For years, red hair and country music were synonymous with Reba McEntire, but Caylee Hammack is here to change that. With the arrival of her debut album, If It Wasn't for You, on Aug. 14, Hammack cements herself as an incredible talent with a story all her own who has artfully turned her experiences into catchy, engaging and honest songs that will have you listening again and again — including a collaboration with her fellow redhead.
"I wanted every single song to have a direct story, a true story behind it, that happened to me," Hammack told PopCulture.com in our series PopCulture @ Home. "I wanted a plethora of feelings and emotions to be evoked when people listen to this. I wanted to be able to give them like a safe place sonically that they can just dance or laugh or cry or scream about some boy that did them wrong, whatever it is that they needed to feel, I want people to feel it."
She continued, "I think that's so important in this day and age where so much bad is happening around us that we disassociate ourselves and we pull ourselves back and we kind of put this wall between us and the world. I want my music to give them a space where there's no walls. They just listen like they can listen by themselves in the kitchen and dance to it. I want that kind of sound. I wanted to give them enough songs so that they could do that. And listening back, I think I did."
At age 19, Hammack moved to Nashville from Georgia after turning down a scholarship to Belmont University to stay in her hometown with a then-boyfriend. She snuck her way into a honky-tonk and got a job singing before being signed to Universal Music Publishing Group as a staff writer, though she soon discovered that writing for other artists wasn't the right fit for her. "It was fun, but I never felt like I got anything that they'd wanna sing or I wanna sing," she recalled. "It seemed when I just wanted to write from my heart it came out right and those are the songs that the team got excited about."
In 2017, she lost everything in a house fire, the same year her career began picking up steam. Manager Mary Hilliard Harrington heard a demo Hammack had made of what would become her first single, "Family Tree," and told Hammack she wanted to send her music to record labels. Hammack eventually signed with Capitol Nashville in 2018 and has released a number of songs all leading up to If It Wasn't for You, which the 26-year-old named as a thank-you to all of her supporters.
"I wanted to find a way that I could show people how much I appreciate them taking a chance and taking a shot at listening to a new artist and connecting with their music from the ground up," she explained of the album's title. "I feel like some of my fans have truly built a foundation and like this really strong gathering around me that I don't understand to be completely honest, but I'm just so grateful for. I just wanted to dedicate it to them. I wanted to dedicate this to everybody that has said one kind thing to me. Every man that has loved me and left me. Every single person out there listening to that connects with one song and feels a little less alone when they listen. I wanted to dedicate it to them."
You can stream or buy If It Wasn't For You here.