was a huge Hannah Montana and Taylor Swift fan when I was younger. I still love Miley and Taylor. When I was 10, I tried out for my first school talent show and was blown away by how I was received. I made a demo of “Blue” and “Crazy” at 11 and paid a visit to Nashville and, 3 years later, I have “Run Girl” charting on the Music Row Country Breakout Chart. It is 93rd as of last week… Top 80 here we come!
Music is my passion. It is the one thing that feels so natural to me in my life. Since picking up guitar about two years ago, I find the melodies come very easy now. I love that when the guitar is in my hands I really control the entire delivery and not just the vocals. You can emote with a guitar as much as you do with your voice.
Was it always country you gravitated to and if so, who do you draw from?
I love all music. Country, rock, pop, rap and opera. Yep, opera! One of my vocal coaches was a former opera professional. Country and more specifically, traditional country is where my heart and my voice feel most at home. My dad got it started, but I found Patsy, Dolly, Tammy, Loretta, etc. on my own. Patsy Cline is my all-time favorite. She is the bar that I have set for myself. That is what I work towards.
I do draw from all genres though, but usually from past artists and not present artists. Other artists that I love to listen to and cover are Elvis, Whitney, and Janis.
How do you balance music and school?
Not super easy to do. I have missed a great deal of school and my grades are rather average. My folks are a huge support physically, emotionally, financially… I am guessing that if things get any busier that I will have to turn to home schooling.
Earlier this year, Matt Eckstine released his debut solo album, a subdued yet impactful, ten track collection that begins with the thoughtful “Wheels” and travels through the blues-tinged “One Orange in The Tree,” the hopeful, serene “This Heaven,” and the relatable “Lonely Tonight.” With only guitar, harmonica, and a voice that is quiet yet undeniably sincere, Eckstine speaks universal truths that will move you.
Recently, Eckstine took some time to answer a few questions via email about his roots, the album, and more.
After years fronting The Accomplices, why was now a good time to venture into a solo career?
The band collectively decided to put things on hold for the time being with two members relocating across the country and starting a family. Instead of scrambling to create a band and hitting the clubs, I see this as a perfect time and opportunity to focus on songwriting/storytelling and exploring the opportunities of a solo singer/songwriter career.
Coming from a four piece, how different was the overall approach to this album? And did you enjoy the recording process?
The approach to this album was like nothing I have ever done in the past. When recording with a band, there is a lot more production and so many different moving parts. It felt refreshing to record an album that wasn’t over-produced. I went into a favorite studio of mine, Elevated Basement, in Savannah. We set up the microphones; I sat on a stool, got comfy and went through my catalog of songs. The songs were recorded live and bare bones, with no additional overdubs or musicians. Ultimately the songs that made the cut were the best lyrically.
After their debut into the Texas Country scene three years ago with the EP Worrying Kind, the Hunter Rea Band - Hunter Glaske (Vocals, Guitar), Adam Rea (Drums). John Allen Davidson (Bass), and Mason Hightower (Guitar) - is back with their first full-length album, Lovin’ Ain’t Free. This new project features eleven tracks that highlight the band's honest songwriting and unique sound of bluesy country. Recently, Hunter Glaske took some time to call and speak about the band's roots, the new album, and more.
Congratulations on the release of your first full-length album, Lovin’ Ain’t Free, which came out on July 7th. How did you all initially come together?
We got together in college. Adam and I played football together for two years, and when we called it quits with that we were like, ‘What’s next?’ We both played music, so we began playing parties here and there, and eventually, we decided we wanted to start a band. It was at that point we brought on John Allen. We played as a threesome for almost four years and then Mason joined us. We released Worrying Kind in 2012 and put out our first LP, Lovin Ain’t Free, a few weeks ago. We always wanted to put out a full album, and now we finally got to that moment. We’re excited to take it all in and see what people think about it.
The album draws on a variety of influences from Country, Rock, and the Blues.
We come from an assortment of different backgrounds. John comes from traditional country, Adam is a rocker, and I come from a conglomerate of genres. In the beginning, I was not a good singer at all, which I prove to people when I play them my recordings from freshman year in college (laughing), but the voice truly is a muscle and if you can hear music you can teach yourself to do anything.
As this is your first full-length, did you approach it any differently than you did the EP?
