Interview: Hannah Ellis makes her UK debut at C2C

Hannah Ellis is bound for C2C
Hannah Ellis is bound for C2C 2023. Photo credit Hannah Burton

Like so many of us, Hannah Ellis can’t wait for Country 2 Country, writes Cait Watters.

Set to perform in London as part of the weekend extravaganza that is C2C, 2023 looks to be a busy and exciting year for the Kentucky native. New single ‘Someone Else’s Heartbreak’ recently dropped – a taste of an upcoming album that’s due for release later in the year.

An excited Hannah joined me to talk about C2C, her latest single and the album!

Hi Hannah! Speaking to you less than two weeks away from Country 2 Country…how excited are you to come over and play? Will this be your first time in the UK?

Oh my gosh, I cannot wait to come to C2C! It has been on my list for forever so I’m so glad that it’s finally worked out! I have actually been to London. I came in 2010 but I’ve never played a show there so this will be the first.

Everyone here in Nashville always talks about how incredible the country music fans are in the UK, and how passionate they are. I cannot wait to experience that.

You just released your latest single ‘Someone Else’s Heartbreak’, which is fantastic and also has an interesting story behind it, as that someone else that inspired the song was your sister and her own break-up. Did that add some pressure writing such a raw track inspired by someone that close to you?

As a songwriter, a lot of what we do is write from our own experiences but we [also] write from the experiences of the people around us. We’re trying to meet people in the spaces that they’re in. That’s what songs did for us. When I went through heartbreaks, there were songs that were there for me that made me feel less alone. That was the point of this one.

Considering the inspiration for this song, were you hesitant to let your sister hear it? When did you share it with her?

*Laughs* I think I sent it to her maybe within the next couple of days [after] and, at that time, she was a little hesitant to listen to it. She wasn’t quite ready to feel all the things that came with those songs. She was dealing with her own heartbreak so to double down and hear a song that was sad…[that] was not exactly good! Now she loves it. She’s about to get married to someone who is absolutely wonderful, and it’s special for her to have a song like that.

Is that why the song is coming out now, sometime later? Or is it just how things worked out?

I’d say it’s a little bit of both. God’s timing is perfect in the sense that this song is coming out now when she’s happily in love and about to get married – it’s a full circle moment.

The song isn’t about yourself but it’s still one of those personal songs. Do you enjoy writing them? Is it cathartic for you to delve into that side of things through songwriting?

It’s part of why I write country music. It met me in spaces all through my life – happy moments, sad moments, introspective moments. That’s the music that I want to write [because] that’s the music that moved me as a young person and still does now.

Is it ever daunting for you to share those sort of songs?

Absolutely. It’s one thing to release something that’s fun and a good time – if people don’t like it then whatever. But if you release something that’s truly from your heart, or [about] an experience that you’ve had…you really want people to be gentle with it and love it as much as you love it.

What I enjoy and appreciate about your music is that you share both sides of life. ‘Someone Else’s Heartbreak’ is about a break-up but you also have a song like ‘Us’, which is a tribute and love letter to your husband, Nick Wayne. Is it important for you to find that balance with your music?

It’s just the human experience, and I think that’s what I am trying to write from. I’m trying to have a record and create music that gives the full embodiment of who we are. We have great days and we have terrible days. We have great experiences with love and terrible experiences with love. Some songs need to exist for us to have fun and drink to, and some songs need to exist for us to sit alone and cry to. I value both sides of country music, so that’s what comes out of me.

Speaking of Nick, you have an absolutely beautiful duet with him in ‘If The World Was Ending’. What’s it like to perform and work with him?

It’s so fun because he has his own career and life so whenever we get to share these moments it’s really special. He’s actually coming over to C2C with me and he’s going to play guitar and sing along. It’ll be really fun to share that with everyone.

That makes those songs all the more special, right? But can we expect more down the line at some point?

Exactly. I think in the future, for sure. We write together so often that it will be natural when it happens.

You moved to Nashville to chase this dream a number of years ago, and the past few years have seen some amazing moments for you. You’re about to play C2C, you were on the CMT Next Women of Country Tour and you made your Opry debut! How was playing the Opry?

It was the craziest experience. It’s something that you always aspire [to do] as a country artist and hope happens. Then, when you’re there, you’re like ‘I’m going to be emotional, I know that’…and you’re still not ready! *laughs* It was definitely waves of emotions.

How sweet and surreal do all these milestones feel?

It’s this weird mix of ‘I can’t believe this is happening’ and also ‘I have worked really hard so this is where I should be’. It’s a juxtaposition of the two feelings but it’s always important to take a step back and say ‘what would the girl who moved here ten years ago think of where we are now?’ And I think she would be pretty impressed.

Hannah Ellis UK debut
Hannah Ellis. Photo credit Hannah Burton

Something people may not know about you is that you auditioned for The Voice but didn’t make it past the blind auditions. Yet it didn’t stop you and here you are now. Did an experience like that make you more determined?

Things like those are turning points in your career and your life. You go ‘this didn’t work out for me, but what’s the next path? What’s the next right thing to do?’ I came home and ended up signing a publishing deal. It was actually perfect that I didn’t get on the show because you can’t sign deals. It was all in perfect timing.

You have an album on the horizon that you’ve been hard at work on. Am I right in thinking that it was originally an EP that ultimately grew into a full length record?

You’re exactly right. We recorded some songs at the end of 2020. Then, as we started writing more, we started finding more special songs and we thought this needs to be an entire project. That was always my vision and my dream, to put out something that was a full thought [and so] people could get to know me as an artist and what I do.

How has making this album differed from making that EP?

I was finding myself and finding my voice. That [the EP] was like ‘this is my five favorite songs, let’s cut them and that sounds great’. This…I want a thread of thought, I want a fully formed picture of Hannah Ellis and what she represents. I’ve been very specific about the songs that we’ve cut for this record.

What can you tease about the album? What sort of songs can we expect on there?

We’re going to get deep in the weeds of all the feelings! But it also wouldn’t be me if there weren’t a couple of more fun, party bangers.

There’s no date announced yet but is there a rough estimate of when we can expect it to drop?

We’re gonna put out a couple of more songs leading up to it and then, hopefully, third quarter of this year we should be rolling it out.

Thank you for your time, Hannah! What are your plans for when you get to the UK in less than two weeks?

We’re gonna hit up some old pubs, take some tours [and] I can’t come over there without finding some fish and chips on the street immediately when I land. It’s like 9am, they’re like ‘lady, calm down’! *laughs*

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