Knowing that she had previously performed numerous times with my old pals Antigone Rising – and how they continued to sing her praises – I couldn’t pass up the chance to catch Hannah Thomas earlier this week at Atwood’s Tavern. Heading out for a nice leisurely Sunday evening happy hour, I ended up with more than I bargained for as soon as Hannah Thomas hit the stage; she rocked our Cambridge-visiting faces right the hell back out of town. She played for almost two hours straight, cranking out nearly twenty songs – three covers (Violent Femmes, Janis Joplin, Indigo Girls) and topping the set off with originals. Thomas, being one woman with a guitar, effortlessly and sufficiently blew the room away with the talent and tenacity of a full band – a very rare find these days. Being a very staunch advocate of not pigeonholing anyone into a genre, I will, however, say that if Amy Ray, Michelle Malone, Patty Griffin, and old school Jennifer Nettles (a la Jennifer Nettles Band/Eddie’s Attic days) had a baby….congratulations, it’d be a Hannah Thomas!
Thomas is amidst a Kickstarter campaign (with 6 days to go as of this writing) – ending on April 24, 3:11pm EDT, to be exact – to record her third original album with producer and bassist Don Dixon (R.E,M., Smithereens, etc). With at least seven songs slated to be delivered (including two personal favorites – “Lie to Me” and “Drinking Alone”), you know you’re in store for some sweet sweet aural pleasure. Pledgers of this campaign can get anything ranging from a signed CD to a house concert to being in the studio with the artist herself. But be sure to get yourself on over to Hannah’s Kickstarter page and pledge before it’s too late!
Having started performing at the age of sixteen, Thomas is touring relentlessly (she drove straight to Georgia right after this show) and shared the stage with artists such as Zac Brown, Indigo Girls, Bree Sharp, Antigone Rising, and Jen Foster – just to name a few; between her badass voice and guitar handling, it won’t be long before those roles will be reversed. Oh, and this proper southern girl has a penchant for whiskey and scotch, so when you get yourself to her next show make sure the bartender delivers some Maker’s or Johnnie Walker Black – before her shows sell out so quickly you’ll be left crying in the street, knowing what you’re missing out on. Thomas is a ridiculously fantastic and dazzling gem of an artist who rises insurmountably above the music world of mediocrity. Being able to experience a two hour Hannah Thomas solo set was quite possibly one of the most well-spent Sunday happy hours anyone could’ve encountered. It may have just been said above, but, the one word review of this gig: badass.
Perhaps it is unclear to me how the Indigo Girls made the connection with Hannah Thomas, (http://www.hannahthomasband.com/), but it is a great one. The major recognition the Indigo Girls bring to the table has this young talented singer/songwriter Georgia native moving on up the tracks.
My social media sources share that Hannah started professionally in 2006, from Covington, Ga., and has been playing that music for everyone who will listen. Having played over 200 shows in the past 18 months in more places than she can count, she also made time to record the seven songs on her newest studio CD, “Goodbye on Wasted Time”
“Music is all I think about” says Hannah. You can hear that dedication in her songs. From the soulful bluesy “Church on Friday” to the tale of life in the country (“Watch Out for the Deer”) to rockers like “Goodbye on Wasted Time and “Pacifier” (the latter featuring Amy Ray on guest vocals) Hannah keeps her audience’s attention by never having two songs sound the same.
There is no denying Hannah has what it takes to move to the next level. There is no doubt hanging out and opening concert events for the Indigo Girls will continue to give her the needed exposure and mentoring.
Born in Georgia, Hannah Thomas is no stranger to the Nashville music scene. Constantly touring, the out singer-songwriter has played at many venues across Music City and is coming back to Nashville as the special guest of Antigone Rising when they descend upon Douglas Corners on Saturday, April 5.
Out & About Nashville spoke with Hannah Thomas about coming out and whether or not it does get better, how she would describe her touring life and what other Georgia-born solo artist inspired her to play Eddie’s Attic.
Out & About Nashville: When did you know that music was your passion and going to be your career?
Hannah Thomas: When I was little kid I wanted to be Garth Brooks. As I got older and I expanded my musical horizons, I realized that I wanted to write my songs. I started performing at sixteen and it's really been the only job I’ve ever had.
O&AN: You Kicktstarted your last album and arecurrently running another kickstarter to help get to the studio versions of songs you’ve been playing live for a while now. How has Kickstarter helped you as an artist deliver music to fans?
HT: Without label support it's very expensive to put out a record. Kickstarter has taken grassroots and moved it in to the twenty-first century. This has allowed me to put out the record I want, which is ultimately what the fans want to hear.
