It will be a homecoming of sorts when Nashville-based HanaLena plays Rent Auditorium tonight as part of Mississippi University for Women’s Spring Homecoming. HanaLena, sisters Caroline and Hannah Melby, are natives of Starkville where the band formed as the popular Nash Street. But after moving to Nashville and changing their moniker, the Melby sisters have released their self-titled new album. You can order it at http://hanalena.com/
The Melby’s have been touring up a storm and the sisters were gracious enough to do an interview before tonight’s show.
For more information on the free show, call (662)329-7148.
How has the move to Nashville been? Is it what you hoped it would be?
Caroline (C): It was certainly an adjustment, but we are loving it. There are musicians everywhere! I’m studying at Belmont University right now, and that has been an amazing experience. Two of our band members were also students there.
Hannah (H): I knew I would like it, but I didn’t know how much I would love it. I am in love with Nashville. That city has everything I need right now. It has great people, great music, and amazing opportunities.
Have you gotten used to the name change?
C: Surprisingly, it was a really easy change. I thought it would take a long time to set it, but once we decided on HanaLena, everything fell into place. I think that’s how we knew it was the right decision. A few people at each show just assume my name is Lena now, so I guess I picked up a new name in the process!
H: We debated the name change for a long time. When we finally made the switch we were really nervous. We didn’t know how our fans would react. Luckily, we have great fans that embraced the new sound and the new name. We feel more like ourselves with the new change.
Is it tough being in a band with your sister?
C: I wouldn’t have it any other way! Going on the road for long periods of time is so much easier, because we always have our sister with us. Don’t get me wrong, we have our share of cat fights, but they only last about five minutes tops before we have completely forgotten about them.
H: I agree with Caroline. I wouldn’t have it any other way. We have become closer as sisters and as friends. It’s a really cool life to share with her. We get to see the country, meet new people, and play with each other almost every weekend.
How do you stay grounded and focused when the music industry is notorious for enabling self-destruction?
C: A clear vision is the key. Hannah and I have had lots of conversation about where we want to go with our music. We believe that there is a place in the industry for what we have to offer without trying to be something we’re not.
H: It’s a hard thing to do. We have been in the industry for so long. It helps that we started at a young age. We have seen some people move to Nashville and not be able to handle the long hours playing, the nights on end living out of a suitcase, and not seeing our friends for a while. We couldn’t imagine it any other way though. It is what we love to do!
Do you watch “Nashville?” Is it a realistic portrayal of your adopted home town?
C: I’ve actually really gotten into the show! We see the actors and actresses around town all the time. Parts of the show are actually very similar. However, I don’t know of anyone who has every gotten a record contract in the mail. And the music industry is not as dramatic as they make it out to be, but it makes for a good story!
H: I hate to say it, but I love the show. I watched it with a friend one time thinking it would be hilarious. Being from Nashville, some parts are really funny. There are surprisingly a lot of truths to the show. We run into Hayden/Juliette Barnes out in Nashville.
What artists inspired you to start performing?
C: Nickel Creek was my first musical obsession. I always loved music and loved playing it, but once I saw Nickel Creek live, I developed the itch for the stage!
H: Reba! I was a little red headed girl that thought she was the greatest thing ever! I will always consider her one of my greatest inspirations. The main inspiration to start playing the fiddle was seeing my great grandaddy’s fiddle on my grandmother’s shelf at her house. I remember first noticing it and being curious. My grandmother told me stories about when her dad would play the fiddle for her and how she loved to hear it sing. I was hooked. I didn’t just want…I needed to play the fiddle!
What’s your favorite song? What song do you wish you had written?
C: My favorite song changes depending on the mood I’m in. Right now we are driving down the road, so I am really loving Fleetwood Mac’s “Bleed to Love Her.” But ask me tomorrow and it will completely different!
H: Man, that’s a great question. My favorite song changes like the weather in Mississippi. Little Big Town and the Punch Brothers have been in my CD player a lot lately. I love the harmonies on LBT’s album and The Punch Brothers just blow me away musically. I think the song I would have liked to write would be Garth Brooks’ “The Dance.” That song is beautifully written. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you listen to, everybody can relate to the message that song conveys. “Our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain, but I’d of had to miss the dance.” That is just perfectly put.
Beyonce or Miranda Lambert?
C: Beyonce!! That girl has some soul in her voice that cannot be matched.
H: Both!…but if I had to choose I think I would pick Miranda. She is the same Miranda that started out in this industry years ago. I respect that she is comfortable in her own skin and she doesn’t take no for an answer. She also has that sassy side that I relate to! Haha
Do you look forward to performing in the Golden Triangle?
C: We love coming home to the Golden Triangle! The people in that area are just the best.
H: There is nothing like playing for a hometown crowd! We love it! We still remember playing in Columbus at a young age. It’s nice to come back to the communities that have supported us throughout our career. We have changed names and changed the state we live in, but our roots are still in the Golden Triangle.
Tell me about the new album — where did you record it and who produced it?
C: We recorded our new album in our producer’s studio in Nashville. Bil Vorndick is the producer, and he has been a part of so many fabulous albums, including Alison Krauss & Union Station and also Rhonda Vincent.
H: Bil Vorndick produced the new album. It was unlike any other recording experience we have had. He is an incredible producer and engineer that is respected in the music industry. The setting was incredible too. It was on top of a mountain right outside of Nashville. We were fortunate to have some of the most amazing musicians play on our album. The guitar player was Josh Williams. We actually met him years ago when we opened up for Rhonda Vincent in Columbus. He was playing with her. You could say Mississippi was following us to the studio.
Roll Tide or Hail State?
C: Hail State of course! You can ask any of our Nashville friends. We can get a little annoying with our enthusiasm for the MSU Bulldogs. That won’t ever change.
H: Is that even a question? I think I was dressed in a MSU cheerleading outfit to every football, baseball, basketball, volleyball, etc…game there was when I was young. I have three cowbells at my house in Nashville. That will never change!
Is there really a station in every town that’s playing Cash, Hank, Willie and Waylon?
C: If there is, then I haven’t heard of it! Many of the songs on country radio refer to those greats, but I grew up on the greats like Reba, Garth, and Blackhawk. I think there should be more songs about those guys.
H: haha I wish! I love the idea of that. When we are on the road, we always scan the radio stations in each town we go to. There’s a lot of great music out there these days. A lot of people will argue that it’s not country. It’s definitely not the country that I remember singing to as a little girl with a hairbrush as a microphone. You have to respect the natural change in music. It’s what has allowed new styles and new artists to be introduced to the world. I do miss the greats that my grandmother an granddaddy used to play for us though. There’s nothing quite like hearing Dolly and Porter, Hank, Willy, Waylon, Merle, Patsy, and all of the legends that paved the way for us.