When midwest native, Hannah Fairlight, moved to Raelyn Nelson’s hometown of Nashville, TN, the people of the village kept confusing them for one another so they formed a band sometime in mid-December of 2016.
The pair have individually gained a lot of traction with their solo projects but the universe pushed them together to form an acoustic duo that is “clever as the dickens” and “envelope pushing” (Nashville Arts Magazine). Their “modern day Hee-Haw Show” has grabbed the attention of the Nashville music scene with features in the East Nashvillian’s “Women in Music” issue that claimed mmhmm was “the breakout duo of the year.” With catchy melodies, pretty harmonies, Fairlight on acoustic guitar, Nelson on ukulele, both donned with chaps, it’s no wonder that the pair have been voted the “Cutest band around” by local publications. What makes the talented duo work so well?
“There are no “no’s” in mmhmm”- Fairlight says. “mmhmm”- agrees Nelson.
As an emerging female country artist in Nashville, history suggests that the quickest path to success is somehow aligning oneself with one of the major publishers, producers, songwriters, labels, or managers that are the heart of Music Row. So what do you do if you are an emerging female country artist in Nashville, and also happen to be the granddaughter of musical icon, Willie Nelson?
You hook up with an independent producer and veteran of the rock/punk scene, write some songs that are part Loretta Lynn, part Cheap Trick, and form the Raelyn Nelson Band.
Raelyn Nelson has been singing since she can remember. Having been raised on a steady diet of traditional country and gospel music, a gift from her grandpa in the form of a guitar during her teenage years was the inspiration she needed to begin writing her own country and folk songs.
Looking for a place to record these songs, a mutual friend suggested JB (Jonathan Bright), a veteran of the underground rock scene and independent producer. After recording some of these early songs, they decided to try to write some things together and see what happened. The result? A completely fresh and original sound, a true hybrid referred to by some critics as “Country/Garage Rock.”
When they aren’t recording their songs or making music videos, they are on the road taking their high energy live show to the people. Having shared the stage with such diverse musical acts as country superstar Tim McGraw, indie rock icons Drivin’ n Cryin’, and jam band supergroup Hard Working Americans, the RNB is proving that you don’t have to fit neatly into any particular “genre” to find success.
“I don’t really have any desire to be a ‘solo-artist’. Everyone in my family who plays music has always placed a lot of importance on band chemistry, on stage, off stage and in the studio. Our band can almost read each other’s minds. Why would I mess with that? We try to keep it simple: Write songs we like, record them, make a video, then go out and play them for people.”- Raelyn Nelson
What’s new in Nashville? Not country. Not even rock. In fact, it’s something completely different and hard to categorize. Hannah Fairlight – a Midwestern/New York City girl turned TV-personality and original music pioneer – is busy paving a Bright Future in Music City.
After landing a leading role on A&E’s Crazy Hearts: Nashville and releasing a self-produced EP reminiscent of Jack White’s raw rock sound, Fairlight went on to work with legendary rock producer Michael Wagener (Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osborne, Motley Crüe) before landing the role of Veracity in Universal’s new Pitch Perfect 3.
“I needed somewhere smaller [than NYC] to build and hone my craft. And to stand out,” says Fairlight, who played her first ever show at notorious punk club CBGB, and features electric guitar and saxophone solos over Fender Rhodes loops in her live shows among other surprises and tricks. “People always ask me what genre my music is. I never know how to respond,” says the Bowie-and-Patti Smith-inspired young rocker. “I like to take risks and keep it interesting, for me and for the audience.”
And interesting she has kept it. After snagging Ryan Adams’ old rhythm section (Brad Pemberton and Billy Mercer) for her band, and capturing the attention of Michael Wagener while singing a Led Zeppelin song at weekly Nashville rock show Thee Rock N Roll Residency hosted by guitarist Jeremy Asbrock, Fairlight is out to create an entirely new musical playing field.
“The industry is stale and uncertain. Many artists are clinging to uninspired formulas because investors are mostly putting money toward “safe”, copy-cat strategies. I’m completely disinterested in doing anything “safe” or in the box. That’s not where all the great ideas in history have come from; they have come from ingenuity. My mission is to make good art, and to inspire [young] people to make their ideas heard, creating a greater, stronger, brighter future for us all, despite what “the industry” is doing or not doing.”