Hannah Thomas is a force to be reckoned with. A veteran to touring at an early age, the Georgia native is pulling out country and rock by the roots and making them her own. Her latest album, Fault Line, is out today, and features Brandon Bush (keys), Sadler Vaden (guitar), Jimbo Hart (bass), and Chad Gamble (drums), with special appearances by Michelle Malone, Gerry Hansen, Michael C. Steel, Terri Clark, and Amy Ray. She’s playing a launch show in Decatur tomorrow night that – if the album is any indication – will leave you breathless and impressed.
The title track on the album begins with the comfortable sound of Sunday morning chores, encouraged by Hannah’s strong vocals. With a little bit of Etheridge, Hannah’s voice has the sort of power you become aware of when changing dollars to euros. It is exposing, cruel and kind. Fueled by guitar power, “Put It Out For Good” flows forth like purrs from a rebuilt ’68 mustang. Amy Ray – yes, Indigo Girls Amy Ray – lends her prowess to the track, adding depth and richness that it would not necessarily lack without her.
“Fuel For The Fire” begins with a smoky, contemplative, Clapton shiver. As it wafts through the auditory cortex, Hannah’s voice creates its own genre: sultry rock. (The only other artist that I can think of who has come close to accomplishing this is Axel Bauer in his duet with Zazie, “À ma place”.) Country guitar pops like biscuits in the oven throughout “Sleep When I Die”, a flowing, rocking vow Hannah makes to put her energy to good use while she has it. I wonder if she’s a morning person. She demonstrates some fantastic vocal abilities on the track that make me wonder what she could do in other genres. The impressive vocals continue in “Hey Baby,” lending the album something that might be considered a neo-Bonnie Raitt-classicism. Perhaps it is the artful application of vocal fry that modernizes the sound, or maybe the ever fresh combination of vibrations massaged out of a wooden box plus human voice.
“The Coward” is a song that could make the most obnoxious soccer mom shut up and think about something of consequence. (Seriously, I just witnessed a lengthy conversation between two women, neither one could move beyond their furious incredulity to understand why one’s husband would give away a corn hole game he had made.) Hannah laments, empathizes, and encourages at once: “When you’ve got the heart but not the balls / everybody falls.” The song does not take on the woeful tone that could be gleaned from the lyrics alone; in it runs an undercurrent of optimism that pokes you in the eye and reminds you of “Sleep When I Die.”
From the first finger picked notes (and perhaps from the title) of “Tuesday Tears,” the listener is in for a morose ballad of retrospective regret. The lyrics paint a picture of overpowering, stifling emptiness, an unsatisfied woman with no direction, like an immobile drinking bird. Sometimes getting that first push is the hardest thing. As the vocals begin in “Lie To Me,” I find myself growing quite fond of Hannah’s voice and its pairing with the drums and bass. With the potent spatial volume to fill an empty room, add in some strings and percussion, and it’s magic. Canadian Country chanteuse Terri Clark joined Hannah for the penultimate song on the album, “Gypsy Boots”. This is the sort of song that would open up the soundtrack for a movie commencing with a road trip in the southwest. Evoking images of ochre rock formations, the song slides and twangs into a reverie finale before fading away.
The final song of Fault Line, called “Rodeo,” has the punchy rhythm of more traditional country music, and the expected shout out to Jack Daniels, firearms, and the creek. Helped out by Michelle Malone, the vocals convey such joy, this song must be incredible to see played live.
You can get a copy of Fault Line at Pledge Music. In addition to the music, Hannah Thomas is offering some pretty awesome swag at Pledge Music. Go ahead and get your copy of Fault Line to add to your Libro Musica.
If you’re in the Decatur area, you can catch Hannah and her band at Eddie’s Attic on Friday, September 18th. This lady has some incredible vocals, and she’s only just getting started.
Interview with Hannah Thomas
You have quite the touring schedule and have been at it for a few years. What are your favorite memories from touring?
I did three tours with the Indigo Girls which was quite the experience. That was something that I dreamed about for quite a long time. That is definitely one of the highlights. Touring is great but touring is hard. I think that all musicians can say that being away from home, the things you give up.. but you do it for something that you love. Trying to make ends meet and having your hobby and your job thrive.
The title track for the album was the first one you released. How did you decide to on that as the first song to release?
That one we recorded live in the studio with the band. That was the first one that we really connected with and were like “wow something great is happening right now.” So we mixed and mastered that track first before the rest of the album was done. We did track everything in two days but that song was finished in July before the others.
I wasn’t really sure what the title of the album was going to be as we were recording. It ended up being a title track because I believe the album has a little bit of everything. I have been at this for ten years now and my thought was that we all take a chances no matter where we are in life. I think of the people that choose to live in California and as a musician you never know what is going to happen so you take a chance to live on the fault lines of life.
