With her debut album “If It Wasn’t For You” set for release on 14th August via Capitol Nashville, and a surprise stand alone single released last Friday, what better time to chat to rising country artist Caylee Hammack?
She was so interesting to talk to and extremely forthcoming, and what came across throughout is how appreciative she is for where life has led her …and of course, she has every reason to be as 2020 looks like being a very exciting one for her despite what it has thrown at us all! We had 30 minutes via Zoom, I wore a red wig especially in Caylee’s honour, and the time flew by…
1. LH ( after finally connecting via audio and video) YESSSSSS!! Technology isn’t my forte!
CH Trust me, I’m only learning this because of putting out an album in the midst of a pandemic! It’s forced me to learn so much more about technology than honestly, I ever wanted to know! Whenever I get frustrated about missing seeing people’s actual faces, I have to remind myself that if all this had happened in the 80’s or 90’s, as musicians we’d be screwed!
I just checked out you website by the way…in particular the video to ” Seeds” by Rissi Palmer….I’d never heard of her before , I just saw the article was about black female country artists and Mickey Guyton is a good friend of mine so I clicked on the video and I loved it, she doesn’t hide anything and puts so many issues we have right now at the forefront. I’m just so glad I went to your website!
LH Me too! I hope you keep checking us out now you’ve found us! We have several articles on there about you…
CH Well you don’t know how grateful I am for that , I love it when I meet people in this industry, especially women that empower others. I’m just so happy you connect with my music and are willing to talk with me!
2. LH My pleasure! And happy release day! No, not the album of course but the surprise single that just dropped, your cover of the gorgeous, classic song ” Lord I Hope This Day Is Good” that features the legendary Alan Jackson! How did all that come about?
CH It was really a hope and a dream that happened silently and slowly came to be. It was odd at first how it happened, I must be completely honest. I’ve always connected with Don Williams music, especially that song, and I’ve kept going back to it these past few months. I was really in a dark place and that song kept me going. I was telling the label about it …we were having struggles as a new artist, and as a new FEMALE artist ….I was putting “Small Town Hypocrite ” out to radio but the radio industry got hit just as bad as the music industry. Because of that they weren’t willing to play anything slow from a new female artist. They were playing ” comfort artists” , people we know, and my label said ” who of these idols, these people that have come before you, would you like to sing with and what song? Any ideas? ” So I was like in this time I keep going back to that Don Williams song and Alan Jackson’s gospel record. Those two things are really helping me through this time . And the label connected us, and sent him Small Town Hypocrite …my manager said the text message she got back from Alan was “I love her voice but man, she says shit a lot”!!. And I was like ” Can I quote that tho? At least Alan Jackson loves my voice! ” . But anyways, it was such a blessing to go into the studio with an artist who I have so admired all my life, and found comfort in their music. And also to go in with producer Dave Cobb, he’s from the same little area as me, it was amazing sitting in his studio at midnight working on this song. This has been a huge blessing, this and the song I got to sing with Reba.
LH Yes! I’m going to ask you about that a little bit later on…. ( aargh!!! Time ran out and I never did….next time, Caylee!!)
3, LH. Well it’s great that you’ve now found the mojo to stay creative in these strange times, releasing that single and making your Lori Mckenna co-write available this week too ( more about that in Q7, by the way …..)
My introduction to your music, as with most people’s I’m sure, was your debut single ( and album track) “Family Tree”. You must have been so thrilled with the reception it received? Especially all the adds at country radio, no mean feat for any debut single let alone one from a female artist these days?
CH I sometimes struggle with it to be completely honest! So many good moments have been given me, so many blessings, and I’ve always believed wholeheartedly ” to whom much is given, much is expected”. So I feel a bit of pressure, but it doesn’t take away from the excitement it brings. But it takes me a while to be able to feel the giddiness of something. i don’t let myself get excited ’til i’ve had 24hours to absorb it….and also no-one’s going to come back and say ” oh you didn’t get that many adds!”. So I’m not a celebrator immediately. But today I’m going to celebrate …I celebrate once a song is out, it connects with people and they like it. I love creating music and that is a high in itself to me. But then in-between creating it and putting it out is my least favourite time because i over think, over analyse everything and wonder if it’s good enough and if people are going to like it. But with Alan Jackson on it, this is a sure fire, with a classic country artist like that you can’t really go wrong! But I still want people to connect and get what their soul needs out of this one.
