Empowered And In Love: An Interview With Hannah Ellis
Before her show at NYC's Gramercy Theatre we talked with Hannah Ellis about her latest single, family and the CMT Next Women of Country Tour.
A native of Campbellsville, Kentucky, Hannah Ellis has been singing as long as she can remember. Encouragement and support from her family helped to form the foundation from which she has built a career in music. From her earliest days in Nashville finding side jobs to help her pursue her dreams, to being named to CMT’s Class of 2018, to hitting the road with Cassadee Pope on the Next Women of Country Tour, Hannah is proving herself to be one of the brightest rising stars in country music.
From the moment she stepped foot in her first CMT Next Women of Country event, Hannah knew she had to be a part of it. “I remember Kelsea Ballerini sang at it and I was just like, Goals,” she said with a smile as we sat in the lounge at New York’s Gramercy Theatre. For Hannah it was the chance to work with CMT’s Leslie Fram that was so exciting – “she just knows how to pick ’em.”
A few years later she got the chance when she was inducted in to the Next Women of Country class of 2018 alongside Abby Anderson, Ashley McBryde, Bailey Bryan, Erin Enderlin, Jo Smith, Kalie Shorr, Kassi Ashton and The Sisterhood. “It was a really incredible group of women,” she said. “It was so special to be acknowledged as one of the up and coming females in our genre.”
Getting to be a part of this year’s Next Women of Country Tour just elevated that feeling for Hannah. “This tour speaks so much to what I’m passionate about,” she said. “Leslie and her whole team have been so supportive of me and so it was really just a beautiful marriage of the things that have been important to me.”
At the end of March Hannah released her current single, Your Woman. It’s a song that she describes as her anthem, who she is as a person, and what she cares about musically.
“I am such a big personality,” she explained. “There are so many things that make me up and make me me, and I’m proud of every one of those little details. But a major part of my personality is the way that I love. And the way I love my boyfriend in particular. It’s really special to me to be able to represent two parts of me which is this strong, independent, hard working girl that does her own thing, but also this woman that loves being my man’s woman. I love taking care of him, I love loving him. And that song is kind of the marriage of those two things.”
Her boyfriend, 29 year old singer-songwriter Nick Wayne, appears on the cover art for the single – Nick sitting on a couch, Hannah on the floor, the pair holding hands. In planning the design Hannah wanted to keep it authentic and just have someone take a bunch of pictures of them at home. “We went out and walked around the parking lot, we hung out and had drinks,” she said. “We landed on one that felt real and like the song.”
Hannah had two co-writers on the song, Parker Welling and Casey Brown. “Parker had an idea called Your T-shirt Girl,” Hannah explained. “She was like, it’s just how you’re really chill with your significant other and they love you for all the pieces that you are. We kind of started talking about it and I was like Girl’s cool, but what about Woman, ’cause that’s where we’re at. Somehow it morphed into Your Woman and this anthemic idea of being proud of both things, both sides of you.”
“And also I’d been listening to a lot of Bazzi and I was like channeling that feeling in this where maybe the actual beats per minute aren’t up tempo but the song feels like that,” she added. “It’s like dropping. Casey’s an incredible producer, he really brought that to life on the musical side.”
Last year Hannah released Home and a Hometown, a song about where she grew up and how it’s influenced her. Hannah’s entire family is musical. “We were all singers,” she explained. “Both my parents can sing, all my siblings can sing. So singing was definitely part of our family dynamic.” But when she was 18, she felt a real calling to music and came to the realization that it’s what she was meant to do with her life.
At that time she had a full-ride scholarship to the University of Kentucky. So her parents made a deal with her: if she went to school, they’d help fund her pursuit of a career in music. And that’s exactly what they did. Hannah would schedule her classes Tuesday through Thursday so that she could have Mondays and Fridays to drive back and forth between Lexington and Nashville. “I didn’t join any groups or clubs or sororities in college because I had kind of a busy schedule,” she said with a laugh. And while those early years in Nashville were a struggle, Hannah’s never wanted to do anything else.
Touring With The Dickersons
Hannah has had the opportunity to open for some incredible artists over the years, but one of the most memorable for her is Russell Dickerson. “First of all, he’s just salt of the Earth,” said Hannah. “Him and [his wife] Kailey as an entity are just incredible.” Touring with Dickersons was one of Hannah’s first experiences with a multiple weekend run of shows. On the last night Russell and Kailey took them all – Hannah and her band – out for a big family dinner. “They were so good to me and so inviting,” she added. “I wrote a song that was on Russell’s record and he would pull me up to sing it and really share that moment with me which was so special and so cool. That one will always hold a really special place for me.”
If My Heart Had A Heart
Earlier this year Cassadee Pope released her latest single, If My Heart Had A Heart, which was co-written by Hannah. “One of my favorite and most moving times I saw [her perform] it was when she did her album release party at Ole Red in Nashville,” Hannah recalled. “I got to watch that from the balcony – I had this perfect side angle of seeing her but also seeing the crowd and there were people in the front just scream singing it. It was so cool to see something that I was a part of and it was just so much her story, and to watch her deliver that message so authentically and watch people receive it, it meant something to them as well.”
Check out our exclusive pics from Hannah’s performance at Gramercy Theatre:
Hannah Ellis at Gramercy Theatre
For all of the latest news and updates on Hannah head over to hannahellismusic.com and follow her at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
Did you seen Hannah perform on the CMT Next Women of Country Tour or elsewhere? Tell us what you thought of her performance in the comments section below!