What exactly is “Appalachian” vocal style?
I am not sure! It’s a comment I received from music industry critic Robert Oermann on my project, “The Freedom EP.” The full quote:
“She has a very cool Appalachian vocal style. The upbeat tune is produced perfectly with plenty of open spaces between the fiddle, dobro and steel line. The accomplished singing is as impressive as the fact that she wrote or co-wrote all of the EP’s fine songs.”
This guy can be brutally honest and I wait with bated breath each time I know he’ll be reviewing my work.
How did you select the songs for the Wildflower contest and are they based on any memories or experiences?
I selected two songs that I am in the process of recording for my next project in Nashville. “Memphis,” which I wrote with Gabe Burdulis and my sister, Wynter Bethel, was written at a point of breakthrough in my creative journey. I go through intense phases of creativity and inspiration and then swing to dry spells where I think I’ll never write a good song again. I think most creative people experience this. I’ve gone through these seasons enough that it doesn’t scare me anymore, but it still can be frustrating. Just as I was coming out of an exceptionally long drought, this song came into the Universe and my wheels have been spinning like crazy ever since.
I wrote “Snakeskin & Rose Oil” with David Myhre during an ice storm in Nashville. I was sitting up in bed with a cup of tea, wrapped in a blanket because I was suffering a cold. David and I were working on another song that was being stubborn, so he started playing this beautiful Jame Taylor-esque guitar riff. He started to sing jokingly, “she’s wrapped up in a blanket, drinking tea…” and I said, “in Vegas!” After that the song came out so quickly. I thought we were writing a song for a man to sing, but it turned it something I really wanted to say and I couldn’t put it down. It has become my song of truly, deeply loving myself the way I want to be loved. After we finished the song we walked to a bar, because the ice storm had left the streets covered in inches of ice and Nashvillians are notoriously terrible drivers, especially in any kind of bad weather. We ate cheeseburgers and drank beer.
You released your first album at 17. Does this mean your parents have always been super cool and supportive of the music career?
My parents have always been incredibly supportive of my musical aspirations. They never told me that this is unrealistic or that maybe I should pursue something with more stability. Looking back, I now know that this is very unusual and I am immeasurably blessed to have parents that have taught me not to operate out of fear and to strive for the greatest happiness. They have always impressed upon me that anything is possible if you’re willing to work your ass off for it and never quit. They raised me with an awesome balance of blue collar work ethic and new age faith.
Do you have any pre-show superstitious habits, calming techniques, or plain old good luck charms?
At some point during every show, I find myself looking out into the crowd or up in the stage lights and I am filled with gratitude. I say a little prayer of thanks for the gifts of music and the opportunity to connect with people in this special way. No matter if I’m playing to a rowdy club, an attentive theater or an empty bar, I am always thankful because this shit sure beats digging ditches!
Where is the best place to experience songwriting utopia?
It can happen anywhere, but it is always refreshing to get out of the hustle of Nashville and go somewhere you can be solely creative. Some of my favorite writing memories are retreats to a cabin across from the Olympic Mountains in the Pacific Northwest. There is nothing sweeter than waking up to pine trees and salty air, brewing up a strong pot of coffee and making new music all day long. It’s the best
Do you have a favorite quote, lyric, or credo that you live by?
This changes often for me, as I am constantly absorbing new words. Lately I’ve been meditating on Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers.” It’s a good reminder.
When did you share a stage with Trisha Yearwood and what’s it like to live in Nashville with so many musicians?
I sang back up vocals for Trisha Yearwood at a Christmas show during my short stint at Belmont University. We sang “Take a Walk Through Bethlehem.” She was beautiful, very humble, and her pitch was perfect.
Obviously Jake is your favorite four-legged friend – he’s adorable and one-of-a-kind. Are there any other serious friends in your life who might be in the audience at the contest?
I’m heading to Wildflower! Festival solo, so I’m hoping to meet some kindred spirits on this adventure! And Jake is seriously the best, best ever. My sweetest, soul companion.
Hannah Bethel is competing with nine other top finalists on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 11:30 a.m. on the UnitedHealthcare Singer Songwriter Stage located inside the Eisemann Center at the 25th Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival. Hannah is also performing on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on the CityLine Stage.
Additional information about the Wildflower! Performing Songwriter Contest, and the full list of Top 10 Finalists, may be found on the website: https://wildflowerfestival.com/songwriter-contest-workshop/. #WAMFest2017