Caylee Hammack Lets Life Experiences Guide Her On New Album, ‘If It Wasn’t For You’

This is Caylee's story in song...

Caylee Hammack Lets Life Experiences Guide Her On New Album, ‘If It Wasn’t For You’
Caylee Hammack; Photo credit: Piper Ferguson

Caylee Hammack released her debut album, If It Wasn’t For You, on Friday, August 14th. The album’s 13 songs are packed with Hammack’s clever and relatable songwriting, as well as stories that are entirely true to her real life. From tales about her childhood, to stories about heartbreak, to fiery songs about life, the Georgia-born artist infuses her personality and vulnerability into every word.

“I wanted every single song to have a real, true story behind it that I can tell onstage or in an interview and explain where every single lyric came from,” she told Sounds Like Nashville in an exclusive interview. “In Nashville, so many times you just go in a room and you write something to write it. I wanted to make sure the songs I put out were my stories because I feel like your debut album is like a name tag you put on at a new party.”

Caylee Hammack; Cover art courtesy of The GreenRoom PR

These truths are shared in many forms, including in “Family Tree,” an upbeat song about her upbringing in Ellaville, Georgia, which was released as her debut single in 2019. Then there’s “Redhead,” which finds Hammack living her dream of teaming with Reba McEntire to sing a redhead anthem.

While some tracks tell her story through a more upbeat lens, Hammack also delves into some of her biggest heartbreaks and losses on the project. In “Forged in the Fire,” which was inspired by a fire that ravaged her home in 2017, the singer describes how to rise from the ashes of life. And in the genuine “Looking For A Lighter,” Hammack sings of unintentionally finding a few items in a junk drawer—such as an old fake ID and letters from a past love—that cause locked away memories to start flooding back. These stories are set to music that is also deeply personal, as the production features nods to Hammack’s influences, including Loretta Lynn, Sara Bareilles and David Bowie.

Hammack sums these life experiences in “Gold” and “New Level Of Life,” the last two tracks on the album. The former is a short, emotional song in which Hammack reflects on her heartbreak, singing, “If pain is art, you gave me gold,” and repeating the album’s title, “If it wasn’t for you.” She continues this phrasing in “New Level Of Life,” but turns it on its head, telling an ex-love that if it wasn’t for him, she wouldn’t be where she is now. For Hammack however, “if it wasn’t for you” extends to everything that has made her who she is today: her struggles, her family, and her fans.

“If it wasn’t for my dad who was a dreamer and my mama who’s a realist, I wouldn’t be exactly how I am. If it wasn’t for the boys that I dated that broke my heart time after time, I wouldn’t have been able to love as full as I can now,” says Hammack. “If these people weren’t willing to click on a YouTube video of a new artist they’ve never heard of, if they weren’t willing to listen when Spotify shuffles my song into their playlist, if they weren’t willing to listen, I could not get to do what I love.”

As a whole, If It Wasn’t For You acts as an introduction to Hammack as a person and an artist, and the singer hopes that through her story, listeners can feel empowered to find that same vulnerability.

“I hope that through this album I have been as honest and as vulnerable and as candid with emotions and how I feel and what I’ve been through,” says Hammack. “I hope that I’ve put out enough of that so that people feel like they can truly be 100 percent themselves and unashamed of that when they’re at my concerts and when they write to me. I want to hear people’s stories, and the only way I can hear their stories is if I tell them mine.”