Looking ahead to this year’s Country to Country festival, there were a lot of artists that excited the UK fans for making the trip across to London and Hannah Ellis is certainly someone we have really wanted to see over here for quite a while now. Her journey from Campbellsville in Kentucky (which is around 130 miles north east of Nashville and ninety miles south of Louisville) took her to her home state University of Kentucky where she graduated with a degree in Integrated Strategic Communications then with the full support of her family, she started chasing her dreams. That involved auditioning for season 8 of The Voice on NBC in 2014, a self-financed debut EP and moving to Nashville where as a songwriter she has had cuts by artists such as Carly Pearce, Russell Dickerson and Danielle Bradbery.
Named by CMT as part of their 2018 Next Women of Country class, the Curb Records artist has built a rapidly growing fanbase off the back of her 2021 single “Us” and last year’s uplifting track “Country Can” which is now set to test the water in the UK for the first time as she performs at this year’s C2C Festival in London.
We are super excited for you to come and see us next week. Have you managed to get over to Europe before or spent much time out of North America? “I was last in Europe in 2020 when I went to Amsterdam right before the world shut down for a writing camp, then I went to Germany and did an upper loop of all of those sort of places back in 2016 so I try to get over there as often as I can but not really a ton yet and I’ve never played a show in Europe yet.”
You said you have been over here in the past so, I guess the question from that is why has it taken so long to come and play a shows here? “I think the thing is having it make sense to come over. I’ve been wanting to play there for a long time but between scheduling things to work out and also being at a point in my career where I feel it is the most beneficial for me to come and I’ve got a bit more of a fanbase built in general.”
What is it about wanting to come over and what is it that you have heard about the UK that makes you really excited to come and see us? “You knew where that was going and I have heard that country fans in the UK are like rabid, like they are not playing! I think there is something beautiful in that because there is a smaller market, so people get really excited and super passionate. I have had messages for years from fans of mine over there saying please come over so the fact that I finally get to do this is really exciting.”
I say to a lot of people the thing that really is different is that because of the way the market is here, and it isn’t the same as the country radio orientated machine in the States is that fans listen to what they WANT to listen to, rather than what they are almost told to listen to if you know what I mean. “It’s great to hear that and that means the fandom is real. They are your fans, they are a Hannah Ellis fan because they went out and sought that music out.”
I think the first time that I properly came across your music was when you were part of the CMT Next Women class for 2018 and crazily if they did trading cards for each year, you would be the one that completes the set for the UK fans (Ashley McBryde, Kalie Shorr, Kassi Ashton, Abby Anderson, Jo Smith, Bailey Bryan, The Sisterhood Band and Erin Enderlin were the other members of this class who have all played shows in the UK) which is super exciting in a fun way.
Moving on to look ahead to C2C, it’s a very different festival to what you typically play in the US because you get to play multiple sets. “Absolutely because a lot of the time when you play a festival, you only play once so I was even surprised when I got the offer to come and play when they were like OK, here are your three shows. I was like what??? Then now I’m actually playing four shows which is really exciting because you are making the most of your time there and if I’m playing at the same time as someone else that someone wants to see on day one, they still have a chance to come and see me at another time. I think that is a really great way to make the most of your time whilst you are there.”
That is spot on and exactly how you hear fans talking about planning their weekend, but it is not just one type of show and people change their sets around or arrange things differently. You have the Bluebird show amongst your four sets which is in a round with Randall King who literally everyone I know that is going to the festival or a country music fan in the UK is talking about and Jeff Cohen who spends a lot of time over here and is this great songwriter who has written all of these well-known songs, including the theme song from Paw Patrol. “No way. I did not know that, oh my gosh I have got to tell my nieces and nephews because they will love that.”
Genuinely, I didn’t know this either but the last time I saw him, someone had asked him to play it and then there it was in the middle of his set which was the most random thing ever but totally amazing. “I think I’m going to have to request this too, honestly just for my nieces and nephews because I would forever be number one in their eyes.” Away from the round, looking at your other sets in terms of the time and where those stages are, on the Saturday you have well and truly lucked out to get what I think is probably one of the prime slots of the whole festival. The Big Entrance stage is the first thing that anyone will see when they come in and not everyone comes for all of the daytime things so people arriving predominantly for the arena that arrives to grab a drink just before they go in will arrive and see you on stage having loads of fun playing “Us” or “Country Can”.
