BLOG POST WITH WITT STEWART

 

Witt Stewart is a longtime member of the music business and has worked with some of the best in the business such at Patty Griffin, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker and Carol King. We became friends through the Nashville community and he invited me to be a part of his blog. I posted what I wrote on the blog below but you can also check out the full post HERE  .

 

OK! Here we go!
Art to me is like an endless sandy beach; and for the artists who roam it, there’s room enough for everyone to walk around and make marks, mold, build, shape and display what they create with the sand… none of it wrong, none of it right.  Then what is made is to be shared, affected by and be a part of the elements around it, such as the ocean waves, or a footprint, or a drawing from the person next to you, or a crab sifting for minerals to eat.  The sandy endless floor is ever changing for infinite creation, and for this I am thankful, for that is the beauty and freedom of art.

I have also found that it is true what they say… the music business is a flawed concept. Business and art don’t go together. Business is structure and art is free flowing. They are opposing forces like two positive magnets being pushed towards each other.  The business’s desire is to take the creations the artists have made and try to solidify it like concrete. It will throw water on a castle because it has decided it wants to pack it down and make it more solid.  It will stand around a structure guarding it with all its might, or draw lines in the sand not meant to be crossed in efforts to leave the creation unaffected by the inevitable ever changing movement around it.

For a time, this can make the business and artist a lot of money and what we call success, making a career for the business and artist possible. The business claims to all around that the art’s special characteristics are more valuable than the others so the world should cash in to see it.  All the while, the art created (AKA music in this case), enjoys the experience of being made into a castle just as much as it enjoys it being torn down. The nature of this world does not follow the law of permanence and so, despite all the business’s efforts, eventually the art is changed and affected one way or another and is made into something different.

The beauty and heartbreak in this experience of the rise and fall is why we are all here. Because of this dynamic between business, art and artist, I find very often that artists (including myself) become influenced by the business’s desire for structure and want it for themselves; forgetting the value in the nature of their ever changing world.  So they draw lines in the sand and mark off territories for their art. Because making rules and creating boundaries feels safe and/or gives some sort of guide to help them on a guideless journey.

I actually very often see that the feeling of safety it brings can allow artists to create from a purely inspired and fearless place. Which is when, I believe, we are who we are created to be.  So, in that sense it can be very helpful, but this not as good as it gets.  Eventually the art will become limited by the lines around it and again change shows up. On the flip side, I see these claimed lines slow down the artistic process as well. The business and artists alike will stand by their lines and claim their reasoning for them.

The big one that’s been going around in Nashville for the past 5+ years is, “solo female artists don’t work in country music”. But really the comments are endless:
– “labels are only signing 18 year olds”
– “audiences aren’t smart enough for your songs”
– “this song is or isn’t a hit”
 “pop country is the only thing that’s making money”
– “no one is cutting whiskey songs anymore”
– “you can’t be successful making country music without a record deal or country radio behind you”
 “singer/songwriter artists are a thing of the past”
and countless more, one conflicting the comment before it. And none of these lines are wrong… but none of these lines are right either.

The comments are merely an expression of folks finding their own way through the conflicting territories of the world that is art vs business. And what can slow us down or get some of us stuck in this process is when someone expects his or her lines to be a boundary for someone else. Or when you believe someone else’s line for yourself. This can be especially challenging for an artist when a line doesn’t fit a factual part of who the artist is; like being a female with children, being gay, having a certain body type or size, having skin that’s too dark or being from the wrong state.

All of the sudden a dented line made in shapeable ground that can shift with the wind is given the power to stunt our creativity, maybe for an hour or a lifetime, because “so and so” made that line and he or she has been doing this for 25 years or has all the money or decision making power in this town or yada, yada, yada…. Oh the art we could all make and the power it would have if we all just created regardless of lines.

I feel the pressure to be boxed in by the comments/lines around me all the time. Some of them I fit into and some of them I don’t.  I’ve also boxed myself in, making countless lines in the sand for myself that eventually get in my way.  I recently removed a line I had for years that I swore I would never cross because not only did I recognize it was a fear driven creation, but I watched so many others just pass right through it bravely and continue to create.  And I thought, why couldn’t I do that?

Thus, I say all of this to share my current goal I’ve set for myself in my life and art.  I want to, as much as I can, be rid of my need for preservation and fearlessly create and share my gifts. Connecting with the world knowing lines are a temporary false sense of safety; the boundaries are endless and there are no limits. When I am my true self, to myself, my heart says to me:
“Just make art
Love it
Stay inspired
Stay grateful
Build your life where you can pay your bills and mold the personal life you want (regardless of it or because of it) so you don’t resent it. 
And then let it bring you what you’ve asked for.”

In desiring all this for myself, I also send out this hope for every person on this earth. And then, my heart is full… Hannah Blaylock

 Photo by Toby Gilbert

Photo by Toby Gilbert

 Photo by Toby Gilbert

Photo by Toby Gilbert

 Photo by Toby Gilbert

Photo by Toby Gilbert

It's FINALLY HERE... Thank You!

It’s funny…. emotionally I’m kind of overwhelmingly stunned right now. And being an emo person I didn’t expect to feel this way…. But I so do. It’s a very humbling and grateful feeling all at the same time to truly know that you are undeserving of the blessings you have been given. I can honestly say I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that more intensely than right now.

I have waited for a very long time for today. In such a real way, I can’t believe that it’s finally here.

I was faced with a very hard decision at 24 years old that held my life’s work, investment and identity in one hand and uncertainty and a hope for something greater in the other. I chose the latter and it’s been an interesting journey to say the least. I feel like I chose the jungle path instead of the pebbled one. And being in the music business already, it’s not like the pebbled path is smooth road (haha). You could also say it took me from a 5 lane freeway life to bush hogging my own path. As far as my consciousness of understanding the value of why we are here is concerned, I highly recommend the jungle. I’ll warn you it isn’t sunshine and butterflies. It’s vulnerable and challenging. It’s VERY humbling and forces you to face the good bad and uglier about yourself. It also puts you in circumstances where you have to choose your gut or you’d really be lost. It requires you to give and to receive on a whole new level. It’s very freeing. It’s very honest and genuine too and makes it easier to fearlessly choose that everyday. And its got my vote easily over glitz and social acceptable every time. Just so you know :).

I have to say- all this bush hogging revealed some pretty insane surprises. I got to know the value of being surrounded by true genuine friends and loved ones. I got to test and prove the strength of love and marriage. I got to cross and actually get to see the country twice going on many amazing gypsy adventures. I got to learn endless lessons and have epic experiences with INSANE songwriters in Nashville, Los Angeles and in between. I got to meet my #1 heroes. Not only that, I got to receive a gift of a lifetime from them and say yes and thank you to the opportunity of making my debut solo album. And I got to share making this album and seeing it to its completion with all of you.

THERE’S A 10TH SONG ON MY RECORD- “Fences”

THAT————THAT WAS YOU.

THANK YOU.

There’s no way to tell you how much. I am trusting you know in some way how much so I won’t go mad. “Fences” is alive and out in the world. YOU made that happen when no one else could. You supported art and music when it needed you- I’m so thankful and lucky to be connected to that inspiration and support in any way.

I owe any ounce of gumption in me to my parents- I hope I give my kids half the springboard you gave me into life Mom and Dad. I love you. Thank you for teaching me the good stuff and the value of it.

I hope you enjoy my expression of the last 4 years of my journey as a country singer/songwriter and performer. This is “Bandit Queen”. May her story inspire you to kick ass at yours.

-Hannah

Thank you... and THE SINGLE IS HERE!

THANK YOU SO MUCH for making it possible to hit our goal to complete the album. Because of you and so many others, this album will get to be shared to the world within the month to its full completion. As one of a thousand thank you’s, I wanted to give you the link to download the single NOW for free (YAY!).

