Hannah Bethel’s new song “The House is on Fire” is due out on October 18th; it was produced by Jeff Huskins and Hannah Bethel and features Bethel, with Jon Conley on guitar (arrangement by Hannah Bethel) and Scotty Sanders on steel guitar. Americana Highways caught up with Hannah and had a chat with her that went all sorts of serendipitous places. Below the interview is our exclusive premiere of the song:
AH: Let’s say someone was new to you and your music, tell us some of your back story for those of us that don’t know.
HB: I grew up in the Midwest, I was born in Wisconsin and lived there until I was 12, I moved to Northern Michigan ( where I spent every summer). I grew up doing dance and theater, singing contests, anything to get myself on a stage. I started playing guitar and writing songs, 13 and 14, playing shows in the Midwest. Fairs and coffee shops, bars, anywhere they would let a young girl play, my parents were with me of coure. I released my first record when I was 17 and then at 18 I moved to Nashville. I went to music school here for a couple of years, and then quit because I got busy. Started doing music full-time and I worked all sorts of day jobs. I was in the grind, just writing as much as I could, and then when I was 22 I got really sick with Lyme disease and was almost out of commission for two years. I’m finally getting my health back and managing that after I worked with a Holistic practitioner in Nashville that worked with me to get me back where I was. I started touring full time for awhile, I did that for about 3 or 4 years, a lot of dirty bar gigs, came back to Nashville to regroup, released 3 more records, released my song “Train” last October, refocusing my energies and taking care of myself. That’s when I started working with my manager, Clif too, right before I released “ Train.” Train” opened a lot of doors to me and then this spring I released “Rhinestone Rodeo.”
AH: Tell me about your new single that’s about to come out, “The House is on Fire.” Where did the inspiration come from for this song?
HB: This song is about the demise of my last relationship, to be frank. It was a difficult transition, it broke apart, from spiritual differences and was one of the saddest things of my life. It’s been a couple of years since then and I’m doing fine now. The chorus came to me first. That’s usually how I write, I have the end rhyme words, a couplet and then fill in the rest.
AH: I’ve been told that you want to transition more to the Americana genre. Why do you think this suits you better than staying in a more country vein?
HB: I don’t really consider myself to be a country artist. My background is a lot of 70’s rock — James Taylor and artists like that — and I enjoy the deeper emotions of songwriting, telling a story. My music is a lot different than a lot of stuff that’s popular and playing on the radio right now. My songs have been playing on CMT though and I’m grateful for that. They’ve done a lot for other independent women artists, like Margo Price and Lucie Silvas.
AH: What has been the most difficult part of your musical journey?
HB: Man, there’ve been a lot of things that have been really difficult in their own ways. Lyme Disease was hard, just because I was so exhausted, I literally couldn’t do anything. I had to quit my day job and pause music for a long time. And.. definitely just trying to maintain my center and my sense of self and stand in my authenticity in the music industry, there’s a lot of people I feel have compromised themselves and would encourage others to do so for the sake of success. When I moved to Nashville when I was 18, I thought I would do anything to make this dream come true. Now that I’m 30, I wouldn’t compromise my peace or my integrity, or the beautiful relationships or my family. Taking that stance isn’t so difficult anymore.
AH: Is there a particular artist that is on a bucket list of yours to collaborate with?
HB: Ultimate would be Tom Petty, but obviously that can’t happen anymore, he is my favorite of favorites, I have to listen to him every day. Definitely Patty Griffin. James Taylor would be amazeballs. Dawes I would love, love to collaborate with.
AH: What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
HB: I’m a reikki practitioner. I’m about to get my master’s certification in that.
AH: I’d like to talk a little about the solo backpacking you do, I’ve seen photos of some of the places you’ve been on Instagram. Are you just doing national parks or other places?
HB: The Sedona area is one of my favorite places. This past spring, I did Joshua Tree National Park. I was completely unplugged and it was a definite recharge for me.
AH: Did you use this time to find inspiration for your music?
HB: Not really. I can be inspired while I’m out there, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to disconnect and recharge my soul. I get inspiration when I’m still. And it’s all about understanding how my creativity works. For a long time I tried to do it the Nashville way, where you go in at ten and you’re there for several hours and you write three songs. For me it’s just allowing space for the songs to flow.
AH: Who’s currently on your playlist?
HB: Definitely Dawes, Ruston Kelly (I love so much) Blitzen Trapper, I’ve been binging a lot, Ray LaMontagne always, Jade Bird is so rad, I love Phoebe Bridgers, Tom Petty is always on there. I also love “Tub-Thumbing” by Chumbawamba. It’s my motivation, get your butt moving kind of music. It’s on my running playlist, and so is Cardi B.
AH. Ok, last question, since we’re nearing the end of 2019, what personal and professional goals do you have for 2020?
HB: So many. I’m so excited for 2020. This past year was a year of stride, I feel like we (Clif Doyal and I) were able to build such a great foundation. For 2020 we want to work on expanding our team, we want a booking agent. Having another person on board can help put us in place. I want to put out a record, we have some things in place, we’re working towards that. That’s definitely in the works. Lots of touring. I had such an awesome time this summer, I was on the road almost every weekend. Definitely want to tour more.
Plaintive and vulnerable, Hannah Bethel is making an Americana splash this year. And Bethel has this to say about her song:
“The House is On Fire” is the most vulnerable song I have ever released. Songwriting is my way of processing the world and my experiences in it, and of healing myself from the inside out. The more absolutely honest I can be in my writing, the more healing I will find on the other side of a song.
The song will be available on Apple Music, Spotify and all major digital retailers on 10/18. Listen right here: