Regardless of the hand you’re dealt, having a positive mindset can be, at the very least, therapeutic while navigating through tough times. And though 2020 has dealt an unprecedented hand, Hannah Hokit isn’t sitting back idly, waiting for a potential refresh in 2021; instead, she’s used her down time to take an introspective look at who she is as an artist, both creatively and sonically.
The first glimpse listeners have at Hokit’s fresh sonic approach is her new, almost irresistible single, “Two Left Feet.” Mandolin and acoustic guitar drive the song, and coupled with a solid lyric, impressive harmonies and a singalong chorus, it is quite the introduction to the new sound Hokit with which Hokit hopes to continue forward.
“Two Left Feet” comes nearly a year to the day after the release of Hokit’s debut, self-titled EP. The versatile collection not only allowed Hokit to hit the ground running with her music career, but also allowed her to get vulnerable as she navigates her way through personal stories of the dichotomy of words and actions, independence and self-love.
We chatted with Hokit about connecting with songwriting at just seven years-old, the emotions that came with releasing her EP, her hands on approach in the studio, all about “Two Left Feet” and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your biggest musical influences that have shaped your sound?
Hannah Hokit: I grew up to the sound of Carrie Underwood, Clint Black and Patsy Cline. When I was younger, I HATED when my mom would play older country music (or as I called it, “old people music”). But now, I think it’s really given me an appreciation for country music and the way that it’s developed over time. Once I was able to go out and browse my own musical interests, I really connected with Taylor Swift. There’s absolutely no denying her songwriting ability. I think a good blend of the two explains where I am today and how I craft my music. I appreciate deep lyrics, but also like to enjoy a careless, catchy tune.
PC: You’ve mentioned that you began writing songs at just seven years-old. What was it about music and songwriting that connected with you at such an early age?
HH: When I was growing up, I just assumed that everyone wrote their own songs. I would hear a George Strait tune on the radio and think, “This guy is singing this song, and it’s from his point of view, so clearly he must’ve written these words himself.” This thought process led me to believe that, “If Hannah Montana can write a song, I can write a song.” So I did just that. My first song I ever wrote was purely to prove to myself that I could do it. Little did I know it would become all I ever did. I finally had found a way to express these thoughts and emotions that I didn’t even know I felt. Not all of them were Grammy-worthy (I had a song about how much I loved snuggling in a blanket… and many more along those lines), but it was and continues to be an escape. The idea that I can write something, and someone could hear it and think, “Oh my god, that’s exactly what I’m feeling but didn’t know how to explain” is such a magical concept to me.
PC: At what point did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
HH: For me, it’s always been music. The second that I wrote my very first song at seven years-old, I knew that it was all I ever wanted to do. I’ve never imagined doing anything else.
PC: What emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to release music for the first time with your self-titled debut EP?
HH: It’s safe to say that I was a nervous wreck. You put so much time, energy, money and heart into these songs and just pray that someone likes it. I was also extremely anxious about how personal some of the stories were. I knew that a lot of people in my life would instantly be able to detect who these songs were about and know all of my deepest, darkest secrets, and I wasn’t really ready for that. Not to mention, I was insanely naive about the industry and had no idea what I was getting myself into.
PC: Why did you decide to release “Sweet Talk” as the lead single from your EP?
HH: “Sweet Talk” wasn’t even supposed to be on my EP. I had already finished the other songs and everything was ready to go, then I wrote “Sweet Talk.” I knew it was something special and that I had to record it. It’s catchy, relatable, clever, and once I left the studio after recording, I just had a feeling that it was a song that could stand alone, but still represent everything else that I was about to release.
PC: You mentioned on YouTube that you were pretty hands on with the sonic aspect of your EP. How important was it for you to fill that role as well and make sure your visions were coming to light?
HH: Production can make or break your song; therefore, I was (and still am) very anal about it and making sure I get the sound that I want. I never want to be a person that lets others do the work and slaps my name on it. That’s just not me.
PC: Do you have a favorite song on your EP? If so, why is it so special to you?
