hether it is in the genes or learned through environmental means, new Capitol recording artist Jennifer Hanson seems to have both the pedigree and the experience to handle what country music fame has to offer.
Hanson released her self-titled disc Feb. 18, actually a couple of months after the single "Beautiful Goodbye" captivated the airwaves.
"It's been a lot of fun and very exciting," says Hanson in a telephone interview from the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville the day after her album was released. "It's been very busy and hectic, but in a very positive way."
It would be difficult to imagine that she hasn't been fully prepared for what she is now experiencing. Her father, Larry Hanson, began playing music on a national stage more than 20 years ago.
Unfortunately, his adventure out on the road as a guitarist for the Righteous Brothers coincided exactly with his divorce from Jennifer's mother Melody. This happened when Jennifer was just 7 years old and the family was living in La Habra, Cal., just outside of Los Angeles.
In that world, her influences were more those she picked up on the street as the only white girl in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood.
When Hanson was in the second grade, she got her first real stage experience singing Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" in front of a school audience with her father in the band.
Shortly thereafter, her father left the Righteous Brothers and relocated to Nashville to be part of the backing band for Alabama. That started Hanson's path to Nashville, even if at first it was only a few weekends at a time.
"My dad made the move to Nashville in 1987, and I started coming to town in the early '90s," says Hanson in her Capitol biography sheet. "We'd circulate around and try and meet people, trying to find songs and get my voice down on tape. I was a young teenager (14), and this was before LeAnn Rimes, so Nashville considered me too young."
Sometimes the obstacles thrown into a career path turn out to be good omens in the long run. "Timing is a very crucial element," says Hanson. "It took me some time to find out who I am as an artist."
But she did have some doubts that it would ever be the right time for her. "When you work so long and so hard for something, at times you wonder whether it's ever going to pay off," she says.
Yet her experience with her father made her a bit wiser than some of the neophytes in Nashville. "It really helped that I grew up around that lifestyle," says Hanson. "I know about the glamorous elements, but I also know how hard the work is. I know that you have to want it very badly and have to be willing to sacrifice for it."
When she finished high school, she was even more immersed in music. She attended Fullerton College studying the music business and recording engineering. She didn't complete her degree before moving to Nashville permanently in 1995 because she had no desire to sit through classes in the core curriculum.
Hanson jumped in with both feet. She learned to play guitar and three years later signed a publishing deal with Acuff Rose.
"Writing had a really big appeal for me," says Hanson. "Until I started writing songs and bringing that creative process out of me, I don't think I had a lot of focus and direction. Writing helped me figure out who I was. It is the most important part of what I do. I hope to continue that long after any career as a singer might end."
Her passion for the writing end of the business can even be found in her current listening tastes. "The people I listen to for pleasure now are Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Kim Richey and Shawn Colvin," says Hanson. "I gravitate toward the singer/songwriters."
Her singing style was greatly influenced by singers as varied as Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Patsy Cline and Harris.
In 1997, she met Mark Nesler, courtesy of an introduction from Tracy Byrd, for whom Nesler was playing guitar. The pair started writing songs together. He had penned Tim McGraw's "Just To See You Smile" and Darryl Worley's "I Miss My Friend." Nesler also had a recording contract with Asylum Records. They became friends, later fell in love and then married in June of 2000.
Hanson got another taste of Nashville's less pleasant side when Asylum folded, and her husband was without a label. "I watched as his record deal fell apart," says Hanson. "It was just the worst timing for him as it could possibly be. It just turned his world upside down, but that's just the reality of the business."
She and Nesler work successfully as a songwriting team, and three of their collaborations appear on her debut. Two other Nesler compositions are on the disc as well.
"I might be a bit biased, but I think my husband is one of the best songwriters in town," says Hanson. "He makes me want to be a better writer. It's not that much different working with him than it is any other writer. I just show him as much respect as I would any of the other songwriters I work with. Our relationship really works. We have a great friendship and a great writing partnership. Songwriters are who we are. We talk about it all the time. The one thing different about working with him from other writers is that we can get up at 2 a.m. and write, and we have done that."