Hannah Kerr is a recording artist who has toured with Matt Maher, Casting Crowns, and Building 429. She just released her first album, Overflow, digitally. (Hard copies come out on April 14th!) Oh, did we mention that she’s a full-time college student? Say what? We had the chance to sit and talk with her about her story thus far, plus breaking down a few tracks on her upcoming album.
TDB: How did you get started in music and what brought you here?
Hannah: I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember! My parents are both worship leaders, so I grew up in the church with worship music. I lived in Buffalo, New York my whole life until high school. Being a “singer” was never something I thought I could do; it was never something feasible. I was like, “Man, I live in Buffalo, which is basically Canada! There’s no music here!” So it was never something I thought I would truly do. Then I moved to Nashville for my dad’s job. (Not even for music or college or anything!)
All of this just kind of happened. I’ve led worship at my church for about five years, and I got connected with a producer through that. (His name is Mark Miller, he rules.) I just started making music slowly and recording songs here and there. Now it’s kind of spiraled into this awesome journey of touring and making music. It’s been cool!
TDB: Are you surprised with how things have gone since you came to Nashville?
Hannah: Yes, totally surprised! It’s one of those things where I look back and I’m like, “Okay, this is a dream I didn’t even know I had, but God has been planning this for as long as I’ve lived – and even before!” He has known that this is what He is preparing me for. That is cool, thinking about how God uses every single moment in our life to lead to our purpose. I feel like this is what God has given me to do, like this is my purpose right now. Which is really cool.
TDB: It really is! Did you know you wanted to record an album? How did Overflow come about through all of this?
Hannah: I didn’t know I was recording for an album. I just was recording songs that I was writing! We weren’t sure what was going to happen, if it was going to be an EP or just a single or what. It ended up that I recorded about 30 songs, which is crazy! Just through the process of years of writing and stuff. It just compiled into this album that I decided to name Overflow. There is a song on the album called “Overflow”, but the title is more than just that song.
I truly wanted each and every song on the album to be a reflection of God pouring peace, grace, truth, and joy into me. And then, allowing that to fill me up so much that I have no choice but to overflow all of that into the lives of the people around me. This album really is just my prayer of, “God, teach other people the things that you’ve taught me. Let people experience you in this way I’ve been able to in these last few years.” So yeah – it was kind of a no-brainer as I was praying through my album and what I wanted people to really get out of it. Overflow really rose to the top.
TDB: We love that! Did you know you wanted to be a worship artist when you decided to get into music?
Hannah: I didn’t! I actually went through (and still am, kind of) a process of asking God who I am in music and what he wants me to do. I started off being like, “I could only do worship music because I could never do pop music – I’m not cool enough for that!” But what I’ve learned is that you don’t only have to be one thing; God can use you in many ways. My album is kind of riding the fence of pop and worship. (Mostly worship, but a little pop, too.) I think it’s been cool to see God grow those passions in me for pop music, who knew? It’s so awesome to see how pop music can bring people in – maybe people who would be afraid to dive into some worship music if they’re not quite there yet. But they’re not afraid of pop music because it makes them feel joyful, happy, and that can lead to a much deeper place with God. It’s been cool to figure out where I fit with all that.
TDB: Were there any songs on the album that were hard to write or sing?
Hannah: Yeah, I think every song was pretty hard to write because it’s so hard to fit this big truth that God has impressed on you into a three-and-a-half minute song! That is SO HARD for me! I’m like, “Gosh, I could sing for ten years about this one thing!” I think all of them are a challenge to condense down into a 3.5 minute song that still conveys the same thing. But I think that’s a beautiful thing too, because songs are not meant to be the end-all be-all! That leads you to ponder that message and ask God what He thinks about it. I realized that this wasn’t all they’re ever going to hear about this and that they’re going to hopefully seek more on what God says about that. A few songs came out really fast though, “Undivided” specifically.
I wrote the whole song on the way to a co-write, which had never happened before. It was like God downloaded it into my brain on the co-write, it was just crazy! I was singing and just sang the entire chorus – what you hear on the album is what that first voice memo sounded like. I was obviously not going to change it because God specifically gave me those words and that melody on purpose. Songs like that were really hard to write. “Be Still and Know” I felt like was such a big thing, an important truth for us as believers. I got in the room with my co-writers and said, “What can we say about this? We’re not going to hit everything, obviously, but what’s important for us to say about this?” We spent days writing that song, but I’m happy with how it turned out!
TDB: That is one of our favorites! Plus it has Mark Hall on it! Did you know you wanted to have him in a softer tone kind of following you in that song?
Hannah: Mark was involved in the whole process of my album just because he’s been mentoring me for the past two or three years. I knew I wanted him to sing on the album, I just wasn’t sure which song. After Mark went through his journey with cancer and all of that, it just seemed like “Be Still and Know” was the obvious choice. He brings maturity to that song. I wrote it about my friend who was stressing out about paying for college.
