Caylee Hammack On the Scorched-Earth Romance of ‘Just Friends’

Check out this country-meets-thrash-rock jam.

Written by Chris Parton
Caylee Hammack On the Scorched-Earth Romance of ‘Just Friends’
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JUNE 07: Caylee Hammack performs at Ascend Amphitheater during 2019 CMA Music Festival on June 07, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images)

Newcomer Caylee Hammack takes fans on an emotional thrill ride with her new track, “Just Friends.” The thrash rocking country anthem was released digitally in May and finds the Georgia native regretting a romantic shot in the dark — but it’s not all pounding drums and scorched-Earth vocals.

Speaking with Sounds Like Nashville before her show at Ascend Amphitheater for the 2019 CMA Music Festival on June 7th, Hammack described the inspiration behind her ear-splitting new standout, and how its delicate, heartbroken intro tends to fool listeners into a false sense of security.

“It was one of those situations in which if I had listened to my mama, none of this would have happened,” Hammack says about the song’s backstory. “I kept going ‘I should have listened to my mama. …’ It was a guy who I had been good friends with, and when he confessed his love for me I thought ‘Well why not? You can’t live your life in fear.’ So we took a chance, and we should have been just friends. I think we would have been much happier that way.”

Starting off with warbling vocals and tender strains of acoustic guitar, the track quickly transitions to a grungy, power-punk jam just before the first chorus — grabbing attention and never giving it back. Hammack, who’s explosive live show has been honed by years of four-hour sets on Nashville’s Lower Broadway, says watching fans experience the emotional about-face from sadness to rowdy anger is one of her favorite parts of each performance.

“Being able to translate that angst onstage is electrifying,” she says with a mischievous grin. “It’s so much fun to start off kind of sad and slow and everyone starts looking at each other like ‘Oh God, a slow song.’ As soon as they get up to go get the beer, that’s when the band kicks in with the electric guitars and the big hit, and to me, I love making people snap their heads back to the stage.”

“Just Friends” follows the edgy, autobiographical story song “Family Tree,” currently out at country radio as her first single. Both of the refreshingly original tracks will be part of Hammack’s upcoming self-produced album debut, and she says it will be all listeners need to figure out who she is as an artist.

“I think the best thing an artist can do is be themselves,” she explains. “That way others feel the courage to be themselves in a world that tells them what they should be.”