I was tempted to call Hannah Thomas an emerging singer/songwriter, and then I heard her sing. Even though she’s floating around the country to small pubs with a single roadie, this girl knows who she is and nearly blew the roof off the Elbo Room last Monday night. A time snafu and a hot steamy weekday made for an especially intimate crowd, but Thomas may as well have been playing to a crowd of hundreds at the Back Lot Bash. I’d like to believe that next summer she’ll be doing exactly that…
I was still tempted to use the title “emerging”, and then I found out she was opening for the Indigo Girls in September and I changed my mind entirely.
[Hannah has] “the soul of old country, and that will always be there, but she’s also a die hard rocker with some punk thrown in the mix” – Amy Ray
The Indigo Girl Ray, who sings back-up vocals (back-up vocals!!) on Thomas’ latest album, also called her an “outlaw songwriter”, because it’s difficult to place her music in any one category. Growing up in a small town outside Atlanta, Thomas was initially influenced by her country upbringing. As her experiences grew, so did her music, and now it’s not so clear what kind of musician she is. Among the slew of other young indie rock/folk/lesbian singer-songwriters, there’s something different in Hannah’s music that’s hard to put a finger on. So, I asked her about her musical influences:
“I grew up listening to the music of my parents, just like most people. So I heard Black Sabbath and Aerosmith with my dad and Tina Turner and the Judds with my mom. My uncle introduced me to Smashing Pumpkins and I am forever grateful. I think those influences can be heard in my songs. I really wanted to be Garth Brooks when I was little. Then there was Johnny Cash and Janis Joplin – how can you not want to be like them? On my own I discovered Spice Girls and eventually Indigo Girls and Tori Amos. Now you can see why my music doesn’t fit easily into one category…”
Sure. I can see that. In conversation, it’s likely that most listeners will peg Hannah Thomas as a country singer, and her voice at some times reminds me of Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, at others Bonnie Raitt. But in the end, her voice and her lyrics are entirely authentic, and speak to her personal experiences.
So… what’s it like to be an out lesbian country singer from Georgia?
“I think people can tell when you aren’t being honest. When I started writing music without filters it got better. It’s a difficult decision for anyone to come out, but when you grow up in a small town where people are vocal about the perception of homosexuality being wrong it’s even harder. It took a lot of years of soul searching, but when I moved to the city (Atlanta) I felt more free to be who I am. It was a hard decision – country music has not really had a successful out entertainer yet, but I think the world is changing and people are becoming more accepting. I never want to make up anyone’s mind for them, by thinking that they won’t accept me because of who I am. I just write music from my heart and leave it up to my fans. So far it has been nothing but a positive experience.”
Find out more about Hannah Thomas and her new album, “Goodbye on Wasted Time” at http://www.hannahthomasband.com. She’s also raising money for Thistle Farms with all proceeds from the song “New March” benefiting this Nashville-based organization that provides opportunities for women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, and addition (see below).
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About Lauren W
Lauren Warnecke is a Chicago-based dance writer, educator, and freelance dance professional. She holds degrees in Dance (BA, ’03) and Kinesiology (MS, ’09) and is currently a full-time Clinical Instructor for the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at UIC. Created in 2009 as a platform for dance-based discourse, Lauren owns and operates Art Intercepts, a dance blog and online resource actively promoting the use of evidence-based practices in dance training and performance with the goal to improve and elevate artistry, dance education, and dancer health. She is a contributing author/blogger at Dance Advantage, 4dancers, and the Huffington Post, and an arts contributor at The L Stop. Lauren freelances as a production/stage manager, choreographer, media relations specialist, and grant writer, for small arts organizations and is a Certified Personal Trainer. She is a master composter who likes to dig in the dirt and bake scones.