A lot of people can obviously relate to that, and she was just asking God if He would provide for her. I wrote it for her, and to have Mark’s voice on that, to have the maturity of him saying, “I just went through cancer and I’m still saying ‘be still and know’ in that time.” So I was overjoyed that he wanted to sing on that song. I think he definitely, 100 percent, makes that song better than it would have been if I would have just sung it on my own. It’s really special to me, and Mark is so cool!
TDB: The fact that you had his story and then the story of your friend sort of overlap in that is amazing. One song many of your fans are familiar with is “Warrior”. What was the story behind that song?
Hannah: “Warrior” is one of the only songs I didn’t write. My friend Alyssa wrote it about a friend of hers struggling through cancer. I think we all know someone who has struggled with cancer, or something like cancer – really big and bad. Her friend did end up passing away.
This song really for me can be a lot of things; it can relate to a lot of struggles. Cancer seems to be rising to the top of people who latch onto this song. I’ve had people come up to me at meet-and-greets or reach out to me on Facebook saying this is the song they listen to during chemo treatments or Dialysis treatments. To me, that makes music worth it. If I can be the voice of hope in that moment, something so hard and dark, that to me is why God allows us to do music in this way. I’ve never had cancer, but I’ve dealt with a lot of fear in my life – especially about music. It’s something I didn’t know that I would be doing. I just had a lot of fear like, “What if I fail?” or “What if I’m not good enough?” What if all of these things that the devil puts in our heads of just being insecure about stuff. But, at the end of the day, we have to fight back against that. Fear is not of God, so “Warrior” is my declaration saying, “Yeah, I may be dealing with a lot of fear right now, but that’s not going to stop me from what God calls me to do.”
TDB: Wow, to be able to be that voice of light is such a privilege. We feel like “Warrior” is our anthem, too! One thing we really want to know is how you pick songs for your YouTube covers. They’re so fun to watch!
Hannah: I literally just pick songs that I love! One time I asked people on Instagram to vote for songs in the comments. I ended up doing “Thy Will” by Hillary Scott because that’s what they wanted! I pick songs I hear on the radio or songs I hear at church. Just things that are beautiful. I like to do those as a “Hey, this is me singing a song that’s not mine but that I love.” So yeah, those are really fun. I actually just did one by Bethel called “Lion and the Lamb.” I like that I can hopefully reach more people with music that isn’t just mine.
TDB: We enjoyed that “Thy Will” cover. We heard a lot about it this Fall at award shows, but it was neat to hear it done a new way! So, you’ve been on some pretty incredible tours lately! Recently you were on tour with Casting Crowns and Matt Maher! What was that like?
Hannah: Well, it was kind of like this: I woke up every morning pinching myself. I was like, “What the heck? This is my life? I am dead.” It was crazy, it really was. Casting Crowns was the first concert I ever went to as a fan. I love Casting Crowns, they’ve been my favorite for my whole life. It was just crazy, especially as a new artist who hadn’t released music, that Matt Maher took me on a tour. I think those are examples of God’s favor and his faithfulness if we just trust Him. I thought, “Oh no, who’s ever going to want to take me on tour? No one knows who I am!”
But to have Matt Maher call me and say, “I know we’ve never met before, but I really love what you’re doing and I would love to take you on tour!” I was like, “Seriously? ‘Lord I Need You’? ‘Your Grace is Enough’?” And for Casting Crowns, to be such a fan of them, and truly be on the other side of the stage to being friends with them? Sometimes I would just look over at Mark Hall and be like, ‘You’re Mark Hall. Do you know you’re Mark Hall?” And he’d be like “Stop.” (laughs) It’s crazy, just so crazy. I’ve learned so much from them. As a new artist, you need nothing more than learning from more established artists. Those are totally moments where you can say it’s a God moment. I was at Bridgestone Arena here in Nashville and I remember looking out thinking, “Lord, you have brought me here. There is nothing I have done except offering what I have to you.” To look out and see all of these thousands of people and knowing He was letting me reach them was super cool.
TDB: Are you planning on doing any more touring?
Hannah: Yes! Right now, because I’m in college full-time, I can’t really be on a full-time tour after the Crowns tour and Building 429 Christmas tour. I decided to take a break from being gone all of the time and just be gone about two weekends a month. So I’ve been trying to do womens’ and youth conferences. I open for Brandon Heath in a few months in Colorado, random things like that. In the Summer I’ll do festivals like a lot of artists do, and in the Fall I get to go on another tour. But I don’t know who I’ll be going with yet!
TDB: Thank you for giving us your time, and we look forward to talking to you again soon!
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