O&AN: Since you are kickstarting a new album, is getting the album made and into the hands of fans your focus for 2014?
HT: It's certainly a priority but I also spend a lot of time touring, which is the best way to meet new fans.
O&AN: You tour extensively, if you had to sum up your touring life in one tweet, what would it be? Remember, 140 characters or less!
HT: 4000 miles in 3 weeks and still truckin' ... #tired
O&AN: Your bio has a quote from Amy Ray that says about you. She describes you as having "the soul of old country, and that will always be there, but also a diehard rocker with some punk thrown in the mix.” Can you share your inspirations from each of those genres?
HT: I love all kinds of music. Some of my influences are Terri Clark, Led Zeppelin, Tori Amos, Johnny Cash and Indigo Girls. I guess it's easy to see why it's hard to classify my music.
O&AN: "Pacifier," a song from Goodbye on Wasted Time features Amy Ray and I know you just came out in 2012. Was this your coming out song or did the emotions just coincidentally mirror what was happening in your life?
HT: It was more the emotions that lead up to coming out. That point in your life where you realize you have to live for you and not to make others happy. It was very freeing to get to that point.
O&AN: In the beginning of 2013, you talked toGA Voice about the struggles you were having about coming out—has it gotten better?
HT: I think what they say is true, it does get better. There is a sense of freedom that happens when you take control of your life.
O&AN: In terms of your professional life, do you think the music industry cares in 2014?
HT: We have definitely come a long way. People are always going to find a reason not to like you, if they want to. LGBT artists write some of people’s favorite country songs and they don’t even know. I think a good song stands for itself.
O&AN: How has your songwriting changed, if at all, since coming out?
HT: There is less of a filter. Now I just write what comes out instead of trying to fit into a mold. My music now comes from an honest place and I think people can relate to that.
O&AN: Has the influence of other successful out artists had any bearing on your goals with music?
HT: My goals have never changed, but seeing other out artists, like Brandy Clark, be successful, lets me know I can reach them.
O&AN: The music industry is constantly changing. Where do you see yourself in the music industry? Independent versus major label?
HT: There are many different ways to make it in the music industry now and that's encouraging. 15-20 years ago the only way to be successful was to sign a deal, but now artists like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are achieving success on their own. I'm not sure what the future holds, but I like the idea of having so many options.
O&AN: And how do you define your success in your music?
HT: It varies. Some nights it's having someone request one of my songs, some nights it's reaching the 7-year-old that came with her parents, other nights it’s sold out venues. As long as people are listening, I'll keep playing.
O&AN: Do you ever write songs in the hopes that another artist may get their hands on them and cut them? I ask because I when I hear songs like “(God Help My Mama) I Turned Out Like My Dad” I get a total Miranda Lambert record vibe?!
HT: It's not why I write them, but if Miranda is looking for a song . . . I would be honored to have any artist I respect cut one of my songs.
O&AN: On “Let it Rain” I completely hear some old school Jennifer Nettles influence a la “Tried Hard Enough.” Were you a Soul Miner’s Daughter and Jennifer Nettles Band fan?
HT: Yes! I love Jennifer, she was one of the reasons I have pursued this as a career instead of as a hobby. I feel like she was another artist that blurred the lines of genre, especially in JNB days. The very first time I played in public was at Open Mic at Eddie's Attic, and I wanted to be there because Jennifer and so many other iconic Georgia acts have gotten a jump start to their careers in that building.
O&AN: If you had to pick any song that you wish you could’ve written, what would it be?
HT: “Top of the World” by Patty Griffin
Georgia Music Magazine
Hannah has "the soul of old country. and that will always be there, but she's also a die hard rocker with some punk thrown in the mix" - Amy Ray (of Indigo Girls)
By Al Kaufman
Maybe it is the southern cooking. Maybe it’s having to deal with southern men. But hell if the female musicians we get out of Georgia ain’t bad-ass. Think of the fiercely independent and creative Janelle Monae. Or think of that rough and tumble sweetness of southern rock and blues mama Michelle Malone. In the spectrum of female Georgia musicians, Hannah Thomas is much more like the latter, so much so that she could pass for Malone’s kid sister. She’s got that indescribable country/rock/blues-thing-that-really-needs-a-name down. She can kick up dust just as easily as she can draw a tear. But this is also a girl who grew up loving Spice Girls and Black Sabbath (And how many people can honestly say they loved both?), so her range truly knows no limits.
