Hannah Jane Lewis is an emerging star in a country music scene that is still, in its own way, emerging: the United Kingdom. Nicknamed the 'Bramley Belle', London-based Hannah has released an EP and performed at Country2Country, the UK's biggest country music event, winning fans with her great voice and her ability to connect with listeners. Recently I had the chance to interview Hannah by email, to find out a bit about her and about country music in the UK.
When did you first come to love country music?
My mum used to listen to Shania Twain and Leann Rimes when I was younger, so I guess that would be when I first took note of it. I didn’t start to properly love it though until I moved to America when I was 15. It was always on in all of the bars, radio, television etc so it became normal to hear it all the time. The storytelling lyrics are what struck me first about the genre, which inspired me to start writing my own!
You spent some of your childhood in the USA, which obviously would have led to you hearing a lot of country music. But the UK is different - country isn't as popular there. Can you tell me a bit about the country music scene in the UK, from your perspective?
Ye,s it isn’t as popular here yet but it is definitely growing, which is so exciting! It feels awesome to be part of that growth too. People are starting to take notice now. It's funny because when I moved back from America a couple of years ago I just assumed that modern country/pop would be popular here, so I was shocked when I realised that when most people in the UK here the word ‘country’ music they automatically think of country and western and line dancing. That is what I think a lot of UK country artists are trying to change, trying to show people that it isn’t necessarily that way anymore. I'ts closer to pop and rock than a lot of people realise. Country sounds are starting to creep into mainstream music on the radio here too so that is also a great sign!
Where do you see yourself fitting into UK country music – are you at the vanguard?
I’d say I’m in the pack of artists who are pushing for its popularity. It’s a really exciting time, so as I said it is awesome to be part of that movement. We are all doing something slightly different to each other too, so I guess our journeys are all going to be quite different.
How did you develop your personal musical style – did it start with your voice?
I guess it did start with my voice, I’ve been singing since I can remember. As my voice started to develop more I did realise that it sounded like it fit in the country/pop genre. I never really made a conscious decision to go there though, I just started writing my own music and it came out in that pop/country way.
Are the guys in your '17 Again' video your band? If so, how did you meet?
Yes they are! I met my lead guitarist Richard Clarke a couple of years ago when we both used to sing with this soul band. I had only just moved back from the States and didn’t really know anyone here who did music, so he used to help me out when I had questions about things and give me advice. That led to him offering to play on my EP and from there he got some of his friends involved to come and do the same. Now we are all really close and I couldn’t wish for a better band.
Your bio says that you love the storytelling nature of country music – is it hard to tell personal stories, though? Do you ever feel too exposed?
Sometimes it definitely is hard, especially if people around you know what is going on in your life because then when you write a song they usually know who it is about! I try to forget about that though and just write what I want to write about, because I’ve found that sometimes the most personal stories actually become the most universal and easy to relate to. However, I never really tell anyone exactly who my songs are about – they can play the guessing game!
You have a few acoustic videos on your website – is it a good form of training, in a way, to know that you're playing to an unknown number of people?
Yes I think so! I think it definitely makes you aware of what people want to listen to and what holds their attention. That is probably the biggest thing I get from it.
So your EP is out – what's next?
Yep my debut EP is out and has been for a while. I recently signed to management (Red Stag Management) and got endorsed by Daisy Rock Girls Guitars! I am actually just about to go into the studio and record another EP – which I am SO unbelievably excited for. I’ll be shooting the video for the first single soon, which is called ‘Stuck On You’. I’m then going on a schools tour in association with D.A.R.E (drug and alcohol abuse resistance charity) for about six weeks which leads up to the release of my EP in late October. I’m going on a pre release tour for that which ends at my EP launch party, which is at Proud in Camden, London. Lots of exciting things!
Do you love performing?
Performing is actually my absolute favourite. For me, that is the best part of making and playing music. I’ve been doing ever since I was about 3, so it feels really natural and I enjoy every minute of it. The dream would be to go on a long stadium tour one day!
Visit Hannah's website at www.hannahjanelewis.co.uk