Singer-songwriter Hannah May Allison is a California native who is now trying to make a name for herself in the Nashville music scene. Although Hannah grew up listening to a lot of pop music, she developed a love for country music at a young age thanks to her mother, who was formerly a professional country singer in Kansas. Based on her musical background, it’s clear that pop-country is Hannah’s bread and butter; her newest single, “Right Now”, is the perfect example of that.
I got the chance to talk to Hannah about how she first got into music, what inspired her new single, “Right Now”, where she envisions her career going and so much more! Keep reading to see what she had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you first got into music, both songwriting and performing.
I was in choir since I was a little girl and just always loved to sing, My mom actually was a country singer back in the day. She actually sang with Garth Brooks when they were both in Stillwater, Oklahoma, back in the – I don’t even know when it was – maybe the 80s or 70s or something. They both went to OSU I believe and they sang in bars together at the time; then he moved on to Nashville, my mom met my dad and then she didn’t do the music thing anymore. So my mom really got me into music and my dad was always musical too, but I grew up playing piano and being in choir and stuff like that.
Then probably [during] my freshman year of high school, I started learning the guitar, just simple chords by myself, and doing open mic nights and kind of dabbling in the songwriting thing. I think it was some assignment I had in choir to write a song and then after that, I just continued doing it; all my songs back then were not the best, but it was fine. Then decided I really wanted to do music after high school, so I moved to Nashville and went to Belmont University. I majored in songwriting and music business. So it’s always kind of been with me.
So you talk about your mom helping develop your love of music a little bit, but was there a specific moment or person — or was it her — that made you realize that music is something that you wanted to make a career out of?
I always say this cause it’s really random, but I remember going to — and this was back in the day, before Miley Cyrus was Miley Cyrus — I went with my dad in, I think it was sixth grade, to a Hannah Montana concert [and she] was opening for the Cheetah Girls [laughs]. It was the first time I’d ever really been to an arena [show] and seeing this little girl at the time — she was 13 or 14 years old — just rock it on stage and dance around, I was like, “Oh my gosh, that is so cool.” And ever since then, I’ve really just been addicted to live shows and the showmanship of all the props and all that that goes into it. And I’ve always loved country music because of my parents. I grew up in California, but I grew up listening to Alison Krauss and Union Station to the Dixie Chicks to Kenny Chesney and all of that in the car. So I’ve always kind of geared towards country music. But that was kind of the pivotal moment, as weird as that sounds.
No, I love that. That’s such a throwback, but I love it.
She actually had some banger songs, too. It’s crazy.
Yeah. Even now, they’re still catchy. They’re terrible, but they’re still catchy. So something I’m always curious about is what artists want to convey to their listeners with their music. You obviously would classify your sound now as country, but if you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe the music that you create?
I would say, without using country or pop, I’ve always really liked melodically driven [music]. I always go for kind of the melody first. There is so many songs out there and you hear them once and you’re like, “Oh, whatever”. But I always love [when] I hear a song and it’s stuck in my head all day just from hearing it once; that’s kind of important to me. So I really like melodically driven music, but I also like a good concept or idea behind it. And I know I’m not supposed to use the word country, but country has always kind of done that with storylines or whatever it is. It’s always had kind of a consistent theme, so kind of just the best of both worlds. I really like to just relate, especially in my generation – early twenties, to things that girls are going through [and] maybe guys too. But I always like having a song that can be meaningful and relatable to someone else too.
Kind of going off that, I know you mentioned some of the country artists that you listened to growing up, but who are some of your musical influences?
I listen to a wide array of music. I’ve been really into pop music lately, for some reason. I think that there’s some really great not just melodies, but even some really great songwriting going on, like The Weeknd, I love Post Malone – like that Beerbongs and Bentleys album was amazing. But I love anyone from Patsy Cline, I grew up listening the Dixie Chicks; I think Natalie Maines is one of the best singers ever. It’s all over the map, honestly. I used to love Michelle Branch back in the day. I don’t think she’s doing much anymore, but she was a huge influence. So it’s kind of all over the place.
Is there a song that you’ve written that you’re most proud of, whether it’s one that you’ve kept for yourself or even given to another artist?
Hmm… I’m trying to think. I have a few of those, but it’s hard to pinpoint too, because you write so much on a daily basis. What I feel like tends to happen is you’re like, “Oh, I’m so proud of this song, I’m so proud of this song”, and then you write your next best song. I feel like the one song that you’re obsessed with in the moment, whether it’s your latest song that you wrote that you really love, it always changes. So I don’t think I have one [specifically].
Gotcha. So let’s talk about a song you are definitely proud of cause it’s your new single, “Right Now”. What’s the story behind that song?
The song is basically about standing up for yourself in a relationship, and not waiting around for someone who won’t fully commit to you. I feel like the song is just super relatable to our generation when it comes to dating because I’ve gone through it a thousand times with guys. My girlfriends go through it on a daily basis. You know, I get texts all the time from my friends being like, “Oh my gosh, this guy blah blah blah.” It’s a hard situation too, especially when you fall for someone; you do want it so badly to work, and it’s kind of easier to just keep giving the person second chances and keep coming back to him. But what I’ve learned, and it’s a really tough lesson to learn, is no matter how much you like someone or even love someone, no guy is ever worth your time if he isn’t going to give you his all. It’s something that I feel like I’ve had to learn a thousand times, but at the end of the day, it comes down to that. So I guess the title “Right Now” is basically saying the lyrics: if you’re not going to love me right now, then I’m not going to wait around to see if you eventually will.
