Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
As the perennial pop vs. traditional stylistic debate rages on in the country format, Capitol Records has chosen to introduce newcomer Jennifer Hanson with a single, "Beautiful Goodbye," that is more pop than country and has inspired Sheryl Crow comparisons. But Hanson's eponymous debut album, due Feb. 18, also has some solid country songs on it that may placate purists.
Regardless of style, Hanson's songwriting shines throughout the album, which she co-produced with Greg Droman and on which she co-wrote nine of the 11 songs. She wrote several with husband Mark Nesler, a prominent Nashville songwriter/artist.
Fletcher Foster, Capitol senior VP of marketing in Nashville, says part of Hanson's initial appeal to the label staff was that her songwriting "was incredibly strong. To have a new artist who knows what they want to sing about and the material is [already] there, you're already at first, if not second, base."
A sexy video for "Beautiful Goodbye" has received extensive play on CMT and Great American Country and the single has been on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart for more than five months -- not considered an unusually long time anymore in the country format. It has finally begun to kick in and is No. 21 on the tally.
For a country singer, Hanson comes from an atypical background, which is reflected in her music. She grew up in Southern California with a guitarist father who spent years on the road touring with the Righteous Brothers, followed by 16 years and counting touring with country supergroup Alabama.
Hanson moved to Nashville in 1995 and spent two years in a development deal with RCA Records, which ultimately did not pan out. Even before moving to Music City, she would make frequent trips there to try to launch her career. However, she says she was "too young and too pop for what was going on at the time." She persevered, determined that "what I was writing about lent itself more to the country market.
"A lot of artists and writers who are trying to find their way try to second-guess what they want to do," she continues. "When I stopped doing that and started making music I liked, that's when things took shape for me and began to make sense."
Hanson has had the benefit of learning about the music business both from her father's experiences and from seeing Nesler lose his record deal when his former label, Asylum, shut down.
"The main thing I learned from my dad is that this is a job, and it's a hard job. It's a lifestyle you really have to want," she explains. What she learned from Nesler's experience is that "the rug can get jerked out from under your feet at any moment. I try to approach this business with a realistic outlook."
Still, she says, "I always felt like this [career] was tangible for me. Growing up around the guys in Alabama and watching them play for 60,000 people seemed normal to me."
Excerpted from the Jan. 11, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.
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