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HomeInterviewsInterview: Emotionally Evocative Singer-Songwriter Abby Hamilton Tells All About LP '#1 Zookeeper...

Interview: Emotionally Evocative Singer-Songwriter Abby Hamilton Tells All About LP ‘#1 Zookeeper (of the San Diego Zoo)’

As the sun dips low over the horizon, casting a golden glow upon the world, a quiet anticipation exists — a moment suspended before the curtains rise on another chapter of musical discovery. In this liminal space between anticipation and revelation, we find ourselves in the presence of a rising star, a luminary in the constellation of modern songcraft: Abby Hamilton.

With the release of her latest project, #1 Zookeeper (of the San Diego Zoo), Abby Hamilton has carved out a niche all her own—a sonic tapestry woven from threads of country, alternative, folk, and indie influences. It’s a journey through familiar and uncharted landscapes, where each note carries the weight of personal experience and universal truth.

Listen to the full project here.

In a candid conversation, Hamilton offers a glimpse behind the curtain, revealing the collaboration alchemy that shaped her sound’s evolution. Through her partnership with producers, she embarked on a voyage of sonic exploration, drawing inspiration from the rock legends of the ’70s and the pop sensibilities of the Beatles. At the heart of Abby’s music lies a commitment to vulnerability—a willingness to delve into the intimate moments and universal themes that resonate with audiences on a deeper level. Through her songwriting process, she captures the complexities of human experience, offering listeners a glimpse into the inner workings of her soul.

With the signing of a record deal and securing a publishing deal, Abby’s journey has reached new heights, marking a significant milestone in her career. Yet, amidst the accolades and opportunities, she remains grounded in her artistic vision, finding solace in realizing childhood dreams and affirming her creative path.

GABBI CALVERT: I want to start by saying “Congratulations!” on such a massive accomplishment with this project. It’s such a gorgeous record; there are so many different influences here, which I love. I love all these different crossover and blend in, you know, country/alternative/country/folk/indie. So, how did working alongside your producers contribute to the evolution of the album’s style?

ABBY HAMILTON: Oh, that’s a great question. I have worked so much with Dwayne Lundy. Over the years, he’s become such a great friend, and we connected because we shared similar music tastes. He’s a purist when it comes to rock and roll. He went to the table with a lot of influences from 70’s Rock, which was helpful for me in trying to create a more extensive, more expansive sound. So we did a lot of diving with some Stone Temple Pilots records or Zeppelin stuff. We’re both Dan Lanois fans, like anything he touches. So, a lot of that U2 stuff and his mixes were influential. I wanted a score behind the songs that could exist without the words, and I felt like Tony understood what I was getting at. Then Justin brought to the table a lot more of the pop sensibility and the temporary high-end stuff. So we were chasing more of that Beatles sound while the rhythm is pretty locked in deep, deep underneath the mix. So that was probably one of the biggest influences on this.

GC: Yeah, I love that. All those significant influences, and I can hear them smattered throughout. The album is “a collection of 10 vulnerable tracks, recounting personal experiences with universal relatability.” Can you delve into how your songwriting process captures more of these intimate moments and themes that help connect with your audience on a deeper level?

AH: Yeah! When I’m writing, I’m trying to find a feeling that exists in the multiple multitudes of feelings that we have…even just making a decision. So there’s a lot of things I think happen when we get to know ourselves, and I find that there’s not a lot of resolution to all these things… there might not ever be an answer. And so I think I’m just trying to find voicing for the unresolved things, and trying to take those big infinite choruses to get you real personal in the verses, to make you feel like you’re having a conversation either with yourself or someone else. I think that’s the nurturing that music does for me. And I’ve always connected to writers that write songs like stream of consciousness, where it is constantly spilling out. I wanted to try to capture something like that for my audience and give them a journal entry if that makes sense. 

GC: Absolutely. Yeah.

AH: I think that’s really what I was chasing. And I believe that innately feels intimate when you just spill your guts. 

GC:  Yes, for sure! Now, let’s talk about signing your record deal and securing your publishing deal… marks a significant milestone for your career. But how do these partnerships support your artistic vision? They have provided you with opportunities, but how do you feel those opportunities have helped your artistic vision feel fulfilled?

