Making Choices — The Hobbs Sisters’ “What If It Was”
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The Hobbs Sisters were always singing. Hannah and Lauren have always had a love for harmony. Whether adding it into cover songs or writing it into their original music, harmony has become their signature sound.
Your paternal grandfather, Pappaw John, played the banjo and guitar ‘by ear.’ Growing up, which country songs did you sing along to when you visited your grandparents?
Some of our earliest memories of our grandparent’s house are singing with our Pappaw. He never had any formal training, but could play the guitar and banjo by ear. When we would visit our grandparents, he would always bring out the guitar, so that he could play while we sang along. Sometimes he would play “sing-along” songs and one of our favorites was “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain.” He also loved country music and we’d sing songs by some of his favorites, Brooks & Dunn and George Jones.
Singing in church to a barbershop quartet in high school. How have these influenced your music style?
Singing in the children’s choir at church was the first place we ever sang in public. Our church was one of our first audiences and it really encouraged our love of music. As we got older, we continued to look for outlets to perform and put together a barbershop quartet in high school. Performing with a barbershop quartet really helped us to develop our ability to harmonize. We had always loved to sing together and being in a quartet really sharpened our skills and gave us a better ear for harmony. As we moved on to writing our own songs, we tried to keep harmony as a main feature of our sound.
Peters Township, Pennsylvania. Your dad’s influence as a country music fan. Which fairs, festivals, and venues were your favorites to attend?
We attended our local fair, The Washington County Fair, frequently when we were growing up. They brought in bigger country artists and had local acts perform as well so we always enjoyed seeing the entertainment every year. Our Dad has always loved country music and he also took us to some of our first country concerts when we were growing up. One of our favorite places to see concerts was at the Post Gazette Pavilion (now The Pavilion at Star Lake), which is a larger outdoor amphitheater right outside of the Pittsburgh area. We got to see Little Big Town, Sugarland, Keith Urban and more acts we love at that venue.
As a duo, we are vocally and harmony driven, which has a big impact on the songs we write. We are drawn to melodies that can showcase harmony and both of our voices. Lyrically, we have always loved the authentic storytelling part of country music, especially with writers like Tom Douglas and Lori McKenna. We hope to express that kind of emotion and honesty in our own songs.
It is always such a great experience to be on a show with artists that have been performing for a long time. We had the chance to open for Charlie Daniels in 2017 and learned so much from being a part of that show. From his ability to entertain the crowd to his humble and approachable personality off stage, it was very inspirational to watch.
We started writing and performing while we were in college, but it wasn’t until after we graduated that we started to grow as artists and songwriters. After graduating from college, we decided to return to Pittsburgh to focus on touring with a band and learning how to perform. We also made frequent trips to Nashville to find co-writers to work with. This was an important turning point for us, as we had only written songs with each other before then. Finding other artists and writers to work with helped us grow as songwriters and develop our sound as a duo.
Singing competitions are a great way to make contacts, both in the industry and with your peers. Win or lose, competing in singing competitions have always led us to other opportunities and connections with new writers, artists or industry professionals.
The business side of the music industry as independent artists. What strategies have helped you build a solid career foundation?
Building our fan base and fan engagement has been really important for us as we try to build our career. We’ve learned to really take advantage of everything social media has to offer and constantly try to find ways to connect with our fans.We incorporate a lot of Facebook Live concerts, Q&As and interactions on social media to really build a solid connection with our fans.
Released “Never Find Another” one year ago and followed it up with “Since I Met You” last August. How have Nashville writes and writer’s rounds helped you expand your artist network?
For us, writes and writer’s rounds have been an important part of expanding our network here in Nashville. Finding and working with different writers allows us to be creative with our sound and the songs we write. Writer’s rounds are also a really great way to meet other artists! It’s a lot of fun to hear other artists’ sounds and songs and we usually end up finding more people to collaborate with.
If you were to write a one paragraph promo for “What If It Was” (co-written with Sean Swenson) for radio, what would it say?
“What If It Was” asks the familiar question of what if we had never broken up. The catchy melody takes the listener through the nostalgia of an old relationship and brings up the question of whether or not a relationship may have worked out. The Hobbs Sisters’ powerful harmonies are paired with an energetic arrangement that makes this song one to remember.
Working within the pandemic restrictions was definitely a different experience. When we record our songs usually the band is together in the same room so that was one challenge that we encountered when we recorded this fall. We were able to record at our producer Ben’s studio and made some modifications by putting fewer people in the room at the same time and utilizing vocal booths to record guitar parts and vocals! Even though it looked a little different we’re so thankful we were able to get together with everyone and make music.
Upcoming shows including the Local in May and the Clearfield County Fair, with Russell Dickerson and Jameson Rodgers, in August. Where is your dream venue and which artists would fill the show’s lineup?