Hannah Mac has been chasing her dreams since the day she told her parents she wanted to be a singer. She was 7 years old.
She was 16 when she signed a songwriting deal with a Nashville label. Performing under the name Hannah Michelle Weeks, she opened for stars like Darius Rucker and Kenny Chesney.
Now 26, the Stanwood native has a new stage name — Hannah Mac — to go along with a different musical direction. Her debut single as an indie pop artist, “For You,” was released Aug. 9.
Along with her music career, she also runs a web design business, Design by Hannah, and is a motivational speaker.
Here, Mac talks what led to her to switch from country to indie-pop.
Tell me about your new indie-pop project.
I took two years off from music to redefine my identity. Since the age of 7, I had the label “singer/performer” attached to my name, and as grateful as I was for it, I knew I had come to a pivotal point in my career — one where I would choose to set down music entirely. During the two-year break, I did a lot of healing. I also married my wonderful husband, Petey Mac, who at the time was a transplant in Nashville from New York. Pete is a DJ and producer, and we shared a deep love of music from the very start of our relationship. When we recently moved from Nashville to Seattle, we were both inspired to finally make some music together. It was our love for bands like The 1975 and Nightbeds that fueled this new indie-pop sound.
Was it scary to step away from the foundation you’d built with country music?
Absolutely. It was initially scary when I made the decision to step away from music altogether, but I also had a peace about it because I was certain in the decision. As far as switching genres, to me that wasn’t scary. Over the past few years, I’ve grown to have such a connection with indie-pop, I knew it was the next genre for me. Because of my current writing style, it felt like home.
Tell me about when you decided you wanted to be a singer.
When I was 7 years old, I invited my parents and my older brother to gather downstairs in our family living room so I could perform a few songs for them. After belting out a couple of my favorite Celine Dion tunes, I announced to them my news: I was going to be a singer. I then spent the next 16 years getting to perform hundreds of shows around the U.S., writing songs with hit writers in Nashville and speaking on national platforms.
Why did you pursue country music?
I fell in love with country music because the ‘90s country songs I grew up listening to (Martina McBride, Alan Jackson, etc.) had meaning. The artists and writers always told stories through their songs, which made them so relatable. I knew at a very young age I wanted to write the kind of music where you could say something and your audience would be listening — that was country music. I also had a little twang in my voice when I was young — I’m still not sure where in the world that came from. Neither did my parents.
When did you start making waves in the music industry?
I was 16 years old when I signed my first publishing deal for songwriting with Golden Vault Music. I was just a girl from Stanwood hanging out in Nashville writing with hit songwriters — that experience was something else. A year prior I had made my very first trip to Nashville, where I started working with hit songwriter and producer Tim Johnson, who became my beloved mentor. We worked together for five years before he passed away from cancer in 2012. Tim’s guidance, kindness and wisdom made a forever lasting impact on my life.
After I signed my publishing deal, I started getting opening gigs for artists like Darius Rucker and Kenny Chesney. The fan base I built led me to be able to eventually headline venues such as the Hard Rock Cafe, The Triple Door and The Waldorf Astoria in New York City.
I had music for everyone. Whether you were 12 or 65, I wrote music that could touch everyone and anyone. I wrote songs about relationships (good and bad), rough times, loss, hope and having strength when life gets hard.
Tell me about your time in Nashville.
I lived in Nashville just shy of six years. For the first few years, I wrote a lot of music and chased after the industry. Then, after I set music to the side, I dove fully into my business Design by Hannah, which I was able to turn into a full-time career. I also married the love of my life. Shortly after our wedding we were ready for a change — career wise and scenery. We both love the outdoors and family, so Seattle it was. Seattle was the perfect place to spend time with family, especially after I was gone for six years, excel our careers and spend a lot of time outdoors. We sold all of our belongings, packed up our car with everything we could fit and our two dogs and drove across the country.
How does your new music as Hannah Mac differ from what you’ve made in the past?
This new music is me in my unfiltered, raw, emotional musical headspace. There’s no box, no expectations — just my pure love for the details of music.
Tell me about “For You” and what inspired it.
“For You” is about the misconception that we need to numb our feelings so they don’t bring out our insecurities because we think our insecurities will drive away the people that we love. And no one wants that. I am deeply thrilled to give you a glimpse into this side of vulnerability like I never have with my music before. If you need a soundtrack to confuse-cry it out to, this track is “For You.”
What’s it like for you now as an indie-pop singer?
This time around, I don’t feel the pressure that I did when it was my full-time career. This time I am just trying to make great music with no strings attached.
With this new music I want to create tracks that move people’s emotions — like those deep “this is the song I need to cry to” emotions.
Evan Thompson: 425t-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.