As the Covid pandemic dragged along, it was easy to sit back and remain stagnant. Instead of taking that approach, though, Sam Hahn decided to pick his guitar back up and kickstart a path that has lead him to release two singles that have combined for thousands of streams and laid a solid foundation for a bubbling music career.
His newest effort, “On the Record,” is an upbeat, driving heartbreak tune that comes equipped with a singalong chorus and a thumping backbeat that’s sure to pick up where the success of his debut single, “Hell of a Ride,” left off ahead of more new music slated for release this year.
We chatted with Hahn all about both single releases, as well as his musical roots, recording in Nashville, his big plans for the year and more!
Pro Country: Your bio mentions falling in love with country music at a young age. Who were some of those early artists that you remember hearing that made you fall in love with the genre?
Sam Hahn: Great question. From a young age, my parents always had music on in the car. I remember listening to a lot of Brad Paisley and Toby Keith growing up. Brad Paisley was actually the first concert I ever went to. I remember how he held the crowd in the palm of his hands and just how incredible of a performer he was: walking through the crowd, engaging with fans and shredding his guitar. “In Color” by Jamey Johnson and “Chrome” by Trace Adkins, are two songs that I really remember having some sort of effect on me and my love for country music. Two totally different songs, but they show the flexibility and power of the genre. I also listened to a lot of Christian music growing up; bands like Third Day and Casting Crowns. Both bands are very “country like” or “rock like” in their sound, and that’s something I really was drawn to and connected with.
PC: You began playing guitar at 18 years-old and singing at 23. What drew you towards each and how soon after did you decide you wanted to pursue music as a career?
SH: I’ve always had a passion for music, but I was relegated to listening to it. I took some guitar lesions growing up, but never practiced. So when COVID hit, I had a lot of free time and just decided it was time to learn guitar. Some classes at Purdue were canceled, and they were all online for a while, so I needed something to do. I probably would not have started doing live shows if it wasn’t for my buddy Daniel Williams, who also has released a couple songs. We would send snapchats back and forth of songs we were working on, then we started getting together and practicing and he said “I booked us a show.” I was like “hold on, I am not ready for this.” But it went great and I fell in love immediately on that stage, and it just kept growing from there. So, I am still new to this, learning every day and growing as an artist.
PC: What emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to release music for the first time with your debut single, “Hell of a Ride,” last August?
SH: A lot. I was nervous, excited, scared, happy, everything. There was also a little fear going into it; I didn’t want to embarrass myself, so that was definitely running through my head. Mostly excited and nervous. One of my fraternity brothers, who is older than me, texted me and basically said a lot of guys thought me doing music was a joke, then they heard my song. That was a huge relief to hear. They say don’t worry what others say, but it is just human nature to care.
PC: “Hell of a Ride” has since earned over 30,000 streams on all streaming platforms. What was it like to tangibly see the success and support that the song received, especially with it being your debut single?
SH: I cannot put that into words. It’s just incredible. If I didn’t have the support system back home, I know I wouldn’t have the confidence to be on this journey. No way I would have released a song or played live shows. I had no idea what to expect when releasing a song, so to see 30,000 streams on my first song is just remarkable. I am truly blessed.
PC: You released your sophomore single, “On the Record,” in early February. Why did you feel “On the Record” was the right follow up to “Hell of a Ride”?
SH: I was probably even more nervous to release this song. It’s hard to follow up 30,000 streams on your first song and a song that really had great success in my eyes. This song also is much more intimate in the lyrics and the story. A lot was expressed in the lyrics and the story. Hopefully the story makes the listener feel that heartbreak and the release from that heartbreak. I think it allowed me to open the door wider in my artistry and allowed me to become more comfortable with being vulnerable in my songwriting. I hope people see that in me and see that in the song.
PC: You co-wrote “On the Record” with Sean Rogers. Can you take us in the room and talk about how the song came together?
SH: This is a great story. I sit down, and Sean says “read me off some songs or ideas you have.” I have a journal of songs and a bunch on my phone too. I’m just reading ideas off, and I come up to one and it starts out, “We’re old news like the vinyl in my living room.” And he says
“I like that, we can do something with that.” Flashback to a few years ago at Purdue, we would go to Harry’s Chocolate Shop quite often, and it is not a chocolate shop. After drinking a healthy amount, my good buddy Wade Hart and I would try to write music, most were just awful, but one of them had one good line, and that one line was used to spark this song. The beginning of “On the Record” starts out with “It’s old news like the needle in these old grooves.” So now I tell him this is his first unofficial co-write.
But beyond that, I could talk about this writing session for a while. It came so freely, we were on a roll. If you’re writing from the heart, it comes a lot freer than if you have to force an idea. The chorus is detailed and powerful, and we tried to paint a picture of what this story truly looks like. The bridge is such a powerful statement, saying you know this is the end of side A, I’m flipping the page and officially moving on, even though it’s hard.
Writing with Sean is always great. He is more than just a producer and co-writer, but an incredible person and mentor. I know I am not the only person to feel this way; he is just a great dude.
PC: You’ve been recording in Nashville. What is it like to record in Music City with so much collective talent around you and being present on the scene?
SH: Overwhelming. There is so much talent and so many incredible people, how is this song or this show going to set me apart? I wish I knew the answer, but it just makes me want to work harder and work longer than the other person. Just control what I can control and give thanks to those supporting me. It is also awesome seeing all these people with the same passion and seeing people “make it” per sé, it allows me to see there is a light at the end of this tunnel and that it is possible. Even though it is extremely, extremely tough to get that one break, the difficulty makes it enjoyable.
PC: With two single releases now under your belt, what has been the biggest thing you’ve learned about being an artist that you can bring with you into 2023 and beyond?
SH: Just to give thanks and enjoy the journey. I have gained a lot of confidence in my abilities, which I would not have been able to do if it wasn’t for my family and friends. I have learned how difficult and how important it is to take advantage of every little opportunity. Also, people love to connect with something, want to feel something, and my goal in every song, every show, every social media post is to give just one person something to connect with and feel. If I can reach that one person, it was worth it.
PC: What do you have planned for 2023?
SH: We have a lot planned: new shows, website, new merchandise, new music, new content. Follow me on Instagram to stay updated!
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
SH: Thank you for reaching out to me and giving me a platform to share just a small portion of my story! Hopefully this interview can reach that one person. It’s about more than music to me. That is what country music is about: not the music, but the relationships and the story. I also want to give a huge thanks to my sister, who has helped me with creating awesome content. She’s been one of the best pieces in this puzzle for me.
*Sam’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*
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