I would imagine that most people are excited to about hear your collaboration with Amy Ray. I may come back to that but, my favorite on the album is “Fuel For The Fire”. Give me some insight into that song?
Oh! “Fuel for The Fire!” That is probably my second favorite song on the record. I wrote that song in Nashville Tennessee with a guy named Mark D. Sanders and his daughter Sophie Sanders. Mark is a brilliant song writer, he has written songs like “I Hope you Dance” and “Heads Carolina, Tails California.” You know, just some Grammy Award winning songs.
I had an opportunity to play with him a few years back and we just connected. We starting writing together and we wrote together a number of times. His daughter came in about six months later and we had that idea and knew that we had something special. It was more of a bluesy sultry Bonnie Rate kinda sound. It still has that. We into the studio with the guys and they hadn’t heard any of the songs before. I wanted it that way because I wanted everything to happen organically. We started jamming on that song and Brandon Bush on keys really made that song and took it to the next level. You have the feeling of the Rolling Stones and kinda a Nora Jones type thing. So we just took it from there. I just REALLY love that track. It is definitely the sexiest song on the record.
Since that one isn’t your favorite, which song is your favorite?
“Put it Out For Good” is definitely the one. Besides the fact that Amy is on it, she just makes it. I love the drive of it, I love the way it makes me feel, I love the meaning. I love a good rocker at heart I really am a rocker. I love all kinds of music but that is my favorite thing to perform live.
Could you talk a bit about your creative process? How does all of your music come together?
A couple of the songs on the record are songs that I wrote ten years ago. The two are “Sleep When I Die” and “Tuesday Tears.” When I learned that I was playing with this amazing band I knew that I wanted to bring some of these songs back. The other songs I wrote them on tour and off tour within a year and a half span of time. Usually when I’m writing it’s just an idea and I drive it from there.
I’m pretty excited that one of my songs, “Sleep When I Die,” is going to be featured in a short film coming up. It is called JAX In Love from the executive produce of Napoleon Dynamite. That’s a first for me.
Since we are talking about life ten years ago or maybe a little further, what was the first album that you added to your personal music library?
That’s a tough one there, I’m going back to my cassette days right now. I had a lot of singles growing up but one of the first albums that I really took notice of was Terri Clark’s self titled album. Back in 1995, that was my first album that was mine and not my parents. Which was really cool since she made a guest appearance on this record. It’s all coming back around to the beginning.
What was your first live music experience?
It was Avril Lavigne actually. Avril Lavigne at Centennial Olympic park and she was opening for Cracker. It was the week when her first song “Complicated” was number one so it was crazy. I remember seeing a girl up there with her guitar and she was 16 at the time. I was so young it really inspired me to go after my dreams as a performer.
What was your most recent addition to your personal music library?
I am always picking up new music. The album I’m really digging now is the new Sara Watkins. I really liked her when she was in Nickel Creek but her solo project is something totally different. Every time I hear the first single on the radio I stop and listen it is really cool. I would definitely tell everyone to check her out.
Which artist do you wish more people had in their music library?
That’s a toss up between Shelby Lynne and Maia Sharp probably. Two of my favorite song writers.
If you could cover one album in your music library which would it be?
Any early Led Zepplin but an album that really means a lot to me is Tori Amos Little Earthquake . [laughs] Oh, I’m know I’m just all over the place with my music with so many different genres and artist.
What should someone expect when they see you live?
It’s a lot of energy, I like to leave all my energy on the stage when I step off. Also a lot of introspective things at times. I like to connect with the crowd. Some rockers, some blues, some acoustic singer song writer tracks… a good mix.
You chose some innovative ways to help fund some of your album. How did you get this album out the door?
I funded the album myself and with a handful of my biggest supporters. Then I ended up doing Pledge Music for the initial orders. Pledge Music is a great way to go with pre-orders and offer other incentives that I wouldn’t have normally been able to do. I also picked up a number of new fans from all over that hadn’t heard of me before. It has been a great platform for me.
How important is social media to you getting your music out to potential fans?
I think that it is very important. Without social media I would have a very hard time being able to connect with as many of my fans as I have. I many ways people wouldn’t know who I am. Though in some ways it takes away since there are so many people out there. Of course that is a good thing since the world needs so much music these days.
You feel that the world needs more music, music has been at the center of social revolutions and political revolutions. What do you feel that you can contribute to a positive change?
Most of my songs have a hopeful arc, even the ones that are a little on the depressing side. I feel that with music all together if you can connect with an audience or a person with your song it is a beautiful thing. Music like love is the universal message. With my music I try to connect with as many people as possible.