Quantcast
Advertisement
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)

COUNTRY'S NEW KING
The Gospel of Luke (11/11a)
BIEBER BY CHRISTMAS?
How's that for a tease, Bieber Nation? (11/12a)
NEAR TRUTHS: MEET
THE NEW BOSSES
Not the same as the old bosses (11/11a)
CMA CENTERPIECE
CARRIE UNDERWOOD
This sure feels like her moment. (11/11a)
A TASTE OF RAINMAKERS II:
SARAH TRAHERN
It's a marathon, not a sprint. (11/11a)
BEHIND THE SCENES WITH KANYE
And lo, there was much earned media.
MOE, MARSHMELLO AND MONEY
The story of a "faceless" brand that got very, very big.
THE NEW WORLD OF A&R
The trap they all fell into.
GRAMMY NOMS
Who deserves consideration in the genre categories?
Music City
KINDA LIKE A CHANDELIER IN A TRAILER: CAYLEE HAMMACK
7/3/19

by Holly Gleason

Caylee Hammack can’t stop talking. She’s lived such a big life and faced so many challenges, she’s never sure she can get it all in. And in a world of empty words and bloated egos, Hammack’s life is even more stunning than the flame-haired songstress realizes. She talks about going to see Loretta Lynn at the Columbus Civic Center at 13 and being floored by the way the legend, then in her late 60s, handled the moment. “She said, ‘Boys, my legs are tired,’ and they pushed out a big, blue throne,” Hammack marvels.

For all the euphoria of that moment, though, the challenges that subsequently came at her one after the other are what stand out in her story. A cancer scare at 16 “that got Mama and Daddy back to church” came with a two-pound tumor; its removal left her compromised enough that the prospect of a college tennis scholarship evaporated. Then came a musical scholarship to Belmont University, which she forsook for love. A lying, cheating boyfriend who needed “space,” only to leave her for a significantly older woman with a pack of kids living in a trailer. A midnight drive to Nashville with her clothes crammed in a couple of Hefty bags. Sleeping in a Target parking lot because it seemed like the best available option. Then, as things were starting to come together, a call that her house was burning down, with everything she loved inside.

Not since Tammy Wynette hit Music Row with three babies on the run from a dead-end marriage in Alabama has a songwriter hellbent on making her dream come true faced—and met—such challenges. And those above mentioned facts are just a few of the posts in Hammack’s anything-but-white-picket-fence. “It feels like a long life,” she admits, shaking her head. “My parents say I was born 35, and I’ve aged ever since. But I’ve enjoyed it. It was a lot, really fast, but look where it brought me.”

Indeed. With a mother who loved Jim Croce, a brother (12 years older) who was into Blackfoot and The Band, and a sister, eight years older, who’d pay her $5 to dance to Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, the Ellaville, Ga., native found a home for her soul in music. Gravitating to Tom Waits and David Bowie, she has created a kind of country music that’s larger—and brighter—than real life.

Her wildly dysfunctional, highly hysterical, ultimately loving “Family Tree” brings a gospel flavor to Dixie Chicks’ freewheeling take on life at the fringes. With a descending melody on the chorus, the confession of “getting high school high” and swooping “Whoa-oh-OH-oh-oh” vocals, Hammack has come up with an earworm to rival Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow.”
And that song came together long before UMG’s Mike Dungan or manager Mary Hilliard Harrington got involved. Hammack worked on it with UMPG’s Cindy Forman while inhaling the passion of then-ASCAP writer rep Rob Filhart, both of whom believed a breakthrough was only a matter of time for the flamboyant performer who embodies Bette Midler’s brio.

She teamed with producer Mikey Reeves, “who was so patient and let me be me,” and the pair started spending 12-14 hours a day in the studio trying to capture a sound the obsessive listener heard in her head. Hammack describes unconventional moves including “having the drummer play with sandpaper or the mic box,” adding, “We put 50, 60 hours into ‘Family Tree’ trying to see what we could do with a $500 demo budget. Once I figured I couldn’t fit in [with what other artists were doing], I decided to work to be different—kinda like a chandelier in a trailer.”

Juxtaposition is Hammack’s strength. Channeling Green Day’s manic punk presence live, she took the Ryman stage at the Country Radio Seminar and swallowed the room whole. Equally unlikely, “Just Friends” opens with a bit of Crystal Gayle’s voice-catching torch, then the downstroke of the electric guitar reverberates as a buzzy rebuke. For every girl who thought a guy was “serious” when he was just trying to hook up, the song could be the warning shot at all dudes looking for a quick hit.

“I remember when Cindy told me we needed to keep ‘Family Tree’ for myself,” Hammack remembers. “I’d spent two years as a staff writer, trying to get cuts. When she said that, I realized she believed in me as an artist, that these songs were my life—and I began giddily putting them in my pocket.”

If being outside the box makes things a little harder, it also makes you stand out. With only a debut single, Hammack has already made it onto network TV. In pure Schroeder fashion, entertainment producer Brittany Schreiber heard her “playing on a Fisher Price keyboard and asked my manager, ‘Is it too soon for The Today Show?” It was not.