Hannah Ellis Talks Vulnerability and Authenticity On Debut Album, ‘That Girl’: An In-Depth Q&A With The Rising Star
Unveiling the transparency of the Kentucky-born artist, “That Girl” features 13 original tracks, all written by the emerging star.
Hannah Ellis; Photo by Robby Klein
The 13-track project provides an evolution of the singer/songwriter’s full authenticity while capturing her small-town roots, her real-life romance, and her newfound artistic voice on every level.
“I wanted to make sure that people knew those more vulnerable sides of me, like “Someone Else’s Heartbreak” and “Too Much and Not Enough.” I wanted to start sharing a little more of my heart in that way with people because I think it’s easy to just think, ‘Oh, she has a really bubbly personality and is fun to have at a party.’ I think there’s so much more to me and I’m really excited for people to discover that on this record,” Hannah shared.
Country Now recently caught up with Hannah Ellis to chat about the release of her debut album, her songwriting process, and more. Check out our exclusive Q&A below.
What thoughts and emotions were running through your mind leading up to the release of not just any new album, but your very first one?
Oh my gosh, so many. I think the thing I’m most excited about is for people to have a project they could listen to from top to bottom and really get to know me fully. I feel like I’ve released songs that have been fun and heartbreaking, but I think we’re really going to kind of get in the weeds here and they’re going to get to know me in a totally new way with this record.
What led you to choose the song “That Girl” as the title track for your debut full-length album?
I feel like that song really captures the essence of this whole album. I think it’s about a girl that loves too hard and a girl that cares too much. Really this record is all about embracing all those parts of you, good, bad or otherwise, and just learning how to be okay with that and loving that person.
After dedicating over a decade to writing music for others, how did the process of creating music for yourself differ from your accustomed approach?
When you’re writing to just write songs for anyone, be it yourself or other people, you’re just kind of writing the best song in the room and whatever comes to mind. But whenever I’m focused on myself, I’m like, ‘How would I say it? How would I deliver this message?’ Not only verbiage and the way I would talk but the things I would talk about and the way I want it to sound sonically, there’s definitely a difference.
Are there any memorable stories that came from the writing process?
So many of these songs have memorable stories, but one that I love is from the song “Somebody Else.” It was written when my husband and I, Nick Wayne, flew up to Detroit to write with our friend Ben West. It was our dating anniversary, so I was considering this an anniversary trip. Nick was trying to work, shame on him, so naturally, I was getting a little bit annoyed in the writing session. I was just trying to get it done so we could go to our dinner and he kind of started playing this fun little guitar part. He jokingly said, ‘You are the one that makes me maddest’ and I was like, ‘Yep, that’s the song I want to write today.’ That ended up becoming the first line of that song and we ended up writing a love song that I like to say is for people who have been in love for a while.
On Instagram, you shared a little bit about your reasoning for writing “Too Much And Not Enough.” Could you elaborate further on this and discuss the challenges you faced during the process?
Yeah, writing that song was just honestly such a poignant and special moment in my life. I think that as artists, we have no problem being vulnerable when it comes to heartbreaks or my parents’ divorce or things that I’ve kind of already processed through, but it’s so much more difficult to talk about our insecurities and things that we don’t necessarily want laid bare to the public. I think in writing that song, I just took off all the boundaries and said, ‘What do I really struggle with? What is something that I’m constantly going through?’ And when I told my truth, it turned out it was actually a lot of other people’s truth as well.
You put out an acoustic wedding version for the song “Us.” What was the inspiration behind this video?
The inspiration was my wedding day. I always thought “Us” was a wedding song, but since it is so fun and uptempo, I also wanted to make a version that people could walk down the aisle to. This song is for my marriage partner, and I knew I wanted to create a video using footage from my own wedding because it was just a really, really special day. We shot all of the singing at our wedding venue, so it was a really sweet moment to get to revisit that place again.
Will there be significant footage from your hometown in the music video “Home And A Hometown.”
Oh, yes. So, we have a music video for “Home And A Hometown,” and we shot it during the 4th of July in my hometown, which is kind of our signature thing in Campbellsville, Kentucky. It’s been something that I’ve tried to go to as many years as I possibly can and it means a lot to me. Getting to have a whole film crew there filming me with my family and friends was just so special, and something I’ll cherish forever.
Can you share the story behind the song “Plans?”
The song “Plans” is so, so special to me and I’m so glad it’s on this record because it’s one of the first songs that we wrote for this record. It is a song that happened before I was engaged and before I had a record deal. I think it really tells the story of, Hey, plans don’t always go the way you think they will, but as long as you know where you’re going and who you’re going there with, you’ll be just fine. And it turns out that we are.
About a week after the release of “That Girl” you are performing at the Grand Ole Opry. Are you planning to play songs from the new album? If so, which ones?
I am absolutely planning to play songs off the new album. I definitely want to play “That Girl” as it’s the title track, but as for the rest, I’m still not sure. I think I want to see what gets people excited and what they resonate to and then make a decision based on that.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the release of this album?
I would just say it’s been a long time coming. My team over at Curb Records, my co-writers, my friends, and my family, they have all been with me every step of the way. I’m so grateful for everyone who’s poured into me, whether it’s emotionally, or creatively, and it’s just I’m excited for us to all share in this moment together.
Fans can keep up with Hannah Ellis on Instagram.
I am a senior at Kansas State University, where I am majoring in Communication Studies. Throughout my time at college, I’ve had the opportunity to publish a few of my pieces in the University’s newspaper, The Collegian, and I’ve created my own website. I’ve previously interned for Country Insider, an iHeartMedia-owned country music industry newsletter and I am currently interning for CountryNow, a Red Light Management owned publication. I’m very passionate about music and writing, so I hope to find myself in a career that incorporates both of these passions.