I knew this was going to be a special interview. I had checked out her website and listened to her CD and really loved the vibe and groove of both. We decided to meet for a picnic to do this interview. We met on a country road outside of Nashville and put a blanket down in a field of flowers. There’s a real easy feeling you get when you talk to Hannah. In between eating the delicious picnic lunch Hannah prepared for us, I remembered why we were there and the questions for this interview began.
Q When was the first time that you performed live?
A I was ten, yeah, I think that was the first time I had a singing solo. Before that though I did a lot of theatre since I was three or four, a wee little one.
Q Did you do commercials and things like that?
A No, I did not. I did local and regional live stuff.
Q Are you self taught with guitar?
A Yes, initially I taught myself for a couple of years and then eventually I did take a few years of lessons.
Q So tell me what brought you to music?
A I don’t know. I have just always been very drawn to music and entertaining. I’ve never really done anything else. I never had any other hobbies growing up; just music and I’ve just always known that is what I have wanted to do.
Q Did you write songs in your head when you were a little girl?
A I did. I wrote some little ditties but I didn’t really start writing seriously until I was I think fourteen or fifteen. When I picked up the guitar and was playing it, writing songs came hand in hand for me.
Q Okay, that’s cool. Hey, you were on X-Factor?
A Yes, I was on the 2011 season.
Q Do you want to elaborate on that at all?
A Sure. I got to spend some time in LA for that and it was a really good experience. I met a lot of really wonderful people and artists who I am still in touch with and who I still work with today. It was cool. I made a lot of friends.
Q Have you released CD’s before The Freedom EP?
A This is my third record.
Q Wow. Your CD has five songs that have been written by you. Where did the inspiration for your songs come from?
A All over the place. I think I wrote for that record over the course of two years. I spent two years really focusing on writing. I didn’t really do any touring or anything like that. I just wrote and wrote and wrote every single day so those songs came out of those two years.
Q Are you living in Nashville?
A I am yes. I have been here for five years.
Q Do you do songwriter nights?
A I used to do them a couple of times a week but the past year I have really been focusing on touring outside of Nashville. I am working on building my fan base outside of Nashville. Now I will do writers nights once a month or so.
Q What is your goal in music?
A My ultimate goal is a record deal as an artist. I am open to a publishing deal in the meantime, however it would have to be the right one because I am very particular about that kind of stuff. I want to maintain as much of my publishing as I can but if it were the right deal I would go with it.
Q The advantage to a publishing deal is if they pay you decently, you can actually cut back on the touring and focus on the writing.
A Right. Exactly.
Q And get to stay home.
A Everything is a Catch 22.
Q It is but if you stay home and you don’t have a publishing deal then you don’t get paid so it is all a Catch 22.
A Yes. [Laughter]
Q And with the record companies, they want to see a large fan base.
A Yes, exactly and my fan base is all organically grown.
Q Yeah and it will continue to grow the more coverage that you get. So tell me where were you born?
A I was born in Wisconsin and I lived there until I was 12. Then my family relocated to Northern Michigan and I lived there until I was 18. We lived in a pretty rural community. There wasn’t a lot of like artistic outlets for kids so that’s when I started playing guitar and getting more into doing things independently as opposed to taking part in community programs just because there wasn’t any there. I started playing fairs and festivals and coffee houses and weddings and anything that I could get my hands on all throughout Northern Michigan and Wisconsin and I think a little bit in Minnesota. That was as far as my parents would let me go. Then when I was 18 I moved to Nashville and I studied music here for 2 years at Belmont University and then I started to get really involved in the songwriting. I made my first record in Nashville in 2010 which was called, “No Stopping, Standing, Parking.” It just became apparent to me that I needed to forgo my formal education and pursue this full time so that is what I did. I pushed the CD for about a year and then I released the Freedom EP which is the most recent record in 2013. I have just been on the road pretty much straight through since the spring promoting the record and building my fan base. I have gotten to go to some pretty cool places this summer. I went to Arizona, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Alaska, Washington, Montana, Philadelphia and I did a bunch of stuff on the east coast including New Jersey. I am exhausted.
Q Yeah but it sounds like a lot of fun though?
A Oh yeah, it was.
Q Are you driving in your car?
A Sometimes, sometimes I drive, sometimes I fly. It just depends on what is the most cost effective and time effective.
Q So you are getting cuts by other artists?
A Yeah, I have my first cut with Rachele Lynae who is on Momentum Label Group which is Jamie O’Neal’s record label. The cut that I have is her current single and it is called, “Fishing for Something.” They’re pushing it now and it has actually been really cool. A lot of the places that I have performed at and traveled to this summer a lot of the people in those areas that have heard the song on the radio so when I played it live they like knew the song. It was pretty cool. That was the first time that has happened to me in a place where I didn’t know anyone. That was pretty cool.
Q And isn’t it really cool too when you go somewhere and you perform and the people sing along?
A Yeah, yeah. I was like what the heck?
Q Are you touring in areas where you have a fan base?
A Yes, I will try and tour in places where I have a little bit of a fan base but sometimes we will take new markets too just to start a new thing there.
Q Do you do house concerts?
A Yes and it is amazing. The relationship you build with those people is so much more personal and they feel really special that they are able to help you out and it just builds a more solid foundation for when you return to that area again.
A Also I have a bi-weekly internet show called, “Every other Thursday.” It airs every other Thursday and people can watch that on my YouTube, just go to http://www.youtube.com/user/hannahbethelmusic and also at http://www.hannahbethel.com. The show is a little short feature and sometimes I will showcase my original material and sometimes it will be cover tunes and sometimes it will be little updates when I am on the road or silly things that I am doing with friends and guest artists. It is kind of cool.
Q All right. Now these are pre-recorded? It’s not like live like a StageIt Show or something?
A No. It’s not live. They are pre-recorded.
With that we watched some butterflies making their way from flower to flower while I thanked her for the interview, the lovely picnic lunch and wonderful conversation. Be looking for big things from Hannah Bethel. Check her out at http://www.hannahbethel.com/