STUDIO SPACE: HANNAH DASHER
(Interviewer: Scott Sumner, SS Editor for SPACES)
Hannah Dasher has a way of bringing out the country music in everybody, from her soulful, Southern recipes, to her witty, Georgia charm. Though often compared to Dolly Parton, her influences span from authentic country to bluegrass and rock ‘n’ roll. Hannah is a new artist-writer on Nashville’s BMG Chrysalis roster. She is currently working with hit-writer and producer Jeff Stevens, who calls her “the Next Big Thing.”
Talking Music and Writer’s Rooms and Moving the Spirit
Scott: You were born and raised in the small Southeast Georgia town of Springfield, not far from Savannah. One of country music’s best songwriters, Tony Arata, is from this area and we know of the many, many great country talents, old and new, that grew up on Georgia soil. Share with us a bit about your Georgia roots and how growing up there resonates in your music.
Hannah: I wouldn’t want to be from anywhere else, that’s for sure. I was exposed to the best of both worlds, growing up in the Savannah area. I grew up on the river, we weren’t far from the beach, and I was near the civic center, so if a major country act came to town we could go. I was exposed to a little culture growing up (praise God), but I had to eat my share of dirt and I’ve shelled many a mess of peas too. Tractor was my first word, actually, but I don’t have to sing about that kind of stuff to prove that I’m country. I just am.
My Georgia upbringing has given me a good foundation and I’m proud of that. It’s helped me to connect with people from all walks of life. My songs aren’t so much about what I am and what I’m doing, but who I am and how I’m feeling. I think that resonates with people all across the board.
Scott: How old were you when you first took a serious interest in music? Who are your musical heroes?
Hannah: According to my mother, I started singing at the pediatrician’s office and in the car seat while she was driving. As far as when I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be a singer, I think I was four-years-old. Every little girl in my area growing up wanted to be Reba. I wanted to be Dolly, I wanted to be Alan Jackson, I wanted to be George Strait… somebody huge. I don’t know that I’ll ever be that big, but I want to make music for a living and I won’t be happy doing anything else.
Scott: I know you are a proud University of Georgia graduate and a true “Dawgs” fan. You “cut your teeth” playing around the Athens area. Did your studies in music business and public relations help you make connections in the music hub of Nashville?
Hannah: My first bar gig was in Tifton at ABAC, at the old Lamplighter Pub. I never had enough confidence in myself to push the bar scene until I got to Athens, and then when I graduated, I really started to pick it up and do a lot of gigs around the area. I eventually pulled back from the bar scene and tried to dive into my writing and get my songs where they needed to be. I knew that in order to be in Nashville, I needed to run with the big boys.
As far as my music business schooling goes, it taught me the value of being a good hang. I knew that I had to bring it as far as talent was concerned, but I also knew that I needed to be fun to be around and be able to talk about things like cow shit, sheet rock, and boat motors.
Scott: You have played Patsy Cline twice in the Savannah Theatre’s production of “A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline,” once in early 2009 and again earlier this year. Describe this experience and how it has helped polish you as a live performer.
Hannah: They are national shows and that was my first job out of college. I had grown up singing Patsy. From 2000 to 2004, I sang with the Georgia 4-H Clovers & Co. Performing Arts Group and that did the most to polish my stage presence. The Patsy show did a lot to solidify my hometown fan base. It’s fun to go home now and have people ask me, “Didn’t you play Patsy Cline?”
Scott: You currently are living in Nashville, Tennessee, and in January of this year you signed your first major songwriting deal with BMG Chrysalis. How has your writing developed from the standpoint of starting off very raw and learning to successfully write songs on your own to the point now of writing multiple times a week, at times with multiple writers?
Hannah: My mentality has changed. I don’t wait for inspiration to write. I do it because I love it, not just because I have to do it. My publishers see that I don’t get jaded or burned out on it—I have fun co-writes and a day or two off every week so that I don’t get mentally exhausted. My taste for what’s good and what’s great has become more sensitive. I would say that it’s been a really fun boot camp.
Scott: You also participated in ASCAP’s Guidance from Publishers for Songwriters (GPS) project, which strives to increase exposure for Nashville’s top unsigned songwriters and better connect them with the city’s publishing community. How did that opportunity come about and did you find the GPS project to be beneficial?
Hannah: I knew that in order to get a publishing deal, I needed to go through my Performing Rights Organization (PRO). Some of my songs made their way to the right people over at ASCAP and I was told about the GPS program. I had a mini-showcase at a Nashville venue, The Basement, and I was set-up for meetings with many publishers. The buzz eventually led to a meeting with BMG—the process feels like a big dating game. I’m grateful for the many people who helped me out along the way.
Scott: For our readers, lead us through the typical week of a signed, up-and-coming Nashville singer-songwriter. Tell us about some of your biggest mentors here in town.
Hannah: It’s a freakin’ blast! I write at BMG and my writer’s room was the old office of Owen Bradley, who produced Patsy Cline. It’s cool to write at the old Decca Records building because it has so much history. I regularly write with Monty Holmes, Clint Daniels, and Jeff Stevens—it’s always a new day and a new environment. I get to make music for a living and it’s so much fun! It can get mentally exhausting, but I’m having a ball!
Scott: Talk about your songwriting process.
Hannah: The writing room is very personal and intimate in a professional way. I write honestly and a lot of the writers that I write with do so as well, so we get to happy places but also very dark places. That makes it as real as possible. It’s my job to go in there and say stuff that people wouldn’t normally say out loud.
Scott: You are currently working on material for your debut release with hit writer/producer Jeff Stevens (Luke Bryan). When can we expect it and what can we expect?
Hannah: Jeff is recording developmental sides on me. These are the early stages. I wrote with Jeff before I was signed to BMG, and we’ve continued to write since then. We’ve just recorded five of our songs in the studio and we’re mixing those right now and hope to have them out by the end of the month.
Scott: What goals have you set for yourself as you move forward from here?
Hannah: I want a record deal and to play the Grand Ole Opry. I want my music to reach the world. My team has encouraged me to push my goals beyond the Opry stage and to sell out stadiums. Either way, I pray there’s a place for me in country music.
Scott: What is an album you wouldn’t want to live without?
Hannah: Clint Black—Killin’ Time.
Scott: Name a few of your favorite country songs.
Hannah: “I’m Over You” – Keith Whitley. “Walkin’ Away” – Clint Black. “When Did You Stop Loving Me” – George Strait. “I Never Go Around Mirrors” – Lefty Frizzell
Scott: Tell us about a time when music particularly moved you.
Hannah: George Jones’ funeral – the entire thing moved me. I have never been so overwhelmed with country music history and the Holy Spirit all at once, all in one setting. I was there and the roof literal felt like it was about to blow off of the Grand Ole Opry House. Everyone there had so much reverence for the country music icon being celebrated. Wynonna Judd sang a version of “How Great Thou Art”… it made me cry for three days. It moved me.
Scott: If someone said, “I want to do what you do,” what advice would you have for them?
Hannah: Be a good hang, bring it, and be a good hang.
Scott: Is there anything else you would like for our readers to know?
Hannah: Be on the lookout for me, and if you like me—spread the word. And if you don’t, keep it your damn self!
More from Hannah Dasher
See her live!
September 26th at The Exit/In – Nashville, TN (8 PM)