Rising Country Artist Hannah Ellis Talks About Her Impressive Debut Album, That Girl, And Her Songs “Country Can” and “Wine Country”

Hannah Ellis
Hannah Ellis
(photo credit: Robby Klein)

Over the past few years, country singer/songwriter Hannah Ellis has emerged as a talented artist to watch. She has signed a label deal with Curb Records, and in January (2024) she released her debut album, That Girl. She has also had two singles, “Country Can: and “Wine Country,” that have made the Billboard country chart.

That Girl is an excellent collection of fresh and melodic country songs, that showcase Ellis’ appealing, expressive lead vocals, and her creative songwriting ability. For the album, Ellis collaborated with several top Nashville songwriters including Jimmy Robbins (whose hit credits include Maren Morris and Thomas Rhett), Parker Welling (Russell Dickerson, Thomas Rhett) and Emily Weisband (Old Dominion and BTS).

Ellis’ That Girl album starts off with “Country Can,” which is a positive, joyful song about how country music can bring people together. Another highlight is “Wine Country,” a fun, rollicking song about drinking wine and loving country music.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Hannah Ellis, about how she wrote her singles “Country Can” and “Wine Country.”


Another key song is “Us,” a romantic, upbeat song that Ellis wrote with her husband, singer/songwriter Nick Wayne. Other notable songs are the title cut “That Girl,” the ballad “Someone Else’s Heartbreak,” plus “Still” and “Somebody Else.”

Ellis was born and raised in the small town of Campbellville, Kentucky, where she grew up with parents who were both singers. She became passionate about music, and she entered talent contests when she was a teenager. And by the time she graduated from high school, she knew being a music artist is what she wanted to do with her life.

After high school, Ellis attended the University of Kentucky (in Lexington), where she received a full scholarship. Then after she graduated from college, she decided to move to Nashville to pursue her music career full-time.

Here’s the video of Hannah Ellis’ single, “Country Can.”

In 2015, Ellis had an eventful year in the music business. She auditioned for the hit TV show, The Voice, and she was invited to Los Angeles to be filmed for the next round of auditions. She did not become a finalist, but she received exposure on TV that helped her. And around that time, Ellis was offered a music publishing deal by a Nashville company. She then accepted this deal and began writing songs for her own artist project, along with writing songs for other artists.

It was in 2020 that Ellis signed a label deal with Curb Records. This led to the release of her singles “Country Can,” “Wine Country” and “Us,” and the subsequent release of her debut album, That Girl.

Hannah Ellis Interview
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Hannah Ellis. She tells how she got started in the music business, and how she wrote her singles “Country Can” and “Wine Country, and her other songs.

DK: I read that you’re from Campbellsville, Kentucky. How did you get started with music and writing songs?

Hannah Ellis: My parents were both very musical and good singers, and they were actually wedding singers on the weekends. Music was always in our house and in our family, and my sister sang as well. Then as we got older, music was something that I was really passionate about, and I started doing some contests. When I was in my senior year of high school, I realized that music is what I’m supposed to do with my life.

DK: For college, you went to the University of Kentucky. Did you work on your music when you were in college?

Ellis: I kind of developed myself as a performer and songwriter while I was there. I played any bars that would let me play around Lexington, where I would sing originals and cover music. I was also going back and forth to Nashville, because it’s only a 3-hour drive from Lexington. So I would try to schedule my classes Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so I could get to Nashville on Mondays and Fridays and get involved in the community there. Then after I graduated, I moved to Nashville.

Here’s the video of Hannah Ellis’ single, “Wine Country.”

DK: In 2015, you sang on the TV show The Voice, and you were approached about a music publishing deal. Can you talk about this period?

Ellis: I had gone out to L.A. to do the audition for The Voice. They invited me out. It’s funny—you’re out there for four weeks to film two minutes of TV that may or may not air. It’s pretty wild. Then while I was out there, I got a phone call from a publisher here in Nashville. They called and were like, “Hey, we want to offer you a publishing deal.” But it was tricky because if I actually made it onto one of the teams with the four coaches, then I wouldn’t be able to sign a contract for sixth months. So I remember calling my dad and asking, “Oh my gosh, what do I do?” He was like, “Let it play out. Tell them that you’ll be back to Nashville soon and let it play out.”

So I went and I did my audition, but I did not get a chair turned. So as it turned out, I was able to go home and sign the publishing deal. Also, The Voice actually ended up airing my audition because they liked me as a person and a personality. So it still got me some publicity for being on the show, and so it all worked out.

DK: When you got your music publishing deal, did you focus on writing songs for yourself as an artist, or did you mainly write songs for other artists?

Ellis: I’ve always been an artist, and that’s been my main goal the whole time. But when I signed a publishing deal, I knew they were paying me to get cuts with other artists, so I shifted my focus for those first couple years. And I ended up getting some cuts with Carly Pearce, Russell Dickerson and Danielle Bradbery.

DK: How did you sign your label deal with Curb Records?

Ellis: What happened was the publishing company I signed with, ended up being bought by Curb, and so they moved into our building. So their record label reps started hearing the songs I was writing. They were like, “Wait…who is this girl,” because they thought I was just a songwriter. And my publisher at the time was like, “No no no… she wants to be an artist.” Then the relationship really started building in 2018 and 2019, and I signed with Curb in 2020.

Here’s the video of Hannah Ellis’ single, “Us.”

DK: You’ve recently released your debut album, called That Girl. Can you talk about the making of this album?

Ellis: They say that you write for your first album your whole life, and I think I have to agree. That’s because all the songs that made the record truly were my heart, truly are my best work. And I wanted this project to be really authentic to me, and I think I accomplished that.

DK: I looked at the writing credits for your album, and you’ve written with top Nashville songwriters like Jimmy Robbins, Emily Weisband and Parker Welling. Can you talk about your songwriting process, and your co-writing?

Ellis: I think what’s funny…I’ve been writing with a lot of those people for 10 years. They know me and they know my stories, and they know how to help me tell my stories. It’s been really fun to dig deep with these people. We write everything from fun party songs like “Wine Country,” to the heartbreaking and truthful “Too Much And Not Enough.” And I think that it’s been so much fun to grow as a community, and to find my people that I love to create with.

DK: In the past two years, you’ve made the Billboard charts with two singles: “Country Can” and “Wine Country.” First, how did you write “Country Can”?

Ellis: With “Country Can,” we were at the beach at a writer’s retreat, and there was a lot going on in the world that was making people feel really divided. And we were being constantly reminded of how different we all are. We were chatting about the idea that country music is something that brings people together, from all walks of life. And not only across the country but across the world. That’s where the concept came from.

The first part of the song is about how much fun “Country Can” could be, and the fun pieces of it. Then for the second verse, I wanted to capture all the important moments that we tend to attach to country music and songs in general. So I love that song so much. It was a huge song for me to really introduce my artistry, and my passions about being a country artist.

Here’s the lyric video of Hannah Ellis’ song, “Someone
Else’s Heartbreak.”

DK: Your song “Wine Country” is one of my favorites; it’s fun to listen to. How did you write this song?

Ellis: Wine Country” was just so fun. I wrote that one with my husband, Nick Wayne, and another friend of ours. And from the moment we started writing it, Nick looked at me and said, ”This is gonna be your personality song, because it really is.” I joke that I’m boozy country and dirt roads sophistication. I’m raised in Kentucky around fishing and boats and farms and all of that. But at the same time, I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world, and I’ve definitely developed a taste for some of the finer things. But you can’t take the country out of me (laughs).

DK: I like your song “Us,” which was your first single to country radio. Can you tell the story behind writing that song?

Ellis: That song is so special to me, because it was my first single to country radio. It also came out the day I made my Opry debut, which was another sweet moment in my career. That song is just about my husband and I. We met around two months into my living in Nashville, and we became really good friends and started dating, and we eventually got married. And it’s so fun because our story is one that so many people in our lives, whether it’s friends or fans…only know us together. And with “Us,” we wanted to capture all of those things that people know are gonna be together forever.

DK: Besides the songs we’ve discussed, what are your favorite songs on your new album?

Ellis: Oh my gosh…there’s so many that I love. There’s a song on called “Still” that I think is so special, because it’s written from the perspective of one friend to another. And it’s me trying to say to my friend, “Hey girl; he has not changed, no matter how many times he’s apologized and tried to come back into your life, it’s not gonna get better.’ So I love that one…I think it captures a particular emotion and something that we’ve all experienced, which is watching our friend go through heartbreak. And there’s another song that I love called “Somebody Else,” that I wrote with Nick. I joke that it’s a love song for people who’ve been in love for a while, because it’s about how sometimes that person can get on your nerves, and maybe it would be easy to say, “Well so and so’s boyfriend or husband does this.” But you wouldn’t rather have anyone else.

DK: I want to ask you about your live shows. I read that you’ll be playing shows in Germany, and then coming back to the U.S. for more shows. Can you talk about your live shows and touring?

Ellis: Yes I’m so excited about playing some shows overseas. We have a week in Germany…we’re going to be in Berlin, in Cologne and Munich. Then we’ll fly from Munich to London and play some shows there. And it’s so fun to spend some time with my international fans. I get messages all the time, saying “Please come here so we can see your show.” It’s harder to play shows overseas, but when it works out it’s really exciting.

Here’s the link to Hannah Ellis’ site: https://www.hannahellismusic.com/

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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