Have high expectations for yourself, but never expect perfection. Find musicians that are better than you, and play with them as much as you can.
With a voice like Natalie Maines (The Chicks) and the spunk of Loretta Lynn, Hannah Juanita delivers tales of love, loss, and lonesomeness. Born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Hannah Juanita spent nearly 10 years roaming the country before settling in Nashville. She has shared the stage with legends like Robby Turner (steel player for Waylon Jennings) and Lynn Ousley (steel player for Ernest Tubb, Wanda Jackson, and Johnny Cash) as well as Rolling Stone featured musicians like Neil Jones (of American Aquarium). Her music video for “Our Love is Done” (a single off her debut album, Hardliner) premiered on The Boot and featured bluegrass queen Sierra Ferrell. Known for her female empowerment lyrics and natural country/bluegrass twang, “her specific style of inflection and rich, resonant voice make her stand out” (The Boot).
When she’s not playing Nashville’s iconic honky tonks, Hannah Juanita enjoys swimming, hiking, biking, and exploring the Tennessee countryside with her rescue dog, Loretta.
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
I was born and raised in Chattanooga, TN, just a couple hours SE of Nashville. I had a fairly typical and happy childhood. My whole family lived pretty close to each other, so I’d see my grandparents and all my cousins every Sunday, when we’d all eat at my Nana’s house after church. I remember running around barefoot a lot and drinking out of the water hose. I sang at church and in choir at school. My grandfather played guitar and sang, and I still have his guitar today.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I moved out West when I was twenty-two, lookin’ for adventure and freedom. By the time I was thirty, my boyfriend at the time, two of our friends, and I all bought land together in Washington state. I was supposed to be living the dream, but I was pretty miserable. Life was hard on the lan (no running water or electricity) and I was in the wrong relationship. But my sadness, there in the foothills of Mt Rainier, got me writing country songs again. I’d sit alone in my cabin by the woodstove and write while it rained. Eventually, I chose to leave and head back to the South to pursue music. It just felt like the right decision at the time. . . and it still does.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I hopped in the van last minute to go to Huntsville, Alabama with my friend Sierra Ferrell for her show at a venue there in town. We got there a few hours early and were hanging out. Folks started coming in to take their seats, and Sierra and her band were about to start playing when suddenly there was talk of ME playing some songs. The owner of the venue wanted me to get up and open for Sierra, so I did! It was even more of an adrenaline rush than performing usually is because I was not expecting to perform at all. It was really fun, and I got my own show at that venue after that.
Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?
You never know who you might be hanging out with in Nashville. . . and sometimes you might not even know who you’re on stage with. There are living legends that still walk the streets and grace us with their presence at the bars and honky tonks. I remember one night — I had only been living in town for a couple months, and a dear friend and fellow performer, Timbo, called me up to sing a song during one of his sets. This is a common thing to do, it’s a part of our culture. So anyway, Timbo always has a really great band behind him, and that night was no different. I got up, sang a song, and walked back to my table, and a friend of mine leaned over and said, “You know who that pedal steel player is, don’t you? That’s Robby Turner, touring steel player for Waylon Jenngings for his entire career.” I was floored. I’m a huge Waylon fan! I was really glad to find that out after I sang and not before, because I would have been nervous. Robby is a wild man with some amazing stories.
Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.
We have a thriving honky tonk community in town, far from the chaos and drunken debauchery that is downtown Nashville. People of all ages gather for Honky Tonk Tuesdays, to two-step and listen to the bands. We’ll get surprise visits and performances from people like Emmylou Harris or Vince Gill. It’s always a really special and meaningful night when that happens.
My first landlady in Nashville was a grammy winner.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I used to play open mics in Asheville, North Carolina, I played a song I didn’t know that well. And my ear wasn’t as developed, so I couldn’t really figure the chords out as I went. I kept messing up very obviously in the chorus, so my bright idea was to give it another unnecessary go at the end and play through the chorus once more for kicks. By the end, we were all laughing and, at the time, I thought it was pretty funny. Now it’s kind of embarrassing. Thinking back on that moment, I know I’ve learned to stick to the songs you know when playing live 🙂
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Wow, I feel like there’s at least a hundred people popping into my head right now. So many people have encouraged me along the way, even in little ways that they don’t realize. But above anyone, I’d have to say my musical partner, Mose Wilson. We’ve been playing together for a couple years now, and he plays guitar in my band and helped me produce my album, Hardliner. I go to him about everything, any question I have. Any decision I have to make, I really want his opinion on it first. I don’t always listen, but I definitely want to know what it is. 😉
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am finalizing a handful of new songs and getting back into the recording studio soon!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- There will always be shows that you feel great about, and there will always be performances you don’t feel great about.
- Have high expectations for yourself, but never expect perfection.
- Find musicians that are better than you, and play with them as much as you can.
- Listen. Listen. Listen. Your ear is your greatest asset as a musician.
- You can’t please everyone.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Self care and balance! I sometimes feel burnt out, or my version of burnt out — super anxious about being a public person — and I realize it’s because I have gone on autopilot work/create/produce mode. That’s not what being an artist is about, though it’s easy to get caught up in that dynamic in today’s world of social media, where everyone seems to be busy and always on their A game. Taking time for myself and staying connected to my feelings is when I make the best music.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The end of plastic grocery bags! Who needs ‘em? There’s paper bags, canvas bags, reusable bags made of recycled plastic — so many other better options! If we did away with plastic grocery bags, it would make a big difference on the state of our planet.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Buttons come, and buttons go.” — Eric Litwin
You can find some of the best wisdom in children’s books. This quote reminds me that things are always changing and evolving — people, places, relationships, the way we feel. Nothing stays the same. Sometimes we lose people down the road or we lose little pieces of ourselves, but that’s just how it is. It’s best to keep that in mind and not get too attached to the way things are currently because buttons come and buttons go, and we gotta keep walking along and singing our song.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-).
Loretta Lynn. I would just love to hear her story coming from her own lips.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!