At the tender age of 23, Thomas was already a 7-year veteran of performing. She has made fans of local legends like Amy Ray of Indigo Girls, and Clay Cook of the Zac Brown Band. Her fourth CD, Goodbye on Wasted Time, incorporates everything she knows. There is plenty of country and blues, but check out the alternative rock sound on “Pacifier” (on which Amy Ray guests). Then listen to “That’s What She Said,” which is reminiscent of Jennifer Nettles at her funkiest (drawl and all), before she got all pop-country with Sugarland.
Thomas took some time off from guitar slinging to talk about how she got to where she is today, and some of the things she experienced along the way.
I understand you wrote a song when you were in third grade that got you in some trouble with your mom. What was in that song?
It was a love song, I listened to a lot of Spice Girls and I didn’t really know what they were singing about. So I had no idea what I was saying was risqué.
What did you say in the song?
Honestly, I don’t remember what I said. I listened to the Spice Girls a lot at that time. I think it was something about pushing a boy against the wall to kiss him.
Your influences include Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, Aerosmith, and the Indigo Girls. Did your parents listen to this music, or did you discover it yourself? Was there music in your house growing up?
My parents didn’t listen to any of that. I used to check Indigo Girls CDs out at the library. My mom and I sang along to the Judds and Tina Turner in the car, and when she wasn’t around my dad would let me listen to Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix. My uncle changed my world when he let me listen to the Smashing Pumpkins for the first time.
You played halftime at a Falcons game. What’s it like playing in front of that many people, especially since they’re people more interested in football rather than a woman with a guitar?
It was a great experience, the response was way better than I expected. There are going to be days when you have a tough audience, but you just have to focus on the people you are reaching, not the ones you aren’t.
How did the collaboration with Amy Ray come about? Did nerves need to be calmed before you got in the studio with her?
We have mutual friends and I share some band members with Indigo Girls, so I asked and she said yes. I have known her for a little bit, so it just seemed natural to have her there. I recently went in to do some background vocals on her upcoming solo CD and that seemed way harder for some reason.
Your latest album was funded through Kickstarter. Do you feel more pressure that way? Is there a “My fans paid for this, so it better be damn good” kind of pressure?
Yes, but I always feel like I am making music for them, so that pressure is there no matter what.
The title track, “Goodbye on Wasted Time,” seems like it stems from some sort of turning point in your life. Care to elaborate?
I think you just reach a point in life where you start to have a better understanding of yourself and the world around you. You learn that time is the one thing you can never get back and spending it worrying about things that don’t matter is really a waste. What other people think about you is not something you can change, all you can do is be the best you that you can be and at the end of the day be happy with yourself.
Roots music probably is the best way to describe her sound. It has vestiges of folk, rock, blues and country; listen carefully and you can hear hints of Zac Brown, the Indigo Girls, Bonnie Raitt, Ann Wilson and even Steven Tyler. And Thomas likes being that eclectic; it frees her to go wherever the music takes her.
"It would be between pop and rock," she said when asked where, if she worked at the local record store, she'd stock her albums. "I kind of have an old-school way of thinking. I liked it when they play Janis Joplin and James Brown on the same station. I kind of wish we could get back to that."
Who would you say you are musically?
Musically I'm the artist that falls between genres. I have genuine love for music ever since can remember. Music is my world. Ultimately, I play for myself . It's also such a reward to see that people enjoy what I'm doing.
I know musicians hate this question, but how would you classify your style of music that you are currently playing?
Rockin' Americana. Not to be cliche, but it's a little bit country, a little bit rock'n'roll. Sometimes bluesy & soulful and sometimes 90's alternative or punk edge.
Is there a style of music you DON'T like?
Not really, I think there's something great to be found in all genres. I may not like everything in a particular genre, but there's always one artist or song that I find inspiring. I always say there are two kinds of music - Good and Bad Music. One day you'll find me listening to 70's Rock and the next Contemporary Jazz. I love music all around.
Who would you say is your greatest musical influence?
I don't know if I can limit that answer to just one artist. I grew up listening to The Judds and Tina Turner with my mom and Black Sabbath and Van Halen with my dad. Early on I was drawn to artists like Terri Clark and Garth Brooks. As I got older it was Indigo Girls and Tori Amos. I continue to be influenced every day so my influences are everywhere from Janis Joplin and Johnny Cash to Alice In Chains and Brandi Carlile.
Your latest CD is "Goodbye on Wasted Time." What's the story behind the title?
"Goodbye On Wasted Time" is a song on the album. Basically, the song embodies everything I've learned in the last couple years in the music business and in my personal life. It's really all about new beginnings and taking lessons learned and using them as a compass for everything here on out.
I read that fans helped you make this album. How did that come to be?