AH:  Well, so much of this year has been an enormous surprise. I had no idea what this record would do for me, even before those things came true. And in reality, I mean, I just started making music because I wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to write country songs that other people cut. There’s so much music happening in central and eastern Kentucky right now that I quickly realized everybody here cuts their songs. There was no one cutting other people’s songs, everyone’s writing, so that was the only reason I started singing them. Maybe if I sang them, somebody else would want to sing them…and then I fell in love with them. And you know, the publishing deal is kind of that little girl’s dream fulfilled, which is so cool. Being able to say, “Hey, I can be a career writer now, aside from the art and music I’m creating for myself.” So that was like a weight dropping off my shoulders to say, “Oh, this dream could still be fulfilled underneath all this crazy stuff,” the songs I would never sing now have a home with other people, which is fantastic. I’ve sat on it for so long and made it during COVID. To own every part of it is pretty incredible while still having the support to put it out how I want it. It is a dream come true. It equips and excites me to create because I know I have a place to put it. Even if it hadn’t happened, I think I would still be doing it and just making it, and it’s cool to be affirmed in that way. 

GC: Since we’re Guitar Girl, I want to talk about guitars. Let’s talk about what your favorite guitars to play on the road are right now. And then let’s talk about what was used on the record if we could. 

AH: Yeah, for sure. My road dog right now is a Gibson Parlor L-00. She’s awesome. I ran into this issue as we started creating a more prominent sound where it was like my acoustic needed to not be in a dreamland, songwriter tone world; it required punch. She’s a workhorse and offered a high-tenor punch through our songs, which is nice. I’m feeling the need as we’ve toured this last year for a more extensive body guitar, though, so I’m hoping to move into a guild of some sort, but she’s my day-to-day. On the record, I used the first guitar I ever bought with my waitressing money from high school when I was 18. It’s a Martin 000, she’s mahogany, and I think I got her a discount. I want to say I got her for, like, $600, and it was all the money I had…

GC: Worth it.

AH: Yeah! And I’ve had her for forever now. I’ve never really played her out, but on the record, I love this deep, rich tone of any Martin, especially a dark wood Martin. So I played her on “Fine,” I want to say “Displacer”… I think I also played her on that song. This is cool because I got to track it on the first guitar I bought. So yeah, those are the two I’m rolling with right now.

GC: Fantastic! So let’s talk about “Soccer Field.” I love the video. I love it. And I love the story behind it. Could you tell me the backstory a little bit and why you chose to put this together the way you did?

AH: Yeah! So with “Soccer Field,” we finished making the record, and it was getting ready to be mastered. I listened and said, “Man, I need more meat on the bones. I need one more song that rounds this out deeper.” I went home that night and was reminded about a dream I had about my high school soccer field burning down, which I thought was super strange because I don’t have nightmares that much. I mean, I’ve only ever dated soccer players. So I’m kind of like, what does this mean? Something’s there, but I don’t know; I just wanted to write a song about that. And then I felt it was primarily rooted in anxiety. That was a central theme on the record, as well as wanting to pay homage to when people tell you who they are. And when people tell you what they mean. Am I listening? Am I paying attention to people around me? If they’re crying out for help, am I ignoring it? So I just started this wanting to start a conversation with myself about being aware of the people around me when they need me. I have left so many people behind who told me what they needed, and I did not fulfill that need or pay attention to it. So that’s really what that song is about. And I love that it’s a scene through the lens of my high school experience, too. It’s pretty fulfilling for me in that way. I’m so proud of its production and where we got to with that song. I wanted it to be as moody and dramatic as possible, so I’m glad. 

GC: Yes, like I said, I love that video on the track! I was like, “I have to talk about it!” One more question about the album: I love how you mentioned creating fake worlds rooted in your experiences. Could you elaborate on how these worlds served as your coping mechanism during that time?

