By Al Kaufman
Maybe it is the southern cooking. Maybe it’s having to deal with southern men. But hell if the female musicians we get out of Georgia ain’t bad-ass. Think of the fiercely independent and creative Janelle Monae. Or think of that rough and tumble sweetness of southern rock and blues mama Michelle Malone. In the spectrum of female Georgia musicians, Hannah Thomas is much more like the latter, so much so that she could pass for Malone’s kid sister. She’s got that indescribable country/rock/blues-thing-that-really-needs-a-name down. She can kick up dust just as easily as she can draw a tear. But this is also a girl who grew up loving Spice Girls and Black Sabbath (And how many people can honestly say they loved both?), so her range truly knows no limits.
At the tender age of 23, Thomas was already a 7-year veteran of performing. She has made fans of local legends like Amy Ray of Indigo Girls, and Clay Cook of the Zac Brown Band. Her fourth CD, Goodbye on Wasted Time, incorporates everything she knows. There is plenty of country and blues, but check out the alternative rock sound on “Pacifier” (on which Amy Ray guests). Then listen to “That’s What She Said,” which is reminiscent of Jennifer Nettles at her funkiest (drawl and all), before she got all pop-country with Sugarland.
Thomas took some time off from guitar slinging to talk about how she got to where she is today, and some of the things she experienced along the way.
I understand you wrote a song when you were in third grade that got you in some trouble with your mom. What was in that song?
It was a love song, I listened to a lot of Spice Girls and I didn’t really know what they were singing about. So I had no idea what I was saying was risqué.
What did you say in the song?
Honestly, I don’t remember what I said. I listened to the Spice Girls a lot at that time. I think it was something about pushing a boy against the wall to kiss him.
Your influences include Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, Aerosmith, and the Indigo Girls. Did your parents listen to this music, or did you discover it yourself? Was there music in your house growing up?
My parents didn’t listen to any of that. I used to check Indigo Girls CDs out at the library. My mom and I sang along to the Judds and Tina Turner in the car, and when she wasn’t around my dad would let me listen to Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix. My uncle changed my world when he let me listen to the Smashing Pumpkins for the first time.
You played halftime at a Falcons game. What’s it like playing in front of that many people, especially since they’re people more interested in football rather than a woman with a guitar?
It was a great experience, the response was way better than I expected. There are going to be days when you have a tough audience, but you just have to focus on the people you are reaching, not the ones you aren’t.
How did the collaboration with Amy Ray come about? Did nerves need to be calmed before you got in the studio with her?
We have mutual friends and I share some band members with Indigo Girls, so I asked and she said yes. I have known her for a little bit, so it just seemed natural to have her there. I recently went in to do some background vocals on her upcoming solo CD and that seemed way harder for some reason.
Your latest album was funded through Kickstarter. Do you feel more pressure that way? Is there a “My fans paid for this, so it better be damn good” kind of pressure?
Yes, but I always feel like I am making music for them, so that pressure is there no matter what.
The title track, “Goodbye on Wasted Time,” seems like it stems from some sort of turning point in your life. Care to elaborate?
I think you just reach a point in life where you start to have a better understanding of yourself and the world around you. You learn that time is the one thing you can never get back and spending it worrying about things that don’t matter is really a waste. What other people think about you is not something you can change, all you can do is be the best you that you can be and at the end of the day be happy with yourself.
Hannah Thomas plays Eddie’s Attic on Friday, July 19th.