Even when the ACM nominations happened …I had slept late and I woke and had 35 text messages, everyone saying ” congratulations” and I was like have I won a raffle? Finally my manager said you need to check ACM’s or Keith Urban’s Instagram , so I watched as he announced the names, and I had to watch it 20 times before i believed it! It’s such a huge honour !
4. LH Yes I was going to ask about the ACM’s…I’m so happy that great galpower collaboration ” Fooled Around And Fell In Love” is up for Event Of The Year, but then you’re pitted against Tenille Townes ( who also features on you album alongside Ashley McBryde) for New Female Artist . Do all you ladies support each other, is there a friendly ( or not! ) rivalry, how does that work?
CH It’s one of those things that when I find someone who’s truly in this for the music and how it touches people, and doesn’t give a damn about fame and fortune, when everything about their music comes from a pure place, I’m desperate to create a bond with them. And Tenille is one of those people. I will back that woman for the rest of my life. My view of it is this ( and I don’t want to badmouth anyone here) but in this industry it seems only one woman can shoot to the top at one time. There’s not the same mentality towards men for some reason . Even in rap music, when they started that whole drama between Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, it was like there could only be one female rapper. And I feel it just a little bit in country music and the only way we can push through that is to say no, every single one of us deserves to be heard. We are all different, not in competition. Music is a big enough pot that everyone can have a slice and sit down at the table. But the industry does pit you against one another, they do. The labels seem to do that with other labels, it’s part of the competitive spirit that’s wrapped around the music industry. But I think that as young female artists, uplifting one another is the way we need to approach the situation. Any time I get to connect with those girls it’s an amazing thing. I’ve even talked to Tenille and said I hope that we get to sit together at the awards so that if one of us wins we get to flip out! And she was like ” I hope so too”! But every single one of those girls is worthy of that award, they’ve worked their butts off to be heard and seen, and I’m just grateful to be put in a category with that calibre of women.
5. LH Absolutely! And like all of them you have already cut your teeth as both a performer and a songwriter ….have all your experiences prepared you for the challenges you are facing now as a recording artist?
CH You know, when I was younger I used to feel bitter when God would send me a curveball, I’d ask why? And then months later there would be a situation when i needed the strength I had gained from that bad situation He had given me. It’s the way I look at all the worst moments of my life that I considered a curse ….like my medical scare when I was 16 when all I wanted was a boyfriend and a car, what everyone else wanted, but I got handed a situation that made me look at life a little differently and it made me develop empathy. I’m so grateful for that but at the time I wan’t! And the house fire in 2017….you know every one of those situations, the moment God has given me something like that He has always blessed me in the long run .
6. LH Yes, it’s all part of the bigger picture. Like your track ” Preciatcha” , when that relationship which inspired it broke down you probably thought it was the end of the world but look where it led you!
CH.Yeah and you know what, that was God working again…..he was the first boy I’d ever dated in the music industry, and i knew I couldn’t pretend he was dead like all my other exes, i had to keep showing up at events where he’d have a new girlfriend . One day in the writing room with Laura Veltz I said that i’d always wanted to write about appreciating something, and I said I wouldn’t know what true love feels like if I hadn’t felt what THAT love felt like . And I do appreciate it, also I learned a lot about the music industry from someone who’d been in it a bit longer just by being with them.” Preciatcha” was about ” this sucked, it REALLY sucked when he broke my heart ” but I am so much better today and i am happy for it.
7. LH You mentioned Laura Veltz as a co-writer, I love her and she’s just one of the amazing names on the album’s writing credits. But there doesn’t seem to be any one particular person you collaborate with regularly….do you like mixing up who you go into a writing room with to keep things fresh and interesting ?
CH Oh it most definitely does! it’s funny that you say that because i seem to see a cycle of the same people! What’s really cool with this album is that the songs I picked did seem to showcase the majority of the people I tend to work with. But i always love writing with new people. That Lori McKenna song ” God Is Good” was a random Zoom write, we’d never written together before and within 4 hours we wrote that song. I’d just hung out with a friend and her brother a few days before, the first time I’d met up with anyone since quarantine started, and as we were sitting there talking they were saying how is it we keep talking about how we’re doing better but there’s NOTHING new on the news? And I stopped and said ” what did you just say?”
LH Ha your songwriter’s antennae kicked in!
CH Exactly!! And i knew i could have waited an put this out officially like we did with the song today but i talked to the team and said can I just put it out on YouTube? I don’t care about making a to do and making money off of it . I just need to tell people you’re not alone in being frustrated, asking why this is happening and why aren’t things changing. I just had to get that frustration out. If just one person connects with it then my music has done the job it needs to.
LH It is definitely a very timely song.
8. LH Back with the album, and it’s a very personal, autobiographical outpouring isn’t it? Were any of the songs particularly tough to write because of the memories and emotions they stirred up?
CH Oh ya! The three hardest …the top one was ” Forged In The Fire ” , written with one of my best friends Thomas Finchum, and his producer Andy Skib, just a few weeks after I’d lost my home. He got me through the fire.
LH And didn’t that title and idea come from something your father regularly quoted?
CH Yeah he had a saying that all the most beautiful and strongest things are forged in fire . And going through the fire …..it was kind of funny, it was day 2 and he and I were just standing outside looking at it. It was just a shell, some of the walls were still ok and one part of the house looked like hardly anything happened but then you’d go to the other side and go ” ohhhh”!. So he looked me and said ” you know what i’m about to say, right?” and i knew he was about to throw that saying out at me! And i was like ” no, it’s too soon, don’t say it to me!” .
LH And what were the other two toughies to write?
CH ” Small Town Hypocrite” was hard but it was also so exhilarating to be able to vent, that’s why there’s so many cuss words in it …Lesley, I never in my entire life thought they’d ever want to put that out and that people would connect with it! I was just a staff writer bitching, venting about this first broken heart. And the third one was ” Sister “, ‘cos me and my sister were in a really rough patch in our lives, we were so close together but life had pulled us apart and every time we got back together we clashed. It was an odd time.
LH Having been given a sneak preview of the album, that’s one of my two favourites ! Along with ” Looking For A Lighter”….we all have a drawer like that at home, full of bits of crap that hold memories…
CH Oh thanks you!
9. LH Just a few minutes left so i just briefly want to say I love that you co-produced the album, a side of things more female artists seem to be getting involved with these days. Was it part of the business you’d always been interested in?
CH Yes! I’m a huge fan of David Bowie and Tom Waits, their approach to producing albums is being able to shadow the lyrical essence of a song and be able to create a new sonic landscape around it. Space Oddity is a huge example of that, it makes you feel like you’re going into space. So what I wanted to do with this album was really focus on that, keep it not too weird that people can’t connect but try and kind of imitate things that Bowie would have done in the production. And I knew that if I was just the singer and the writer I wouldn’t be able to do that. My entire life things have got lost between the vocal booth and the analogue board, and it was really cool to get to work on these myself, I was able to make sure my true self never got lost in it.
10. LH It must be so frustrating for you that you’ve had to cancel so many shows, including several here in the UK for C2C in March, but when things permit are we going to see you back over here?
CH Most definitely! You don’t understand how much I loved my trip overseas! Getting to go to Berlin and Amsterdam, and even London for 24 hours……I literally had dinner there, walked to Tesco from the hotel in my pyjamas to get a bottle of water and a bunch of tulips to make myself happy and then I had to go back to America! I can’t wait to get back to play for you!
LH I hope someone else got to appreciate the tulips!
11. LH And finally, what message do you have for your fans, wherever they may be?
CH Just be good to yourself. Treat yourself well, don’t push yourself too hard. I understand this time is hard for everyone. Just be the best self you can be. And love a little more than you think you need to and i think we’ll get through this.
LH And cuddle a puppy and grow a plant! Your plants behind you look amazing by the way!
CH I have plant’s everywhere, in every corner of there house! I have a weird thing about them, birds and dogs!
LH It’s been a total pleasure chatting to you. Thank you so much for your time and I can’t wait to see the reaction the album receives when the world gets to hear it!
CH Lesley, thank you for starting off my day great, with the red wig too, it’s been perfect.
Interview conducted by Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)