The fans have been asking for new album for quite some time. With touring and trying to introduce my music to new people I was having a hard time saving money to get into the studio, although the songs had been ready for quite some time. I heard about the Kickstarter approach and decided to give it a try. I was overwhelmed by the response and couldn't have made this album without the fans. So I owe a big thank you to them.
If you could no longer play music what would you be/do?
Probably a journalist or something in the marketing world.
If you were independently wealthy you would...?
Buy a tour bus and hit all the cities I haven't made it to yet with my band.
What is your favorite memory of a show?
It's a toss up between getting to sing a song during The Indigo Girls set in Jacksonville last month and having my fans get together and presenting me with a birthday/CD release cake at my CD Release Party in February.
Do you have a crazy fan story?
I guess that means "no comment?"
Your favorite place to play and why?
Other than Atlanta.. The Akron Civic Theater in Ohio. The people are a great, It's a beautiful venue, and the audience is always very responsive.
What new music are you listening too these days?
Kacey Musgraves. Her new album is something totally fresh in country in music. With lyrics daring to go there. Also, I'm anxiously awaiting the new Natalie Maines solo album.
Favorite driving music?
Name 3 Atlanta bands that you would take a friend to see?
Indigo Girls/Amy Ray (Solo), Roxie Watson, Sugarland
Name 3 Atlanta bands from the past that you wish were still playing?
Jennifer Nettles Band, Three 5 Human, REM (does that count since they're an Athens band)
Favorite chilhood Book?
The Poky Little Puppy
Bucket list item that would surprise your friends?
Nothing would surprise my friends...
You're latest project is...
I'm already writing for the new album. In talks of starting the recording process this summer.
The album, called "Goodbye on Wasted Time," is produced by Rob Gal, who also has worked with fellow Georgia artists Sugarland and Shawn Mullins, and Jaron Pearlman, an Atlanta musician.
Thomas has come a long way in the studio since her 2009 debut, “The Rest is Yet to Come.” After an acoustic album, an EP and a live album, Thomas released “Goodbye on Wasted Time” at the end of 2012. Thomas intended to release her latest album as a set of country songs, but after a period of prolific writing, she shelved all the songs intended for “Goodbye on Wasted Time” and instead pursued an edgier, country/rock sound.
“I had more things to say that were hard to say with country music,” Thomas said. “It felt right and real to draw more from my life experiences.”
The album that emerged from Thomas’s sessions with Sugarland and Michelle Malone producer Rob Gal deftly combines country music with some unexpected sonic flourishes. Thomas describes “Watch Out for the Deer” as a “cowpunk” song that thrives on the driving force of punk music. “Pacifier” sums up her insistence on being an individual and features guest vocals from the Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray. Thomas released the album under her own 3Quarters Records. Cutting out the middle man was the next logical step for an artist who has spent most of her short career defying labels.
“In the end it’s actually easier to take a do-it-yourself approach,” Thomas said. “If you just sit and wait for something it will always take longer.”
Hannah Thomas is A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock and Roll
I was tempted to call Hannah Thomas an emerging singer/songwriter, and then I heard her sing. Even though she’s floating around the country to small pubs with a single roadie, this girl knows who she is and nearly blew the roof off the Elbo Room last Monday night. A time snafu and a hot steamy weekday made for an especially intimate crowd, but Thomas may as well have been playing to a crowd of hundreds at the Back Lot Bash. I’d like to believe that next summer she’ll be doing exactly that…
I was still tempted to use the title “emerging”, and then I found out she was opening for the Indigo Girls in September and I changed my mind entirely.
[Hannah has] “the soul of old country, and that will always be there, but she’s also a die hard rocker with some punk thrown in the mix” – Amy Ray
The Indigo Girl Ray, who sings back-up vocals (back-up vocals!!) on Thomas’ latest album, also called her an “outlaw songwriter”, because it’s difficult to place her music in any one category. Growing up in a small town outside Atlanta, Thomas was initially influenced by her country upbringing. As her experiences grew, so did her music, and now it’s not so clear what kind of musician she is. Among the slew of other young indie rock/folk/lesbian singer-songwriters, there’s something different in Hannah’s music that’s hard to put a finger on. So, I asked her about her musical influences:
“I grew up listening to the music of my parents, just like most people. So I heard Black Sabbath and Aerosmith with my dad and Tina Turner and the Judds with my mom. My uncle introduced me to Smashing Pumpkins and I am forever grateful. I think those influences can be heard in my songs. I really wanted to be Garth Brooks when I was little. Then there was Johnny Cash and Janis Joplin – how can you not want to be like them? On my own I discovered Spice Girls and eventually Indigo Girls and Tori Amos. Now you can see why my music doesn’t fit easily into one category…”
Sure. I can see that. In conversation, it’s likely that most listeners will peg Hannah Thomas as a country singer, and her voice at some times reminds me of Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, at others Bonnie Raitt. But in the end, her voice and her lyrics are entirely authentic, and speak to her personal experiences.
