At just twenty-two years old, Hallie Long knows how to write more than a song. The singer/songwriter from south Alabama turns the moments that matter the most, and the words we need to hear in the darkest of times, into melodies everyone can relate to.
Long first started singing when she was around four years old while her father ran sound for their church in town. Singing, especially from such a young age, aided in Long’s coming out of her shell as a little girl to embrace her own ideas about the world. “It didn’t matter if it about was what we wanted for dinner, or how I felt about something that had nothing to do with me,” she recalled fondly, “I had an opinion about everything”. Long continued to sing for fun as she grew into an adolescent, and then Taylor Swift came onto the scene, “I thought at first there’s no way a little, small town girl can go out and chase a dream that big.” Though Swift and Long’s styles are drastically different, the All-American songstress’ early success struck a chord with Long.
As daunting as it seemed, Long persisted in pursuing her dreams of being on stage with a mic in her hand. Singing eventually lead her to finding her voice as a songwriter. “I remember in school and in church I’d zone out and start writing poems and things.” It wasn’t long after she started composing songs in her head that Long’s father bought her a guitar to assist in her music making. “I started playing and writing just for fun, but one day I wrote this song and I sang it for my parents and they were like, “That’s really good!” I looked at them and said, “Hopefully it is, because I’m going to be singing it at the CMA Awards one day.” From that moment on I felt a connection with Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Jo Dee Messina, Reba McEntire. I love the way they vocalize their emotions—their stories.”
Long’s musical influences are varied, and each serve their own purpose for her. “Reba McEntire is an influence vocally, but lyrically and emotionally it would be Miranda Lambert because she’s a queen. Jason Isbell. His writing really makes me feel. What he says is what I want to say. I’ve always reached out for honesty, and I think that’s helped me form what I want to say as a songwriter, and how I want to say it, and not be afraid it doesn’t fit the radio. I could live my whole life and never make the radio and I could be perfectly okay with that.”
How Long made her way from singing in her bedroom at home to the stages of Nashville is an incredible story of chance and faith. After graduating high school, she’d been working for Coca-Cola and planning a vacation to Music City just for fun. “The week before my vacation, I went down to Panama City, Florida with the guy that I was dating at the time. We went to this bar and they were going to play a song, and he said, “I want her to sing this song, I’ll tip you.” I got up and sang the song, and the guy on stage looked at me and he goes, “Who are you? Where are you from? Why do you not live and play in Nashville?” I giggled and I was like, “I’m nineteen, I have $5,000 in a 401k and I make $65,000 dollars a year. Why would I move to Nashville and work a job that’s not even real? How would I make a living?” He said, “My full-time job is singing,” and I was like, “I don’t believe you, but I trust that you’re trying to be honest.” I thought he was trying to coerce me or something, but he said, “No, I’m serious. Can you be in Nashville on Saturday?” And I looked at him and I was like, “What?” He said, “Can you be in Nashville on Saturday?” I was like, “I’m already going to be in Nashville on Saturday.” He said, “Perfect, I’ll have you a full-time job. Pack your house.”
Not knowing what to do with the potential opportunity, Long made her way back to her hometown and told her parents about it the next day. “It just made so much sense. They all helped me. I knew I was going to be gone for a week and I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew if I didn’t do it, I’d never go.” She packed up her things and headed to Nashville for a temporary stay. “I came to Nashville that Saturday just in time to audition at Tootsies, because that’s where the guy had worked. I messed up all the words but the manager looked at me and he’s like, “You got some work, but if you want the job, it’s yours.” Three years later and I’m still here.”
Long didn’t how or when she was going to get out of her hometown and follow her dreams to Nashville; she wasn’t even sure she wanted to, but she took that leap of faith and God provided. “I didn’t even know if it was a door that was going to be open for me, but I always knew that where there’s a will there’s a way. God will provide as long as I work as hard as I can.” Long needed an open door, and whenever one didn’t, she waited for the next. Whenever she gets discouraged and considers leaving town, she’s reminded that the way she ended up in Nashville in the first place was all part of God’s plan for her. “A lot of people ask, “Are you where you want to be? Have you made it?” And I’m like, “I make a living playing music. I just spent two weeks in Key West playing. I live in a beautiful cabin and I have my other house here. It can’t get any better than this, but if it does, I’m okay with that, too!”
Like many, music, for Long, has been her greatest means of therapy on top of providing her with a great career. “There’s been situations in my life where I could have given up. I could have checked out and had every excuse for it, but music saved the broken parts of me,” she revealed, “Emotions are so natural and so freeing. I’ve always wanted whatever I write and whatever I talk about to be something that somebody could hear and go, “Ya’ know what, I’ve had a moment just like that.” I’m not talking about the sitting on the back of a truck bed, drinking a beer moment. I’m talking about the it won’t end that way moment.” So, she did just that, and packed the moments that matter into the six tracks of her first EP, Truth Teller.
As perfect as her journey to Nashville has seemed, Long has definitely had her fair share of those moments. With her car packed and her spirits low, Long wrote “What If I Don’t” the day before she was to leave Nashville behind and move back to Alabama. “I had worked so hard and I felt nothing. I finished writing that song and put it up on the internet on a Sunday, and it got 15,000 views in a week. The only thing I can really tell you that I remember from that week was the hundreds of messages from people going, “This helps me.”
“Even Better” was one of the last songs that Long wrote for her latest EP. “The writing process was an organic moment for me where I sat down and I said, “I never write a song without my guitar.” It started out with how I always feel like it’s a fight against the world, because I’m so stubborn. I had a couple verses written and the only person I could think of was my Grandmother and my Nana on my mom’s side. They get what they want, how they want it, and if they don’t, you’re going to know about it. I’m a lot like them that way. People always tell me that that’s going to be my downfall if I don’t learn to loosen up, but I don’t want to loosen up. My grandmothers are doing just fine. Funnily enough, I called my grandmother earlier that day that I wrote the song and I said, “I feel like me being this stubborn is a good thing. It’s got me so far. But, it doesn’t help with my relationships with people.” The song wound up as a lyrical representation of Long’s disposition; a heady mix of strong headedness, heart, and her own emotional brick walls. It is a disposition most women, including her two grandmothers, can relate to and learn from – a quality that puts the song at the top of the favorites list.
Whether it is wrestling with our own emotions with “Even Better”, the excitement of a new relationship with “Into You” or the heartbreak a love that just won’t work can bring with “The Love He Has”, there is something for everyone on Truth Teller- a quality not often found in albums released today. Long is a living homage to the queens of Country’s past with her honest, vulnerable lyrics and her powerful voice. You can find Long’s first EP on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon Music, and be sure to follow along on her musical journey on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!
Contributor: Morgan Pynn