Interview: How Hannah Dasher Went From Bass Pro Employee to Major-Label Artist
Hannah Dasher answers her phone from her kitchen, where there's a cream cheese pound cake in the oven for an upcoming, COVID-19-friendly hang at fellow musician Drake White's. It's uncharastically snowy and cold in Nashville, but even through the phone, it's easy to feel her warmth -- and maybe even to think you've caught a whiff of that pound cake.
"I'm fat and sassy, thank you!" Dasher replies peppily when asked how her snow day has been. Later, she'll mention that a chocolate pound cake, for another friend, is next on her to-bake list, and joke that she's "always trying to keep my wheels turning -- and well-greased."
A recent signee to Sony Music Nashville and a member of CMT's Next Women of Country Class of 2021, Dasher is a Savannah, Ga., native with a creative streak that extends far beyond music. On TikTok, she's racked up 1.2 million followers thanks in part to her Stand By Your Pan cooking series; its name, of course, is a nod to Tammy Wynette, whose biography Dasher highly recommends and whose hard-to-find cookbook she recently received from a friend.
In her earliest days in the music industry, meanwhile, Dasher could be spotted wearing attention-grabbing T-shirts she'd designed.
"My parents forced me to go outside and play in the yard, so we had to create and do stuff. I wasn't a deprived child by any means, but we never got into video games," says Dasher, whose schoolteacher mother encouraged her creativity. She'd later earn a journalism degree and a music business certificate from the University of Georgia (her parents said no to Belmont University's pricey tuition).
"Trying to live in a city off two grand a month with your publishing deal, you'll get really creative and find ways to make ends meet and something out of nothing," Dasher adds wryly.
A self-described American, country music and rock 'n' roll history buff -- "My house is a shrine," she tells The Boot. "It's kind of like Elvis' upstairs at Graceland meets Waylon's ranch ... and then it's your grandma's kitchen" -- Dasher wasn't much of a bookworm as a child, but she read albums' liner notes front to back, absorbing lyrics sans melodies, as though they were poems.
"A lot of the songs I love, or the lyrics that I love, are conversational," Dasher explains. "Lines need to be cool and sexy ... That's my standard."
It's that conversational style that drew Dasher to, for example, Alan Jackson. The country great was still early in his career when Dasher, at the age of three, saw him live, but she can still remember the yellow Dixie cup he sipped from onstage, his outfit of well-worn jeans and a pink shirt, and that Vince Gill was also on the bill.
"I stayed awake as long as I could, through "Chasin' That Neon Rainbow,"" Dasher recalls. She then fell asleep in her dad's arms.
"Music has always been the main goal, the end goal -- that, or marry rich, and who gets to marry rich?" Dasher later confesses with a laugh, but when both a music industry job and a rich husband failed to materialize after college, she took a job at a Bass Pro Shops location in Savannah, with the promise that they'd transfer her to a store in Nashville. That meant that when Dasher first arrived in Music City, she was working a couple thousand feet from the Grand Ole Opry while trying to find a way in.
"I had health insurance and two days off during the week," Dasher remembers, and she used her time wisely (though she'd later get fired for writing songs on the job). She scoured the event listings in the Nashville Scene and went to shows, hoping to make friends within the industry. It was a gig at the then-nascent artist showcase series Whiskey Jam that led to a connection at ASCAP, a spot in the organization's program for up-and-coming songwriters and, finally, her publishing deal.
Dasher's first cut came from Brad Paisley, with whom she, Brent Anderson and Chris DuBois co-wrote "Go to Bed Early," an album cut from his 2017 album Love and War. More recently, she, Lainey Wilson and Frank Romano co-wrote "LA" for Wilson's 2019 EP Redneck Hollywood. Her own current single, released in early February, is "Left Right," an upbeat, twangy warning that if an engagement doesn't come soon, a breakup will.
Dasher's producer, Brandon Hood, proposed the title, and Dasher quickly produced the first and final lines of the chorus. "I had no idea what it meant," she recounts, "but I was vibing on it." (Wynn Varble has a co-writing credit on the song as well.)
"You've got the songs that you work for ... and then you've got the ones that [just come out]," notes Dasher. "Left Right" was one of the latter, though she's only had that kind of experience a few times in her life.
"The lyrics just came right along with the melody; I just regurgitated what I was catching out of the sky," she says, adding later, "When they fall out of the sky ... you don't have to work as hard for those. I think you just -- for me, personally, I just have allow myself to be the creative vessel through which it flows, and I just have to catch it."
Now that "Left Right" is out, Dasher is working toward her first EP with Sony (she'll call it "a half-record"), and parlaying Stand By Your Pan into a cookbook, which she hopes will be out in time for Christmas.
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