In 2012, when Caylee Hammack was 17, she passed up an opportunity to attend Belmont University on scholarship; her then-boyfriend convinced her to stay home in Georgia with him, much to her father’s disapproval. “I wandered around playing more shows, building a fan base, but was ultimately lost,” she recalls. At the end of 2013, Hammack packed up and drove to Nashville, where she slept in her car at a Target parking lot for weeks before getting a regular gig on Lower Broadway at Tootsies Orchid Lounge.
After two years of playing shows on Nashville’s famed Broadway and co-writing with anyone who would work with her, Hammack was introduced to Universal Music Publishing Group Nashville vp creative Cyndi Forman by her longtime ASCAP rep, Robert Filhart. Forman signed Hammack to a contract as a staff writer and a year later arranged for her to meet Red Light Management’s Mary Hilliard Harrington. “What I really love, looking back, is that I’ve had a lot of female champions,” says Hammack, adding that Harrington “helped me rebuild my life.”
In 2018, Hammack signed a recording contract with Capitol Nashville. Her debut single, “Family Tree,” arrived last year, peaking at No. 32 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. In February, she released the confessional “Small Town Hypocrite,” about the ex she left behind in Georgia; her first album, which she coproduced with Mikey Reeves, will arrive later in 2020. “The theme is the universal thought of if you’re not growing, you’re dying,” she says. “That’s something that I tried to focus on — I want to keep growing.”
This article originally appeared in the March 28, 2020 issue of Billboard.