Interview: Rising UK Country Singer Hannah Jane Lewis

I became a fan of Hannah when I saw her music video for 17 Again, and then quickly bought her self-titled EP which I loved, and reviewed here. Fast forward a few weeks and I saw her play twice at Country 2 Country, with full band on the Saturday and smaller acoustic set up on the Sunday. So she sounded great on CD and live, but I wanted to know more. This is what Hannah had to say when I caught up with her.

Tell us a bit about how you got started in music?

Well music has always been a constant throughout my life. I started to sing before I could even talk, and haven’t stopped since…much to my families dismay sometimes! I started to take piano and singing lessons when I was 8, and kind of ran with it since then. I grew up in a music filled household, and have never thought about doing anything else but music. I started to take it really seriously about two years ago now, and since then have done whatever I can to keep pushing forward.

I’ve read elsewhere that you spent several years in America – how did that come about and how did your music develop or change over there?

We’d been going to Florida every Easter, summer and Christmas since I was really little, so when I turned fifteen my parents just decided to move there. It was a second home to us already and we were up for an adventure so we went for it. By living in America and particularly the south, I was surrounded by country music most of the time. So when I started to make my own music, it just naturally came out that way. I think from living in the states I picked up a lot of ambition and drive, because they don’t do anything half heartedly out there- that is probably one of the biggest things that has shaped me and my music.

You describe yourself as modern pop/country – what made you decide on that direction for your sound?

It wasn’t really a conscious decision that I made. When I started to write, it naturally started to move that way. Vocally, I found a couple years ago that country music suited my voice the best too. I have also always been drawn to music that tells stories which is the basis of country music, so If I was going to write it myself I knew it would be in that vein.

Last year you released your self titled first EP – how did the recording process go and how did you feel when it was finished?

Ah that was amazing! The stars kind of aligned for that process, as the boys (who I had never met before) who recorded the instruments on that EP became my band. That was my first time in the studio too, so I was definitely nervous but really excited about what the outcome would be. I had been playing those four songs for so long in my bedroom with just me on the guitar, so when they started to take shape in the studio it was like a dream come true. I learnt that I am a major perfectionist, which meant that I was a lot more hands on than I thought I would be.

When it was finished I was obviously so excited, but also really scared about releasing it. That was the first representation of me, so it was quite a scary moment.

Hannah Jane Lewis on Stage at Country 2 Country 2014

Hannah Jane Lewis on Stage at Country 2 Country 2014

What has the response been to your EP and will you look to record a second EP or is an album next?

The response has been great! Everyone has been so lovely and supportive about it. I am definitely looking to record another EP which will be happening SOON. Potentially a single in the very near future.

You were part of the Country 2 Country festival at The O2 in London and played both days. Can you remember when you found out and how long did it take to sink in?

Yes I do remember, I had literally never been so excited! I had a smile on my face all day. I went to Country 2 Country the year before and hadn’t even really started putting myself out there as an artist yet, but set myself a goal of being on that pop up stage in a years time.So that was a big moment when it happened, I can’t really believe how much has changed in a year! I don’t think it really sank in until we had to send all our final information over for it to be confirmed.

You looked nervous when you were about to go on stage on the Saturday, but once on stage the nerves seemed to disappear and you sung with great confidence. How does it feel to be on stage, signing your own songs?

Haha I was a bit manic on that first day when you saw me! I am a procrastinator so it tends to be like that right before I go on stage….I make life so hard! Performing is honestly my favourite thing in the world though, I am in my element when I am up there. It is amazing to be singing my own songs too, and absolutely crazy when I see people in the audience singing them back. That just blows my mind..

You played a full band set on the Saturday and an acoustic set on the Sunday – how did they differ and what was it like playing those gigs to such big crowds?

Full band was loads of fun, I love the boys and my sis who play with me so its always a really good time. It also amplifies the energy, and I love to dance which I get to do more on full band gigs. The audience for that gig was the biggest I have played to so I was on a high from that. For both shows it was really cool to play to an audience that all love country music, that was special.

I did also really enjoy the acoustic gig though. It some ways that one was even better, maybe as it was the second day and I was a little bit more comfortable. I love the intimacy of acoustic gigs, and the audience of that one was really responsive and had lots of energy!

What’s it like playing these gigs and then having fans ask for photos and autographs?

Absolutely mad! haha something I definitely haven’t gotten used to. My sister and my friends find it the weirdest. I love meeting fans though. They are the ones who give me the confidence to push for things like Country 2 Country, so they mean a lot!

