Music is a family affair for singer/songwriter Hali Hicks – classic country and bluegrass are just two of the many genres they enjoy together. The Georgia native has been singing with them in church since she was a toddler, even before she began to talk. At age 7, she started traveling with her family’s southern gospel group.
How has your family (daddy, mama, nanny) influenced your musical career? Do you continue to sing with their gospel group?
“My Papa Hicks played the fiddle and guitar, my Nanny Hicks sings like an angel, my daddy sings and plays pretty much anything with strings on it, my mama sings, my brother sings – and is like my daddy. He plays multiple instruments including the Banjo and Dobro and my sister plays the upright bass and sings. I grew up listening to my parents and grandparents sing and play music. I took an interest in music early in life because of that. Getting to play music with my family is always a joy and I’m so happy we still get to do that together from time to time. They play together often at churches, festivals, venues, and I join in with them any chance I get.”
Your first cassettes were LeAnn Rimes’ Blue and Dolly Parton’s Essential Collection. How would you compare their influence on your music as compared to Lynyrd Skynyrd, your favorite band?
“Getting that LeAnn Rimes Blue cassette is still one of my favorite memories. I remember the day my daddy brought that cassette home for me. He also gave me a boom box and plugged a microphone in it for me. I sang to that cassette every day at 6-7 years old. I took that cassette with me in every car I rode in even if it was just to go to the store. I learned how to yodel by listening to LeAnn Rimes. I really enjoyed her songs and the fact that she was a young singer.
I did not get The Essential Dolly Parton record until I was a teenager but I did listen to Dolly growing up. The first song I ever heard from Dolly was her version of ‘Mule Skinner Blues.’ The way she does that song is so entertaining. She is very captivating to me with her voice and with her lyrics. I think anyone who is a singer and/or songwriter can learn something from Dolly.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, ahh I just love their music. Ronny Vanzant’s voice is one of my favorites to listen to. He had a raw genuine voice. His voice makes me believe what he’s singing about. I keep Skynyrd on my iPod, even the B side songs. Some of their songs are still incredibly popular today. I mean those first 4 notes of ‘Sweet Home Alabama‘ can be picked on a guitar anywhere and it will have everyone’s attention. That’s very inspiring to me.”
When Hicks was 15, she moved to Nashville with her mom and sister. Two years later, her family needed to return home. Within a short time, Hicks made the return trip to Tennessee. After loading up her truck, her dad gave her $100 and a tank of gas from the local Farmer’s Store Gas Station. The singer got a job as a hostess, saved every penny she could to pay her bills, and within three weeks, she was working as a full-time singer. That was in 2008.
How has your music developed since your first CD “Can’t Hide Country?” Any genres outside of country that you hope to incorporate into your songs?
“Since the Can’t Hide Country album I feel that my songwriting and singing have become stronger – which I hope will always be the case. I always want to be better than I was last album or last year. I have sung other genres like Pop and people will still come up to me and compliment me on my twang. I don’t think there is any escaping the country in me. That being said, I love music! Whether it be pop, classical, rock, etc. – as long as it’s good to my ears and soul. When I write songs I want it to come from my heart so whatever genre it comes out as is what it will be.”
Down Home Pickin’ is a song about your family. Have you written any others about them?
“I have songs that I have written either exactly about a person in my family or just incorporated something about them in a song. I have a song that I wrote called 21 Salutes. My Papa Hicks, who I mentioned earlier, was a WWII veteran. He passed away in July 2014 right after the release of my EP Stealin’. That has taken a toll on me because he was such a huge presence in my life. Being a songwriter, of course, I’m going to write about something that is close to my heart. I hope to release ‘21 Salutes‘ someday.”
You play the guitar, fiddle, banjo, and piano. What other instruments would you like to learn?
“Honestly I would just like to get better at those instruments. I play the guitar on a regular basis but my fiddle, banjo, and piano playing could really use some work.”
Now she and her husband Trey juggle their music careers while making family time with their children a priority.
How do you and your husband balance the demands of a musical career with marriage/family? What do you like to do on off days?
“With a toddler added to the mix now, it has definitely made things more challenging – but we make it work. We go by the motto: God, Family, Career; in that order. We try to keep our schedules to where when Trey is playing a show, I’m at home with the boys and when I’m playing shows, he’s at home with the boys. We do miss playing music together, but we get to every now and then. Off days… hmm, what’s that? As parents, there are no off days. But any time we are not working on music in some form or fashion, we try to get in some good family time. Trey and I are often like ships passing in the night so any chance we get we try to spend together with our family. One of our favorite spots is Old Hickory Lake.”
You’ll find Hicks playing at Barlines and AJ’s (Alan Jackson’s) in Nashville this month, promoting her new song “My Ocean.” The song tells a story about life – of riding waves, but staying on course, and having faith they’ll take you to the place where you belong.