So I always love hearing about the songwriting process. What was it like for this song specifically? Is this a song that came together quite easily or was it something you kind of had to chip away at over course of a couple of weeks?
This was a pretty simple one, for some reason. It kind of [just] fell out. I really like simple phrases or even one word titles. So like “Right Now” – it’s a very simple phrase or my other [single] “Stand Corrected”, just stuff like that that’s really simple, I find that really interesting. I have a notes thing on my iPhone that holds my ideas and stuff that I’ll think of during the day or whatever. I think I wrote this down, and had it down for a while. I was just looking through ideas before one of my writes and I saw [the phrase] “right now” and I just kind of started humming a little thing to it before the write. So I went into it and it all just kind of fell out during the write. So yeah, this one I think also was very melodically driven too, which always helps; I kind of knew where it wanted to go.
I know you do a ton of co-writes, but do you ever write by yourself or are a bigger fan of doing writes with other people?
Yeah. It’s so crazy, and all of my songwriting friends kind of say the same thing, when you first start out writing, you’re 18 years old — wherever you are in life — and you’re doing that by yourself; you’re so comfortable writing by yourself and co-writing isn’t the comfortable thing [yet]. Then you move to Nashville and you start to co-write and then slowly, you find yourself [feeling] the opposite now; you feel uncomfortable finishing a song. I always love to go through ideas [by myself] and sometimes I’ll even write a chorus to bring into another write. But I’m trying to start to get back into just practicing at least writing one song a week by myself or hit some kind of goal where I’m writing at least one song by myself every so often because I think it is a good thing to keep doing. But yeah, definitely at this point I’m more comfortable bringing things in to other people. But it’s just kind of how it is in Nashville, too.
What made you want to keep “Right Now” for yourself instead of trying to shop it around or give it to another artist you know? Or did you always know that this was a song you wanted to keep for yourself and record?
So I wrote this song at the beginning of the year and, like I said with [the whole] ‘every song is your next best song’ thing, I just kind of fell in love with it. The funny thing about this song too, like a little side note, is when we were writing it, it kind of was gearing towards more pop, like definitely more of the pop direction than country. So I kind of was like, “Oh, it’s cool.”; we had different chords for it, and the melody was slightly more pop. But it wasn’t until I was listening back to songs from that week that I was like, “Oh my gosh. If you just tweak the chords a little bit and make a little bit of a change here and there, this could be a banging country song.” So I kind of did my own variation of it and I sent it to my two co-writers and they were like, “Oh my gosh. Yeah, this is a hit country song.” It really fit towards the country market and so that’s when I just kind of went for it. Looking back at all my songs, I wanted to release something after “Stand Corrected” that was obviously a little bit different but also kind of the same style of what I was doing and wanted to give someone a fun, uptempo song still, even if it is a little bit more depressing [laughs].
Were there any major changes made to “Right Now” once you got into the recording studio, whether it be lyrically or sonically or was the changing of the chords pretty much it?
It was pretty much set by the time it went into production, which was cool. The guy I’ve been working with — he did “Stand Corrected” and he’s done a bunch of my other stuff — I feel like I found a guy that really knows what I’m trying to do artist-wise too and can really pick up on what it needs, which is awesome because that can be really hard to find sometimes with people. So he really helped with that, too. He kind of knew where it needs to go production-wise and all that stuff.
Artist-wise, you’re still relatively new to the music world. What are some of goals or benchmarks that you’re aiming to reach with your career in the next couple of years? Do you want to focus more on the songwriting part or do you really want to go and pursue the artist avenue?
Yeah, ever since “Stand Corrected”, and even before that — it was probably like mid last year — I really started focusing on the artist side of my career. I feel like when I moved to Nashville, I was in school and I was kind of getting my bearings here, just meeting people and kind of making Nashville my home. So I was kind of more focused on writing for other people. I signed a deal with my publisher Dan Hodges Music [in 2018], who I’m not with anymore, so last year I was just very focused on writing with other people, writing with artists and getting cuts and stuff like that. Starting last year, but definitely this year too, I’ve really been taking 100% push on the artist side of things, meaning I’ve definitely been cutting back on writes a little bit more, booking more shows, focusing on singles and stuff. I’m trying to release three singles this year, so I’ve got two more on the way and I’ve kind of got little plans for all of them. So yeah, I always say I love writing for other people too and that’ll never change, but I’m definitely trying to do more of the artist thing for sure.
Last question — our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd. So what is something you are currently nerding out about?
I don’t know if it’s nerdy or…. well, I have one nerdy thing. When it comes to TV, this is my two channels that I go back and forth on. I love the Investigation Discovery (ID) channel. I’m addicted to true crime shows, like in every way possible. All my friends are like, “You need to stop watching. How do you fall asleep at night?” I literally watch it when I fall asleep and they’re so weird and scary. I love Lifetime too. I just like it in the background. But I love all that kind of crap TV.