Hit Country Artist Caylee Hammack Talks About Her New Single “The Hill” And Her Upcoming Album

Caylee Hammack
Caylee Hammack
(photo credit: Kirsten Balani)

During the past five years, singer/songwriter Caylee Hammack has been a popular country artist who has a strong singing voice and a colorful, unique personality. Perhaps best known for her breakthrough hit “Family Tree” in 2019, she has released a string of appealing singles that display her vibrant personality and quality songwriting. She also released one album, If It Wasn’t for You, in 2020 on Capitol Nashville Records.

Currently, Hammack has released a new single called “The Hill,” which is the first song from her upcoming albumt that will be released in early 2025. Hammack will also be releasing a few other songs in the coming months, leading up to her album release.

“The Hill” is a heartfelt, powerful song about a love relationship that can no longer survive. Hammack wrote this song with singer/songwriter Tenille Townes & Logan Wall, and it was expertly produced by John Osborne of the hit country duo, Brothers Osborne. Notably, Osborne is one of Hammack’s main collaborators on her new album.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Caylee Hammack, who talks about her new single “The Hill,” which is the first song from her upcoming album.

Hammack grew up in the town of Ellaville, Georgia, where she fell in love with music and started singing at a young age. When she was a teenager, she was invited by former President Jimmy Carter to sing at his private shows, and at other events. Then at age 16, she started performing live in bars and clubs.

After high school, Hammack moved to Nashville, where she landed a gig as lead singer for a band that played at Honky Tonk Central in downtown Nashville. She spent her nights singing with this band for two years, and during the day she would write songs.

It was during this period that Hammack met music exec Cyndi Forman (Senior VP at Universal Music Publishing), who became a big supporter of Hammack’s music career. Hammack subsequently signed a music publishing deal with Universal, which led to her signing a label deal with Capitol Nashville Records (which is part of Universal Music Group).

Here’s the video of Caylee Hammack’s single, “The Hill.”

Interestingly, Hammack co-wrote “Family Tree” with the intention of pitching it Carrie Underwood, but it turned out to be more suitable for Hammack to record. When she released “Family Tree” as a single, that’s when her career took off.

In addition to releasing her own music, Hammack has collaborated with other top artists. Impressively, won an ACM Award for Musical Event of the Year, when she recorded the classic song “Fooled Around and Fell in Love’ with Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Ashley McBryde, Tenille Townes & Elle King. She has also sung duets with Chris Stapleton, Reba McEntire and other artists.

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Caylee Hammack. She discusses her new single “The Hill,” her hit “Family Tree,” and her upcoming album.

DK: I read that you’re from Georgia. How did you get started with singing and writing songs?

Caylee Hammack: Well my daddy liked to say as a well-driller, “There’s something in the water down there.” There’s a lot of us who come from South Georgia. I grew up down the road from President Jimmy Carter, and he used to invite me when I was 13-16 to sing at his private shows and the usual family gatherings. Honestly, I think for a lot of us artists and songwriters, it was a village of people along the way and champions that directed us to Nashville. When I was 13, I was singing anywhere they would let me sing. Then I got a fake ID so I could play in bars when I was 16. You had to be 18 to play in Georgia. I would be playing around until I was 18 or 19, then I got a scholarship to Belmont University and I was excited to move to Nashville.

Then I fell in love with a boy in my hometown, and he said he couldh’t go on without me. So I said, “Well gee whiz; I guess I gotta stay,” and I gave up on the scholarship. But I found out a few months later that he was running around on me with a nurse on a nightshift. So I decided to move to Nashville and drove there in my car. I found a little apartment, and one night I snuck into Honky Tonk Central and I begged a band to let me sing. And I got a gig singing at night with the band for 2½ years, and in the mornings I would write songs with anybody that would write with me.

Here’s the video of Caylee Hammack’s hit, “Family Tree.”

DK: How did you sign with Universal Music Publishing and Capitol Nashville Records?

Hammack: I found my publisher at Universal, Cyndi Forman (Senior VP), who is one of the biggest champions I’ve had. In 2017, I’d been a staff writer for a while, making some songs on a $500 demo budget with a good friend of mine. But during that time, my house went on fire. I was on a writers retreat with Brothers Osborne and other artists, and my neighbor called and said that my house was on fire. That was a big plot twist. But when I got back and went through that house, it put things in perspective for me, that I really needed. It felt like a big curse, but it turned out to be a big blessing, because I realized how important it was to have the community I had around me. And some things don’t matter—as long as people show up and love you, that’s all that matters.

