Having been performing since she was 16 years old, Hannah Thomas’s brand of rock Americana with a country twist has been honed through relentless touring and well-crafted releases. Her new single Fault Line dropped July 29 ahead of her new album of the same name set for release September 16.
Only in her mid-twenties, Hannah has an impressive touring history having shared stages across the US with the likes of: Indigo Girls, Pat Benatar, Melissa Etheridge, Chely Wright, Michelle Malone and many more internationally renowned artists.
Epic Earworm’s founder Helen Weston caught up with Hannah to discuss the making of ‘Fault Line’ with producer Les Nuby, working with her musical heroes and life on the road.
Photograph: Ed Lee.
Helen Weston: Growing up what effect did your music idols have on the evolution of your songwriting?
Hannah Thomas: Growing up music was everything to me. When I was younger my mom listened to Tina Turner and The Judds. My dad listened to bands like Van Halen and Black Sabbath. I also have a super cool uncle that turned me on to nineties alternative bands like Smashing Pumpkins. Like most elementary school kids, I was introduced to a lot of pop music.
I started writing songs around the age of 7 or 8, mostly poppy kind of rock songs. When I was in middle school I started spending a lot of time at the public library where I found albums that I probably wouldn’t have been introduced to otherwise.
It was there that I discovered Indigo Girls and Patty Griffin. Before then I hadn’t really listened to that style of songwriting. That lead me to finding Tori Amos, another idol of mine. All of these things and artists have definitely had an effect on my songwriting and the kind of writer I am today for sure.
Helen Weston: How would you say your music has changed since your debut Goodbye On Wasted Time EP?
Hannah Thomas: I’ve definitely evolved as an artist. It’s crazy how much can change in just four years. When I recorded ‘Goodbye On Wasted Time’ I had just started to really tour for the first time. Being on the road and playing for new people every night taught me a lot about myself as a person and a performer.
Performing live has always influenced my writing process and has geared me toward what I want to do next. There are definitely some rockers on the new album, but also songs that show a different side of me where I dug in deep, stood back and just let the music drive me. I played a lot of electric guitar on the record, which is a new thing for me and I’m very excited about it.
Helen Weston: Your last EP Carousel On Fire received a great reception and featured fan favourite ‘God Help My Mama (I Turned Out Like My Dad)’. Was Carousel… a pre-cursor to what fans can expect from your upcoming album?
Hannah Thomas: Somewhat. I would say that Carousel was more bare-boned and vocally driven. The new album has many more elements musically. We tracked everything live with a 4-piece band in the same room with me. Then mixing is where all the fun stuff happens. Unlike previous projects, I have been more hands on with the mixing process this go round. I’ve learned a lot and have a newfound respect for the production side of things.
Photograph: Wes Frazer.
Helen Weston: For those who haven’t heard your music before, how would you describe your sound and the tone of your new record?
Hannah Thomas: When I first decided that I was going to make this record a lot of different artist names were thrown around from the The Stones to Zeppelin. There are a lot of elements of that there musically. But, like any recording process the songs started to evolve organically once when we actually went into the studio. I would say there is even a Fleetwood Mac influence on a few of the songs. There are definitely some rockers, but you can also expect to hear some sultry and more laid back tunes as well.
Helen Weston: Where did you record the album and what was it like collaborating with producer Lester Nuby III (St Paul and the Broken Bones amongst others)?
Hannah Thomas: Ol Elegante Studios in Birmingham, AL. Working with Nuby has been wild ride. He’s a very talented engineer and producer as well as a musician. He even played guitar on some of the songs. I have been able to be more hands on with this record and the mixing process. That doesn’t always happen with other producers.
Helen Weston: ‘Fault Line’ is your new single (Released July 29). What was the songwriting process behind it?
Hannah Thomas: Fault Line is title track off the album. I wrote the song back in January of 2015. I was out with some friends one night when the title came to mind. The next morning, I found the note that I had made for myself in my phone I started
noodling around on the guitar and before I knew it the words were just spilling out of me.
Photograph: Meredith Singer.
Helen Weston: You worked with a whole host of talent on this LP including Brandon Bush (Sugarland & Train), Sadler Vaden (Drivin N Cryin), Michelle Malone, Amy Ray and so many more. What was the atmosphere like working in an environment with so many successful songwriters and musicians?
Hannah Thomas: When you’re in the process of recording, you kind of get in the zone and you don’t really think about it. You just become one collective making music together. It’s after the fact that you just step back and say, wow, that really happened… I grew up listening to some of these artists. It’s the kind of thing you wish you could go back in time and tell your kid self was someday going to happen. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with every single one of them.
Helen Weston: You’ve recorded and toured with Amy Ray (Indigo Girls) in the past. How did you meet and end up working together?
Hannah Thomas: We met through mutual friends. I had been going to see Amy live for years and got to know her a little by running into her every once in while at shows. It was a couple years after we met that she invited me on stage with her for the first time. She sang on my song ‘Pacifier’ from my ‘Goodbye On Wasted Time’ album and I sang on her song ‘Hunter’s Prayer’ from her solo country record ‘Goodnight Tender’. I did a couple of mini tours and one offs with Indigo Girls and handful of shows with just Amy. All great experiences.
Helen Weston: You tour so much, what you do to keep yourself energized and the shows fresh?
Hannah Thomas: Red Bull – I’m kidding (Kind of). Really it’s about balance. I try to eat as clean and exercise as much as possible to break up the monotony of riding in a moving vehicle for hours and hours. That helps a lot. Some days I get worn down, but when my feet hit the stage and I look out and see people having a good time and singing along it’s like an automatic recharge.
Photograph: Wes Frazer.
Helen Weston: When on the road, which artists are always on your playlist?
Hannah Thomas: It’s always changing. I listen to a lot of classic rock and nineties alternative, but I also find myself listening to a good bit of adult contemporary like Lucinda Williams, Shelby Lynne, Ryan Adams and Maia Sharp. Weird combo, I know. Then it’s always fun to throw in something crazy like Billy Squire!
Helen Weston: Tell us what it was like performing in New Hampshire with Melissa Etheridge & Pat Benatar?
Hannah Thomas: Insane! I still can’t believe it happened. When I got the email asking me if I wanted to play the show I honestly couldn’t believe it. Even now, after the show is over I’m still not really sure that I wasn’t dreaming – I am huge fan of both Melissa and Pat.
Pat was the second video ever played on MTV and clearly paved the way for other female rockers and Melissa has always been an inspiration of mine. They both put on killer shows and to have been a part of that night was truly a dream come true.
Helen Weston: You have lots of big shows coming up, including dates with Joan Osborne and your album launch at Eddie’s Attic. Do you have favourite tracks off the new record you can’t wait for fans to hear live?
Hannah Thomas: All of them. I’m really proud of the album and can’t wait to play the songs in a live setting. There is one track off the record called ‘Fuel For The Fire’ that is super vibey and very different from anything I’ve ever done. I’m really looking forward to getting that one out into the world.
Helen Weston: What’s coming up next for Hannah Thomas?
Hannah Thomas: My song ‘Sleep When I Die’ from the album is being featured in a brand new short film called Jax In Love from the executive producer of [hit indie film] Napoleon Dynamite. My friend Rakefet Abergel, who also wrote the short stars in the film. Pretty stoked. Plus, more tour dates to be announced!
Eddie’s Attic (Decatur, GA) hosts the Fault Line album launch on Friday September 16. Fans can purchase tickets here (Advanced: $10, On the Door: $15).