“Yeah, it’s just going to be so fun and I’m hoping that like you said that those songs will really set the tone for the rest of the evening for what people are going to get with all of these other incredible artists. We are just doing a duo as an acoustic setup, but we have so much fun, I run around on stage so I don’t think people will see a lack of energy.”
Going forward in terms of new music, you have been consistently putting out singles for a while, which I know in the age of DSP’s, playlists and consumer demand is the way that things lean towards but are we looking to some of these tracks that you have been putting out being the foundations for an extended project? “Yes, we’re actually slated to put out a record in the third quarter of this year, that’s the goal but we have tons of music recorded and I’m very excited to share it. We will have a few more singles at least and the entire album will come out later this year which I am so excited about because I still believe in records, I still believe in bodies of work and putting stuff together that has a thought behind it and has a purpose.”
Where singles can just flow one to the next, like you say a full-length piece of work allows more of that cohesion and paint an entire picture. “I think records are how an artist really establishes their brand, their personality and what you can expect from them moving forward. I think that I have tried to be really thoughtful with making our record that is has this mix of fun up-tempo stuff that we can all party to and drink to, but it has these other elements of really heartfelt and personal moments. It’s such a representation of who I am as a person and an artist which is why I want to bring it all together in this one form to say this is Hannah Ellis, this is what you can expect from me!”
You have been doing music from quite a young age but has country and moving to Nashville always been the goal in terms of musical style? “I’m always influenced by other types of music like nineties R&B music, today’s pop music and all of these influences find their way into my music, but my heart is country, that is what I grew up on and it’s the only genre really for me.”
Before you moved to town, you went to college at University of Kentucky, and you didn’t do a music-based degree. I always think it’s cool for people that come to Nashville as musicians who have studied something else in college and not been married to a pure focus on music so have a more rounded and relatable experience of growing up that most people experience in college. “I think it has made me a better songwriter because I have lived so much life. I have so many different experiences to pull from and kind of like what you said, I’m glad that I grew up outside of Nashville where I got to be young and dumb somewhere else, but it was good for me to come here when I was ready to work.”
One of the other things that happened as you were developing as an artist was that you tried for The Voice, which didn’t go as well you would have hoped when you auditioned but I’m guessing that process taught a lot and there was a lot that you took away from it which in the long term has made you more rounded as a songwriter from that experience? “Oh yeah, my experience at The Voice was really incredible. I’m a people pleaser by nature and so when I was out there, they kind of pick your song for you, they choose a lot of things about you, and they are creating character because it’s a tv show. They do pull from who you are but there is definitely that other side of it and I kind of just went along with it. In hindsight and something that I really took away was that had I been a little bit more vocal about that doesn’t really feel like me, I think it would have gone differently. When I left that experience I kind of had this chip on my shoulder about the fact that I’m never going to not get something or fail if you will at something because I didn’t speak up, I wasn’t myself or wasn’t true to myself, so it really shaped me as an artist.”
We talked about you being from Kentucky, which in the grand scheme of how big America is, you are not too far from Nashville, so I guess that gives you the perspective of being close but not too close to learn about who you want to be and want to say as an artist. “Exactly and I think it’s close enough that I get to have my family around when that works out but also it did take a risk, it did take a jump for me to move here and do this where it was lonely at times, and I think like you said that is part of what shapes you.” Lastly, coming back to talk about C2C, for people that are going to discover you and your music, what do you want people to take away from seeing and hearing Hannah Ellis for the first time? “I would say that I can meet you wherever you are at. I am here if we want to have a good time but if we need to have a heart to heart and get down to the nitty gritty of our feelings I can go there too. I always say that something that matters to me in music is building community. Even if it is a thirty-minute moment and a memory where this group of people will never be back together but for that moment, we’re a community, we are all sharing this space and this moment together. I think that is what I really want them to take away.”
Hannah Ellis will be appearing at C2C: Country to Country in London across the weekend of March 10th to 12th where she will be performing on The Big Entrance, ICON and Wayside stages in addition to performing at the Sunday mornings Bluebird Café session on March 12th (separate ticket required) alongside Jeff Cohen and Randall King. Full festival details and ticket information are available on the WEBSITE or socials (INSTAGRAM / TWITTER / FACEBOOK) The latest release “Someone Else’s Heartbreak” from Hannah Ellis is out now and available HERE. To learn more about Hannah you can check out her WEBSITE or follow her socially on INSTAGRAMTWITTER or FACEBOOK
True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to the hilt. Garth Brooks