It’s said that the best songs come from real life, and thankfully, though she’s only just entering her “Twenty-Something Age,” Hannah Hokit is chronicling her experiences of love, heartbreak, resiliency and more, which has culminated in the release of her new EP, Heartbreak City, released last Friday.
After previewing the new EP with two singles, “Two Left Feet” and “The Day I Stop Loving You,” over the past few months, Heartbreak City features everything we love about Hokit’s new musical chapter: largely acoustic production that lets her personal, sometimes vulnerable lyrics and her soothing, Taylor Swift meets Kacey Musgraves voice shine.
We caught up with Hannah to chat all about Heartbreak City, including honing in on her sound, each of the six tracks, expressing emotions, staying creative and more!
Pro Country: The last few times we’ve talked, you’ve mentioned honing in on your sound. With the release of your new EP, Heartbreak City, how much do you feel you have identified the artist you want to be, and how comfortable with the sound you are crafting?
Hannah Hokit: I believe that I’ve definitely found my voice and realized the direction I want to go in this business, and I’m incredibly happy with the sound and the vibe that we created for this EP. It feels like it was taken straight out of my soul and put into a track. That being said, one of the most exciting parts about life is growing, and I can’t wait to see what is to come for the next album. I changed so much between my first EP and Heartbreak City, so you just never know what can happen.
PC: “Twenty-Something Age” opens up Heartbreak City, and is probably your most “traditional” sounding song you have released. Can you talk about the sonic inspiration behind the song?
HH: I felt a strong Miranda Lambert vibe with my song “Twenty-Something Age.” Starting slow and somber, then kicking it up a notch is where I channeled that. But most of all, I wanted it to just be fun and care-free. That’s what this song is all about. So many pressures from outside forces can make life stressful and unenjoyable, but you just have to not take things so seriously and enjoy your life while you can.
PC: “Two Left Feet” was released as the lead single from Heartbreak City in late October. Given that the whole EP is now released, why did you feel that it should be the lead single from the EP?
HH: The second after I wrote “Two Left Feet,” I knew I wanted it to be a single. Of course, once I sat down and picked the final six songs for this EP, I had to make sure that I felt the singles represented what was to come. I truly feel like “Two Left Feet” was the perfect lead single for this project because it’s comfortable, but still showcased this new, acoustic, funky sound I’d chosen. It’s cheeky, flirty, clever, and I’m so happy it had its own shining moment.
PC: “Heartbreak City” features the most prominent electric and drum instrumentation on its EP. Why did you decide to make it the title track and record the song in that way?
HH: I created quick demos by myself for each song before ever stepping foot in the studio. What I made for “Heartbreak City” was pretty spot on to what it is now. It’s a powerful song, but I didn’t want it to go overboard or hold it back and just do acoustic. I think we found the perfect middle ground that lets the song soar, while still being intimate and expressive.
As for making it the title track, it was a long process. I considered “Twenty-Something Age” because these songs really represent my life as I entered into my twenties. The dramatics, friendships, failures, all of it. However, I didn’t like that as much from a consumer standpoint. You have to step back and view your work as if you are the fan, and once I did that, I didn’t think it was the right fit. It closed off a large group of people that listen to my music, and I would never want them to see my EP and feel like they couldn’t listen or feel unincluded.
I had “Heartbreak City” on my mind that whole time as well, because I had this idea that each song was a building in my personal “Heartbreak City” and listeners could walk through and get to know my heart when they listen to the full EP. Ultimately, I’m really happy that I went that direction because I think it’s more appropriate and fits the EP a lot better.
PC: “Yellow House” is our favorite song on Heartbreak City. Can you talk about the inspiration behind it?
HH: I wrote “Yellow House” on December 25th of 2018. I dated a guy that lived in a yellow house and I was obsessed with it because my favorite color is yellow. This relationship was explosive and toxic, and ultimately didn’t work out, which left me absolutely crushed. I was broken for a really long time. In some cases, writing about my feelings in the moment helps me cope. However, this wasn’t the case for “Yellow House.” I had the idea for the title, but any time I would try to write it, I’d get frustrated or upset and give up because it was too fresh in my mind. I wrote three other full drafts of the song that I ended up just trashing. It wasn’t until months later that I found myself at the piano and saw the note in my phone with the title, and it all poured out. In a way, it gave me the closure that I had craved from him for so long. It was my way to tell him that I still cared and how I always felt that I’d left a piece of myself inside that house. It’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve ever written.
PC: “Start the Fight” is a song about resiliency and standing up for yourself in a way. Was that song in any way a message to yourself?
HH: Absolutely. Without a doubt. I spent so much of my life worrying about making everyone around me happy, and not hurting people’s feelings, even if it meant I was miserable. It took a very unfortunate altercation with a friend to finally learn to stick up for myself. “Start the Fight” was the end result of that. It helped me stand strong in a situation that was built to break me. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever release it, but a few days after I wrote it, I played it at a song swap. After I got off stage, a young girl came up to me and told me
that “Start the Fight” gave her hope and the courage to stand up to her bully in school. It was then that I realized that this song can empower people in vulnerable positions, just like it did for me.
PC: Since the last time we talked, you released a music video for “The Day I Stop Loving You.” What was the experience of filming and acting in the video like for you?
HH: I did a little acting in high school, nothing serious, but I enjoyed it so much that I always knew I’d take any chance I could get to act again. I had an absolute blast getting to create this world in which these two characters had this beautiful, tragic love story, but couldn’t escape the laws of fate. I got to take on this heartbreaking role and play such a serious part, and it was quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had. I can’t explain how great it feels to put a visual storyline to my song and tweak the meaning just a bit.
PC: Do you have a favorite song on Heartbreak City? If so, why is it so special to you?
HH: My favorite song is definitely “Yellow House.” It will always hold such a special place in my heart because I know the growth it took for me to get to that place. The production, lyrics, and everything fit so perfectly, and all serve as a reminder that I can come out on the other side, maybe with a few scars, but they always heal.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from Heartbreak City after listening all the way through?
HH: I hope listeners feel empowered by their emotions. They aren’t something you should hide or be embarrassed of. We all live in our own “Heartbreak City,” and you shouldn’t be afraid to let people in. You can find heartbreak everywhere you look, but you can also find strength and love, and as long as you allow yourself the time to feel and heal, you can use those emotions to fuel you.
PC: You have remained very active with posting covers, lyric videos, behind the scenes and more content to both YouTube and your social media accounts. In the midst of a pandemic where live performances are tough to come by, how important is it for you to remain active and keeping people engaged?
HH: I’ve found that posting covers and behind the scenes has allowed me to stay connected with my listeners. I love to get their input in any ways that I can, whether that be asking which songs they would like to hear, or asking for their opinions on several matters. It’s incredibly important that they know I value their time, opinions and support that they give me every day. I can’t wait to get back to live shows, but I don’t know if I’ll ever stop trying to put out the content like I have been. It builds a different type of bond.
*Hannah’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*