AH: Yeah, I mean, honestly, it’s mental illness. All the projecting…I realized at a young age that my immediate feelings about something, whether valid or not, are usually not true. It takes me a while to synthesize the world. I think that for many creatives, this attention-deficit brain that wants to create and tap into something greater than we are constantly, we tend to cope with our world, relationships, and responsibilities through creative fake scenarios. Anytime I would experience anxiety as a kid, I remember that it would go to just the Nth degree in the most dramatic way. I would picture my parents dying while I was a kid, and you’re like, “Okay, this is just deep, deep anxiety in the child.” So, I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been way more aware of that pattern in my life. And I can understand that part of myself; it is a part of who I am. I wanted to view myself in a better light and encourage myself to say maybe all these worlds that we’ve created, and I’ve made to deal with my circumstances have equipped me to create a quick need to go through life. Because maybe if I didn’t have that sense in myself, my life might be incredibly dull. And the more I began to share that with people, my audiences, and my friends, the more I found it to be so true of almost everyone. It’s just like because we were all trying to make something of this experience in the world, and albeit sometimes wrong, it can be perfect too.

GC: Abby, thank you so much. This has been lovely. My last question is just, what has your experience been like on the road? How has your tour experience been going?

AH: We’ve had a crazy year! We’ve perpetually been on tour for the whole year, which is insane. It’s the first year we’ve ever done it like that. We’ve had some of the most incredible experiences this year with some of my favorite artists! We just got off the road with Deer Tick; we did a four-and-a-half-week tour from Seattle to Boston. And I just have never felt more exhausted and proud. It’s so fulfilling. I keep telling people that the tour was the hardest one we’ve ever done between hours of driving. Deer Tick’s a crazy band because they’re five days on and one day off. When you’re out west, every city is 12 hours apart. I am just so proud of my crew because we just buckled up. Everybody did driving shifts. They were some of the most rewarding, fulfilling shows we’ve done. I love getting to tour with people I like; it makes me feel affirmed and encouraged, which is cool, but I am happy to be home now. We all leveled up. We’re tighter than ever as a band, and we finally got to play all these Zookeeper songs live this fall. It’s been fantastic. 

In the twilight hours of this fleeting moment, as the world holds its breath in anticipation, Abby Hamilton stands poised on the threshold of greatness.  And as her music reverberates through the night, we can’t help but wonder what new adventures lie ahead on this extraordinary odyssey.

Keep up with Abby Hamilton here.

 

Gabbi Calvert

Gabbi Calvert is a writer, publicist, and artist from Findlay, Ohio who now resides in Nashville, TN. Gabbi is incredibly passionate about all things pop culture, but her forever love is music. Following her passion for entertainment and music, she graduated from Belmont University in April of 2021 with a B.S. in Creative and Entertainment Industries with a minor in music business. Her academic endeavors led her to find a home working in music public relations and she is now a senior publicist at Publicity Nation PR. Not only does Gabbi work and thrive in the music industry, she is also a musical artist herself. She began singing and playing gigs at the age of 12 in her hometown and has an extensive background in performance. Under her stage name Gabrielle Vaughn, she has released two singles. Gabbi is also a member of the all-female cross-genre supergroup The Highway Women. In her free time, Gabbi loves spending time with friends and family, attending drag shows, and bonding with her two guinea pigs Queenie and Peach, and her cat Mitzi.

Gabbi Calvert
Gabbi Calvert is a writer, publicist, and artist from Findlay, Ohio who now resides in Nashville, TN. Gabbi is incredibly passionate about all things pop culture, but her forever love is music. Following her passion for entertainment and music, she graduated from Belmont University in April of 2021 with a B.S. in Creative and Entertainment Industries with a minor in music business. Her academic endeavors led her to find a home working in music public relations and she is now a senior publicist at Publicity Nation PR. Not only does Gabbi work and thrive in the music industry, she is also a musical artist herself. She began singing and playing gigs at the age of 12 in her hometown and has an extensive background in performance. Under her stage name Gabrielle Vaughn, she has released two singles. Gabbi is also a member of the all-female cross-genre supergroup The Highway Women. In her free time, Gabbi loves spending time with friends and family, attending drag shows, and bonding with her two guinea pigs Queenie and Peach, and her cat Mitzi.
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