So… what’s it like to be an out lesbian country singer from Georgia?
“I think people can tell when you aren’t being honest. When I started writing music without filters it got better. It’s a difficult decision for anyone to come out, but when you grow up in a small town where people are vocal about the perception of homosexuality being wrong it’s even harder. It took a lot of years of soul searching, but when I moved to the city (Atlanta) I felt more free to be who I am. It was a hard decision – country music has not really had a successful out entertainer yet, but I think the world is changing and people are becoming more accepting. I never want to make up anyone’s mind for them, by thinking that they won’t accept me because of who I am. I just write music from my heart and leave it up to my fans. So far it has been nothing but a positive experience.”
Find out more about Hannah Thomas and her new album, “Goodbye on Wasted Time” at http://www.hannahthomasband.com. She’s also raising money for Thistle Farms with all proceeds from the song “New March” benefiting this Nashville-based organization that provides opportunities for women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, and addition.
.... I am stunned and honored to converse with a young woman who carries on the breakthroughs of Garrison Starr and the Indigo Girls. Have mercy....
Hannah Thomas is coming out country
Hannah Thomas, the queer, rockin’ country singer-songwriter is on the rise. Having shared the stage with stars like Amy Ray and Jen Foster, Hannah’s energetic presence and bluesy songwriting has her new EP, “Goodbye on Wasted Time,” getting rave reviews. She caught up with Lesbian.com’s Dana Brenklin to talk about her new tunes, a big tour and coming out in the country music scene.
Your new EP “Goodbye on Wasted Time” is great. How would you say it differs from your previous work?
It comes from a more honest place. When I stopped worrying about how to market the music, and started making music that I would like to listen to myself everything changed. Writing without a filter gave me a much broader canvas that allowed me to really open up as a songwriter. I feel like I found my voice.
You’ve got quite a few tour dates lined up. Is there any show you’re particularly excited about?
I am excited about all the shows, but September has some really great things happening for me. I will be opening a couple of shows for the , Girls in the Midwest, as well as playing at Sweet’s Playa Del Carmen resort (which will be my first international show)!
In January of this year you came out in an interview with the GA Voice. Has your audience changed in the way they receive you since then?
I think people can tell when you’re not being with honest with them, Since I came out I feel like my audience has embraced me more and is more loyal than ever.
Was your coming out a spur of the moment thing or was it something you planned?
My songs were already headed in a direction where I think people had an idea, but it was still very difficult to make the decision. I thought about it for a long time, but when the CD was about to be released, I figured it was time. It was one of the more freeing moments of my life.
In your opinion, what are some of the pros & cons to coming out in this business, particularly as someone whose music falls under the broad “country” umbrella?
I am very thankful for those that paved the way like kd lang and Cheley Wright, and even though I think there is still a stigma, especially within the country world, the world is changing every day. While I have to consider the business side of things, I try to never let it limit who I am as artist.
Often, public figures/celebrities who come out say they were told it was a “bad idea” to come out. What would you say to that attitude?
All the success in the world doesn’t matter if you are happy.
And what would you say to an artist struggling with whether to come out or not?
You know when it is the right time to come out. You should never let anyone pressure you to stay in the closet or come out. It’s completely your decision.
Has allowing your audience to know the real you changed your life or career, so far?
I have a more loyal following with my core group of supporters. I think they would come see me every night if I played the same place! I could have never imagined how great it has been and I am thankful everyday for that.
What would you call the biggest moment of your career so far?
When I think I have reached my biggest moment it just keeps getting better. In the past couple of years I have played in front of large audiences, had Amy Ray come sing on my CD, she then asked me to come sing on her solo CD and in September I will be opening for Indigo Girls (who have been some of the biggest influences on my career), I hope if you ask me again in six months I can add more to the list, but I have to say I am pretty happy about all of it.
Thanks for your time, Hannah. So tell us, what do we have to look forward to from you? What’s next?
WI am working on a video soon and have enough songs for a new CD, which I can hopefully get out sometime next year. And hopefully I will keep adding new places to the tour schedule!
Tell me about the Amy Ray (Indigo Girls) connection on the new record.
We met through mutual friends. I’ve always been a fan of Amy’s. I told her that I had this song called “Pacifier” that I would love for her to sing on with me. She listened to it, liked it and the next thing I knew, she was in the studio with me. It was one of the biggest moments of my life.
Local country music singer Hannah Thomas has another award under her belt.