HH: You’re not supposed to pick a favorite child, but I will. My favorite is definitely “End With You.” That song took such a turn for me. When I wrote it back in December of 2017, I was really struggling trying to understand how life can keep two people apart that appear to be meant for each other. It was an agonizing write, as I felt completely defeated and weighed down by the burden of forbidden love. After I wrote it, I didn’t come back to it for about six months because, in my eyes, it represented pain. But once I finally played it again for the first time after writing it, I had a whole new idea of what it was. Suddenly, it was optimistic, hopeful, and represented love’s determination. It gave me such a warm and fuzzy feeling inside that I knew I had to do something with it. When recording it in the studio, it was crucial to me that the song portrayed optimism, and wasn’t all doom and gloom like before.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from your EP after listening all the way through?
HH: I hope that anyone who listens to my EP walks away feeling empowered and excited about life. There are many different characters in the track list; the girl who’s completely enamored by boys (“Sweet Talk”), the girl who’s beginning to realize that words don’t mean so much when they aren’t mirrored by actions (“Two Things”), the girl who’s forced to find independence (“Texas”), the girl who’s done putting up with other people’s problems (“Boomerang”), and lastly, the girl who believes in herself, believes in love, knows what she wants, and isn’t taking no for an answer (“End with You”). That’s the rollercoaster that I want listeners to experience, because we all have to be that girl at some point. Some just experience it sooner/later than others.
PC: You just released your newest single, “Two Left Feet.” Can you talk about the inspiration behind the song?
HH: At face value, this song is about how my boyfriend can’t dance. As someone who dances non-stop and practically lives at country dance halls, his inability to do so was somewhat surprising. But don’t worry, we’ve been working on it. However, to me, this song represents something much deeper. It’s about all of the imperfections in any relationship. How every disagreement, differing interest and hard time is worth it. It might not be perfect, and there might be a million others that could check these certain boxes, but I don’t care about any of it if it’s not with you.
PC: Contrary to your EP, “Two Left Feet” borders between country and folk. Can you talk about the sonic approach you had when recording the song?
HH: With my first EP, I was so excited to have actual instrumentation and bring these songs to life, it was like I was a kid in a candy shop. I definitely felt a rock/pop influence while in the studio and I really leaned into it. This time around for “Two Left Feet,” I was influenced by the time we are in. With Covid and quarantine, I was able to take time and really examine how I wanted my upcoming music to sound. I did about a million demos myself at home to explore all the different avenues in which I could go. Through this process, I think I really discovered myself as an artist. I’m not the rowdy, rock-n-roll, shotgunning beer type of person that I think a lot of country music leans toward. I’m also not a pop, snap track person. I’m an easy-going, simple, emotional songwriter, and I think this production really showcases that. It’s light enough to give an acoustical vibe, but full enough to be the perfect driving-with-your-windows-down song. The second that I left the studio that day we recorded it was the first time I had ever felt like my personality was taken and put to music.
PC: Throughout your EP and “Two Left Feet,” you blend elements of contemporary and classic country sounds. Is it at all important for you to tap into both of those sounds and have that level of sonic versatility in your music?
HH: I think it’s extremely important for my music to be versatile while still sonically cohesive. To think that music can only fit in one little box and not venture out and explore other musical ideas just doesn’t make sense to me. Music should not be a copycat of another work or be confined to a specific blueprint to be considered authentic. It should be natural, and show all of those different influences all combined into one. I love the idea that one single song can represent multiple genres/sub-genres.
PC: 2020 has obviously altered many plans of artists so far. Of the things you can control, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
HH: I’m just trying to make it out alive. But in all seriousness, I have some super exciting plans for the coming months! Lots of music on the way, and other content that I can’t quite share yet. I’ve really enjoyed exploring my YouTube channel and getting to share different sides of myself, as well as cover some of my favorite songs. I will definitely continue experimenting with that. And I’ll continue writing every day and trying to perfect this craft that I hope can one day turn into a career.
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
HH: A huge goal of mine as an artist is to release only 100% self-written works. As much as I love co-writing, and plan to continue doing it for as long as I can, I decided a long time ago that if I’m fortunate enough to do this for a living, I want to write every word of every song I’ll ever release. This may seem like overkill, but I never want honest words to get lost out of fear of other’s opinions. I want to be able to write my thoughts, my emotions, and, if I’m lucky enough to “make it,” know that it was me who got myself there. Again, by no means does this translate that I don’t want to help other artists and musicians craft their next song, it just won’t be released by me. Who knows what the future will bring, but as for now, this is me.
*Images courtesy of Hannah Hokit Facebook and Instagram pages*
**Hannah’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!**
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