While my personal life was falling apart and in shambles, and with the fire I had soot on almost everything I owned for years after that. But during that time, I kept writing songs about these situations and the things I was going through. Then Capitol Records heard my music and wanted to sign me. After I signed with Capitol, it was a whirlwind for a little bit. I got to go on my first radio tour and I toured with Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan. They took me under their wing and taught me so much.

DK: In 2020, you released your first album (If It Wasn’t for You), but then Covid hit. What was that like for you?

Hammack: In 2020 we got to release an album, and we were going into a full year of touring. We were in London on tour, but then Predident Trump put the travel ban in and the shows were canceled, and we had to fly home.

When we flew back, everything changed. Me and my boys opened up a lawn care company so we could make ends meet. We did what we needed to for a little bit, and during that time I was promoting the songs and the album on Zoom. Because of that, I’m really excited now for my next album to come out, because it will be the first time that I’ll actually have a chance to play live and promote it.

Here’s the video of Caylee Hammack’s song, “That Dog.”

DK:  I like your hit song “Family Tree.” What inspired you to write this song?

Hammack: Oh, my mama has not forgiven me for that song (laughs). I hear it all the time. There’s a crazy story about how we wrote “Family Tree.” It was my first time doing a “target write,” which is where they put me in a room (with hit songwriters Troy Verges & Gordie Sampson), and the goal was to write a song for Carrie Underwood. They said, “You’re gonna target write for Carrie Underwood; she’s making a new record and she’s looking for songs.” So I listened to Carrie Underwood’s music and I‘m like…I think she’s a big family person. And her song “Smoke Break” had come out and I thought…Okay, she’s a little edgy…she drinks, she smokes. So I was like, “Why don’t we write a song about the family?” I started talking about how my sister started taking up cigarettes, and she’d go out in the backyard and smoke Camel Crushes, and hide them in this ‘ol tin pan she found out there. So it was a very redneck setup.

I was thinking about how my sister was smoking Camel Crushes in the backyard, and Mama was frying chicken in the cast iron skillet, and Daddy’s asleep. So I started telling Troy and Gordie about my family, and it just came out. And the one thing with my family is…we all have our quirks, but we love each other. There’s never been a time that somebody in our family has been in a hospital there alone. Someone is always there; we all take turns. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fourth cousin. Someone will be there for you if you’re in trouble or your hurting or sick. And it’s an incredible family to be a part of. I’m so grateful God gave me these people, because I think I needed that strong unit to be who I am.

You know, my mama will probably never forgive me for saying in the song that she burns chicken. She says she fries chicken to perfection every time, and she was upset about that line. But I think she was even more upset that I begged her to be in the music video. My mama was like, “They put pink eyeliner on me and fake eyelashes.” And I was like, “Welcome to show business, baby” (laughs). It was fun to bring my mom and dad into the video.

Anyway as it turned out, Carrie Underwood didn’t cut the song, but I’m glad I did.

Here’s the video of Caylee Hammack’s song, “History of Repeating.”

DK: You’ve just released your new song, “The Hill.” Can you tell the story behind writing this song?

Hammack: I guess “The Hill” is about the war of love, and it’s about the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s never the heaviest piece of straw; it’s not the metal beam on the camel’s back. It’s more like, “You didn’t wash the dishes tonight….you didn’t say that to me.” It’s a small thing, but it almost creates this entire battle within the two people, and it’s about loving someone so much that you’re willing to lose the battle if it means that you do not lose them. It’s like waving a white flag with a broken arm, because you don’t want to die on that hill. You would rather live to see another day and lose this argument, than lose this person in your life.

DK: Is “The Hill” one of the songs that will be on your upcoming album?

Hammack: Yes it’s the first song to come out, and I’m excited for it. I feel that this new album is truly branching into a more organic sound that I’ve always tried to create, and never could figure out how to.

With my first album, I was grateful for how it came out. But we were doing it on $500 demo budgets and we sampled a lot of stuff. We were trying to make ends meet with what we knew how to do. But now with my new album…being able to bring in these full bands, and it’s special to sit down with some great people who are so musically endowed and talented, like John Osborne.

With this new album, I’ve tried to get the best story I could and try to make memorable melodies around it, and hopefully we’ve accomplished that.

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima