“We call it an eight-year overnight success because we had been dreaming about moving to Nashville for a long time,” says Hannah Blaylock, who relocated to Nashville with bandmates Dean Berner and Cherrill Green in 2007. The Arkansas natives met through mutual friends.
“The other day, I actually looked at Cherrill and was like, ‘Do you remember when we would drive around in Russellville, Ark.?” Blaylock recalls. “We’d say, ‘Man, it’s going to be so cool someday to move to Nashville and do what we love.’ We’d just sit there and dream about it to each other.”
Once in Nashville, they kept their performances private — with most shows taking place in the living room of the house they shared in East Nashville. By hiding out and working on their music, they say they were able to develop under the radar and curb any outside influences from seeping into their sound.
Well-established songwriter Kye Fleming encouraged them to move from Arkansas to Music City after hearing material they submitted for a songwriting competition. And she continued to champion and mentor them upon their arrival. When Fleming was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009 with credits like Barbara Mandrell‘s “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” Ronnie Milsap‘s “Smoky Mountain Rain” and Sylvia‘s “Nobody,” she asked the band to perform a medley of her compositions at the induction ceremony.
“It was such a special night for us,” says Green. “We had not at that point been playing out in Nashville at all, so it was really a showcase for us to the music industry. The entire music industry goes to those things.”
That very night, Big Machine Records’ CEO Scott Borchetta walked up and scheduled a meeting. When they arrived in his office the next morning, he offered them a record deal.
Yet looking back, they realize they almost missed their shot at the big time.
“Do you remember the night of the [Songwriters Hall of Fame] awards show?” Berner asks his bandmates. “There was a video on Tammy Wynette, and we were supposed to go backstage during that. Someone was going to come get us and take us backstage, and it didn’t happen. We looked at each other like, ‘We’re supposed to be back there.’ We headed backstage, and we had to run all the way across the backstage and grab our instruments. We didn’t have time to think about anything, about getting nervous before our performance.
“We walked out, we plugged in, and they were like, ‘… and here’s Edens Edge.’ We played the medley of Kye’s songs, and it was actually fortunate that we didn’t have any time to prepare because we would’ve probably gotten nervous. We just showed up and did it,” Berner added.
“One of the biggest challenges of performing is not letting your mind get the best of you. We were fortunate that we didn’t have time to get nervous,” Blaylock says. “The best thing that you can do is turn your brain off, just not think about it. Don’t think about the people that are out there. Don’t think about what anybody else thinks. Just have fun in the bliss of hearing the music that you’re making, not only with each other but that you’re making inside of your own body and your own fingers.”
Blaylock stands front-and-center as the lead singer, but the band’s sound is rooted in three-part harmony and unique instrumental lineup. Berner’s Dobro licks and Green’s mandolin skill give their music almost an old-time feel, even as the songs and singing are quite contemporary.
Green says growing up in a family bluegrass band helped prepare her for the big stage.
“I think my first festival I was about 2 weeks old, so I just grew up around music constantly. At festivals, you’re always going to these little jam sessions where you’re just walking along with your instrument and you just sit down and someone starts playing,” she says.
“Also, it was my chance to play in front of people. I grew up with a family in a bluegrass band, so being onstage in front of people was one of the most valuable things in becoming an artist and performer. It’s learning to wipe away the fact that you’re standing up in front of all these people. When you’ve been around it, it feels more and more natural.”
With their debut single, “Amen,” making waves at country radio in 2011, the trio hit the road with Reba McEntire, Lady Antebellum and Brad Paisley. Their dramatic video for “Too Good to Be True” is now on CMT.com, and a deluxe edition of their album is available at Cracker Barrel.
People are already approaching the band with questions on how to break into the business.
“I had a fan email me and was like, ‘What did you do in your life to get to where you are today?’” Blaylock recalls. “I started listing different things that I did, and it was overwhelming to read it all at once. I finally said, ‘I’m sorry if I’ve overwhelmed you, but honestly what I was doing was just doing what I loved. … So if it’s a passion for you, you don’t need to worry about it. You’ll want to do it when opportunities come and God will open the doors for you.’ It was crazy to see the list because it’s really proved to me that I love what I do.”