Singer Hannah Kay sets her sights on Grand Ole Opry
Hannah Kay calls her new EP “Magnolia to Nashville.” It describes the route the young singer has taken, and hopes to continue down, in her quest to country music superstardom.
“I’m a teenager. I’m a girl,” Kay, 17, says. “I just want to connect on a personal level. I want the listener to feel like it’s just you and me.”
The Magnolia native celebrates the EP release Tuesday at the Dosey Doe in The Woodlands. The first single and video, “I Hate Boys,” draws directly from her life. (“Sick of Sonic parking lot/Everybody drunk/Mr. Romeo, ego/Talkin’ ’bout your truck ...”)
Kay recorded the EP in Dallas and Nashville, where she worked with several high-profile songwriters, including Catt Gravitt, who’s written for Kelly Clarkson and Kelsea Ballerini; and Shane Stevens, whose written for Lady Antebellum.
Kay credits Real Life Real Music and Amp U, a pair of local programs for young musicians, with opening many of the doors for her and nurturing her abilities.
“They helped me become a better songwriter and a better person and a better musician. They’ve helped me with learning how to play guitar, with my technique,” she says. “They’ve taught me all about the music industry, what to do and what not to do.”
They can’t teach everything, though. Some of it, of course, has to come from natural talent.
Kay grew up singing along to pop hits and Hannah Montana songs. Her family quickly took notice of her unique voice.
“When I was six, my Aunt Lisa, we were going to The Galleria Mall, and I was in the back of her car jamming to Alicia Keys. I was singing at the top of my lungs,” Kay says. “She called my mom and said, ‘This is it. Hannah’s gonna be a singer.’?”
Soon after, Kay discovered country music and was singing along to Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton.
“All through car rides, you would hear that steel guitar and fiddle going,” she remembers.
That classic sound is most evident in her voice, a raspy, twangy contrast to the country-pop elements of the music.
“She’s been told that it sounds like she’s been sitting on a bar stool her whole life,” says mom Dana Blackwell.
Kay attended Magnolia High School until she was a sophomore then began homeschooling to focus on music, which included frequent trips to Nashville. She’s now a senior and hopes to make the big move when she turns 18.
Along with her own aspirations, Kay also hopes to realize a goal her grandfather never reached. He was a struggling musician who would record original songs and send them to Nashville labels.
Though he died before she was born, Kay feels connected to him through their mutual love.
“We have rejection letter after rejection letter (that he received). The day after he got paralyzed by a drunk driver, the Grand Ole Opry asked him to come sing. He never got to go,” she says.
“Ever since my dad told me that story, I’m like, ‘I want to do it for me but I also want to do it for him.’ My main goal is to get to the Grand Ole Opry and sing at that little circle for him and for me.”