Your sister Grace was on backing vocals, how does it feel having her up there singing with you?

I love having her there! She is an actress in her own right so I will be really sad when she gets too busy to sing with me. We have sang together ever since we were really little, so its natural and comforting to have her up there. Plus I am the biggest airhead and forget to thank my band and say when my next show is etc, and she always reminds me!

As well as looking happy to be signing with your sister, your whole band plays really well together, and most importantly you all seem to be having a good time. How did you all get together?

We do all get along really well, they are the dream. I met Richard Clarke my guitarist a couple years ago, when we both used to randomly sing with this soul band. I had just moved back to England and didn’t know anyone in music, so I always went to him when I had questions about things. I asked his advice on recording and he basically took it in his hands to organise it for me. He got some of his friends to come and record the EP with me and we played really well together, so they became my band. It was really lucky actually!

Going back a few years – what was the Open Mic UK experience like?

That was definitely an interesting one! I had absolutely no idea what I was doing at that point. It was a good experience- performance and feedback wise, but I wasn’t sure of who I was as an artist or on the track that I am now so it wasn’t as beneficial as it could have been.

Back to the present and you just recently released a music video for 17 Again. What made you decide to make the video and why for 17 Again? Was the process fun?

After releasing the EP, it was clear that that song was the favourite. Lots of people tweeted/facebooked me saying that it was the one they loved, so it was a no brainer to have it be the lead track. It is hard for me to pick favourites as they all mean something different to me, but I love the message of 17 Again and have a lot of fun singing it.

Shooting the video was awesome. I was really nervous and thought I would be awkward but I ended up having the best time. I wanted it to be really personable, relatable and a true representation of me, so I basically just hung out with my band for a couple days and filmed the process!

All the songs on your EP, and your new song Worth The Wait, are written by you – what’s the writing process like for you – is it something that comes easy and do you enjoy it?

The process changes a lot! Sometimes it starts with a melody that is going around my head, or a line that I have heard somewhere that sparks something. Other times (the best times) I pick up the guitar/piano and just unload into the song exactly how I am feeling at that moment. They are all written from personal experiences and relationships, I find it near impossible to write about something that I haven’t been really close to. I love writing though, I find it really therapeutic. Luckily most of the time it comes easy, but there have been times when something is in the way and it is a little harder.

You have a few gigs in London over the next month or so but you’ve also just been announced as supporting fellow Country 2 Country performers Jill & Kate – how did that happen?

That came off the back of performing at Country 2 Country! I am so excited for that gig, should be really fun!

How important is social media in getting your music out to people?

Ah so important! It is crucial now. I was never really much of a facebook/twitter user until I realized that nowadays you can’t be a singer/songwriter trying to get your music out there without it. I think it is really important to build a fan base and keep in constant conversation with them too. Most of my opportunities have come from people stumbling across me on twitter/facebook/youtube etc, so I couldn’t be without it.

Hannah Jane Lewis Acoustic Set at Country 2 Country 2014

Hannah Jane Lewis Acoustic Set at Country 2 Country 2014

It’s unfair to ask who you most like to be like as you want to be Hannah Jane Lewis, but whose career(s) do you admire and think that’s the kind of route I’d like to take.

Hmm, well I have a lot of different inspirations. I am a huge fan of John Mayer and think it is really interesting how much he re invents himself. I like how every album has a different sound, keeping people guessing so thats something I’d like to emulate. I’ve always been a big fan of Taylor Swift, I love how she focuses on writing her own material and being really honest in songs making them universal. She’s also really good at making her fans feel appreciated.

Big fan of Kacey Musgraves too, she has really taken off in the last year and I really admire how she did it. The focus being on her as a songwriter makes her really credible, and I love her frankness. That is really refreshing to see, she’s paving the way for others with a similar mindset.

What’s next for Hannah Jane Lewis?

Well I am making plans to record another EP that I hope will be out at some point in the summer. A single that will come before that is on the cards too! I’ll also be playing as much as I can, and doing some more touring. I am potentially planning a northern tour for the end of May and am really excited at the idea of getting a southern one set up too! So basically as much as I possibly can šŸ™‚

A huge thank you to Hannah for letting us in and I look forward to catching up again for a progress report. I’ll be seeing Hannah play live again soon, so I’ll be back with a gig review.

You can catch up with Hannah Jane Lewis in the following places:

Facebook: /HannahJaneLewisMusic
Twitter: @hannahjane001
Soundcloud: hannah-jane-lewis
YouTube: hannahlewis001

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