The first single and title track of the record is called “Bandit Queen” as I’m sure you’ve seen. I wrote this song with my dear friend and amazing songwriter/guitarist Frank Romano. Frank and I were set up to write at his house in East Nashville one day. I knew it was going to be a fun day because he insisted I bring Emmylou, my dog, with me. It was our first time writing together that day on October 21st, 2014. I walked in and he immediately started showing me these amazing track options he made for us to write to. He was flipping through the options when he played this badass gritty groove that sent me on a journey.

I had been watching these TV shows like, Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones, that were filled with what they call the “antihero”. I loved the realness of the characters (much like the rest of the world). It was so refreshing to see a their flaws and vulnerabilities so revealed on these shows, unlike the styles of the past where the good guy is perfect and the bad guy has no redeeming qualities. This antihero style of writing and film was inspiring to me because not only did it, in some weird way, aid and inspire self acceptance, it was so fun transforming and creating a relatable character that was nothing like me.

I was a pretty good kid. Too good. Probably cause there isn’t a lot of mischief to get into when you hang out and are in a band with a bunch of middle aged folks (smart thinking mom and dad). Growing up very religious, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say I leaned towards prudish. I didn’t break rules or rebel. I stayed between the lines pretty comfortably. There’s something about the small town southern culture that makes us feel like we should act like life is perfect, we are perfect and we have it all together all the time. I would say I was pretty good at doing that at certain levels. But naturally, I’m a very blunt, honest, strong, spirited and sassy person- I get that from my mom (holy lord is she ever!). As I’ve grown into an adult and gone through some shit, much like a lot of folks in my generation I have found to really value raw honesty and I surround myself with it as much as possible. My close friends and I talk about our struggles and how we are working to overcome them- and not just the easy ones- the “skeleton in the closet” ones. The “these are the thoughts in my head that I am battling every day” ones. Over time the idea of wanting to act or look or sound or be perfect has just….well…..gotten boring. It lacked growth.

The “Bandit Queen” is the furthest woman I could or ever will be like. And creating her character and performing in her shoes is one of the most empowering feelings I have ever experienced. She knows what she is and she accepts it regardless of others. She embraces her passions and is unapologetic about her sexuality. She is her own woman and no one can veer her from fighting to the death for her truth.

When I felt hopeless trying to make this record, wondering if I would ever be able to see it to its completion. I would close my eyes and pretend I was her. Her sauce and strength and tenacity brought me back to believing in what I was doing. She helped me remember the value of the beliefs that I have based my decisions on in my life and helped me keep going.

In sharing her with you guys, I hope she can do the same for you, in whatever your are striving for or battling against. I hope she makes you feel like you can do anything- literally anything- you set your heart on. Because that is all I dream for, for each and every one of us

-Hannah

I get to share the album cover with you!

Hello-

I am so happy to finally get to share this album cover with you!

A little back story on the creation of it below:

I had a vision for what I wanted the cover to look like. One night over a bottle of wine, I was sharing my vision with my long time friends, Chris Burke and Toby Gilbert. Toby, being the giving and amazingly talented photographer that he is, said “We should go to Chris’s family lake house in Alabama! It would be perfect for the shot. We could bring the pups, have a weekend getaway and play around and see what we come up with!” I mean, how sweet are my friends?!?!?!

Toby and I woke up at 4am every morning to catch that sweet spot right before the sun rose and the mist was still sitting on the water. I never dreamed Toby would capture the Bandit Queen so beyond perfectly and ever better than I had dreamed. It all came together naturally and genuinely and I couldn’t have asked for more.

For a thousand reasons this record is alive because of family, friends and believers that have been willing to give their time and talents to this project. Toby and Chris are both at the top of that list. We have been friends for nearly a decade now and this is definitely not the first favor they have ever done for me. They both helped to capture my first solo shots I ever took as well, which was such a gift in starting out on my journey to create this album. They also helped me create the video I just posted, telling my story in creating this record.

Because of Toby’s insane talent, the love and friendship we share and his believe in me and my vision, I truly believe there is no one else that could have shot this album cover but him. Furthermore, my long time friend and talented graphic designer, Kevin Fisher, created the perfect artwork to pair and omit the tone of this album’s voice. Thank you Toby and Kevin for making “Bandit Queen” come to visual life.