We decided to do an album for a couple of reasons. One of them being that the guys that we talk to, like Josh Abbott, have given us advice, and the other being that I don’t like to save music for the next time. I feel like with each song and album you get the opportunity to craft a sound and hone in on something that’s unique to you. That can be a daunting thing because there’s so much music out there, you can easily get lost in a box and slide into whatever is popular, but I think making a full-length album helped us develop our sound and hone in on who we are as a band.
Since the release of her self-titled EP in 2014, Sandra Lynn has been on the road opening for Kenny Chesney, Kenny Rogers, Josh Thompson, and Jana Kramer. Her singles “Afterparty” and “Bar Hoppin’” could be heard on Sirius XM, and the music video for “You Belong” was featured CMT, GAC, and the Country Network. Lynn, who is gearing up for the release of a new album, recently premiering the upcoming project’s first single, “Hey California” on Radio Disney Country and kindly took some time to chat about the single, its upcoming video, and more.
We last spoke in 2014 with the release of “You Belong’,” what have you been up to since then?
Well, I released my debut EP which was produced by Jay DeMarcus and saw my singles, “Afterparty” and “Bar Hoppin,” get play on Sirius XM’s The Highway. I did some touring, and when I came off the road, I dove into writing with different people in Nashville and L.A. I’ve been taking my time working on the songs that will be on my debut full-length album which will be released later this year.
And the first single from that project, “Hey California,” recently premiered on Radio Disney.
I co-wrote "Hey California" with my producer Dave Brainard [Brandy Clark]. When we sat down to write, we just clicked. I really wanted to write something that would be fun for Summer, but also give a nod to my Southern California roots all while having a Beach Boys vibe because they were some of the first records I remember my parents playing as a child, especially Endless Summer.
One listen to Josh Ward, and you'll instantly be reminded of the country greats of the 80's and 90's. The Houston native and country music traditionalist has seen an unprecedented seven consecutive #1's in Texas over the last two albums, four of those off his latest, Holding Me Together, with his new single "Change My Mind" quickly ascending the TRRR Chart in hopes of being number eight. In advance of a busy summer, which includes a West Coast tour with buddy Cody Johnson, Ward kindly called to talk about his roots, success, and more.
Similarly to Chris LeDoux and Cody Johnson you had a career in rodeo before changing direction to pursue music. How did you progress from that path to where you are now?
I’ve loved music from a very young age, and it has always been a part of my life. Even when I rode bucking horses, there was never a time when I wasn’t playing music for myself and my friends. When I finally decided I wanted to do music, I kicked the tires and lit the fires - played with a of couple bands, put my own together, hit the road, and here we are fifteen years later. I always said when I was younger I wanted to be that cowboy, but somewhere along the way I smartened up (laughing).
Well, it seems like you made a good decision! Your sound is very traditional, is that the type of music you were exposed to or drawn to from an early age?
I was raised on the greats - Haggard, Jones, Whitley – and they owned me. I'm not trying to copy what they did, but they were influential on me, and that’s the vein I fell into. It’s funny, I’ve been doing this for many years, and it was tough trying to get in the main scene, so I played bars and beer joints until people started taking notice of me. It was hard, but as Barbara Mandrell said, 'I was country when country wasn’t cool.' I was living that then, and now, we're seeing a turn-around where country is cool again, and I’m happy to be a part of that.
With seven consecutive singles from two albums, I'd say you definitely fall into the cool category. Do you feel that the success that you’ve encountered has been a whirlwind of sorts?
The ride to the success I’ve had, it’s been a blur, but I just keep my head down and go to work. It’s one of those things where I look at the numbers, as far as the #1’s, and it’s awesome. I honestly never thought in a million years I’d have one #1, much less seven of them. I have a great radio promoter, but we never had a huge record push, so to have all of this happen at a grass roots level is incredible. I appreciate being noticed and having people think I’m good enough to run up the charts, but at the end of the day the numbers don’t matter as long as the fans are there and they’re digging and loving on our music.
I really think a lot of our success we’ve had has to do with song selection. For me, it’s not just put a song on a record because it’s there to fill the #5 spot. I’ve always tried to put songs on a record that mean something or move me. If it makes me feel, I think it might do the same to a person who is listening. That’s the way I pick songs. I’m not going to pick it just because it sounds cool and that’s what’s in, or what everybody else is doing right now. I like to pick songs with substance. And if it’s a great song it needs to be heard.