11 Questions to a Nashville Musician: Mmhmm (Raelyn Nelson & Hannah Fairlight)

Raelyn Nelson & Hannah Fairlight (aka mmhmm)So, “mmhmm” is no longer just an unconscious interjection, but is now also the name of the new musical pairing of Raelyn Nelson and Hannah Fairlight. This singer-songwriter duo has recently released their self-titled debut record which is being called “Americana-Pop” and can best be described as light-hearted fun ear candy! With most of the songs sung in two-part harmony to sparse acoustic accompaniment, they together create a new third voice for their clever songs!

It’s a loose record full of quirky studio banter, pretty melodies and catchy hooks that’ll make your cheeks hurt from grinning so much. Their set of original tunes is augmented with a cover of REO Speedwagon’s “Take It on the Run” that just might make you rethink the song which since MTV went away I’d never thought I’d have to hear again!

Both gals have noteworthy backgrounds in that you probably own records by Raelyn’s grandfather and you’ve probably seen Hannah on television. I’m so delighted that they have agreed to answer my 11 Questions, and the pair have put together quite a good read for us all! I can’t wait to see them play live!


Where are you from originally, when did you move to Nashville and why?

Raelyn: I was born and raised here in Nashville. My mom was working at a radio station as a promo girl, and my dad was on the bus with my grandpa when he visited the radio station. That’s where my mom and dad met. They fell in love, got married, and raised me here.

Hannah: I’m the long-winded one. So, get ready! Ha. I was born in Lufkin, TX and grew up in the Midwest. I’d lived in several different small towns in Indiana, Minnesota, and Iowa before graduating high school from Grundy Center. I didn’t really know exactly where I wanted to go from there except that I wanted to go to the biggest, most extreme places in the world. I just wanted to see and learn.

I wound up living in Peru for a year with a host family before moving to New York City. My time in South America and New York taught me pretty much everything I needed to know about the world, and people, and survival. I started gigging in New York and doing audio recording for film and television and working every job I could get my hands on just to get by. The rat race was really energizing, and I had the energy for it. My wanderlust still got me. I traveled the world a whole bunch and spent extended bouts of time in London and Sydney.

But, I always wound up back in New York. And, I kept hearing all my musician friends talk about Nashville. I had passed through a few times, and it seemed to have this underground energy about it. So, when I got a long-term audio gig down in Atlanta, I started gigging up a storm, playing almost every night after work, just to get better and create a little hype. And, I would drive up to Nashville every weekend to work with a producer on my first “real” solo album.

It was during this time I caught wind of a music reality show being filmed in Nashville (Crazy Hearts: Nashville). I finagled my way into an audition, wound up on the cast, and bam. There was my reason to move to Nashville. This was pushing six years ago. I had this instant feeling when I got here that I wasn’t leaving. It felt like home, and the perfect place to work on my craft; Surrounded by incredible musicians and artists and without the rat race of having to work so goddamn much, like in New York. The east side of Nashville reminds me of Brooklyn which is a good fit for me, the way the city has exploded keeps my metropolitan and cultural side satiated. The smallness keeps me close to my roots.

What are the first and the last records you bought, and where did you buy them? Were they CD, vinyl or digital?

Raelyn: The first CD I bought was ‘N Sync. I think I bought it at the record store in the mall. It was $19.99 and, I used babysitting money to get it. The last vinyl record I bought was the album Them Vibes at one of their shows at Family Wash here in town.

Hannah: The first records I officially bought were on cassette tape. It was at this place near Winsted, MN called Treasure Hunt. I wonder if it’s still there. Anyway, I was dazzled by their tape collection. I think I picked up some Go Go’s and MC Hammer. The last record I bought was Jenny Lewis’ The Voyager on vinyl, and a bunch of used CDs from McKay’s including Another Side of Bob Dylan and a Joan Armatrading album.

First and last live concerts that you’ve seen?

Raelyn: Papa Willie was my first concert(s) ever, and since we just opened for Whiskey Shivers, we got to hang and watch their show after.

Hannah: First was Weezer in the Quad Cities. I got them all to sign my pink joggers and Brian Bell let me have his coat ‘cus it was bitch ass cold.  Last would a been Whiskey Shivers, who we opened for at The Burl in Lexington, KY a couple weeks ago!

Whose star should be added to the Music City Walk of Fame?


Hannah: Waylon Payne! Raelyn Nelson!

Where do you go in Nashville for coffee and pizza?

Raelyn: For pizza, I like Five Points or Two Boots who has a great sauce on their vegan pizza. I like cold brew from Sip Cafe in East Nashville.

Hannah: Pizza is Five Points Pizza, but a good traditional New York slice calls for Joey’s House of Pizza across town. Coffee is Sip Café in East Nashville. Best brew in town.

What’s your favorite record to ever come out of Nashville?

Raelyn: Them Vibes

Hannah: Oh man. That’s hard. Ha ha! I really love Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline and Beaucoups of Blues by Ringo Starr. We spin them a lot here at home.

Where’s the best place to eat late night after a show?

Raelyn: Dino’s Bar

Hannah: Beyond the Edge or Dino’s for bar food, good beer, and a cool scene… Five Points for a slice and good beer. Oooooh, and Duke’s. Holy late-night deli sandwich Batman!

The Bluebird calls and asks you to host an “In the Round.” Pick three local songwriters to join you.

Raelyn: Hannah Fairlight, Jonathan Bright, Micah Nelson (He’s not exactly local but I could get him here.)

Hannah: Raelyn Nelson, Jenna McClelland, Dave Pahanish, Alex Haddad of Them Vibes!

What are your favorite music venues to play in town?

Raelyn: The 5 Spot, The Basement, and The Family Wash (but it shut down).

Hannah: The Basement is pretty much my favorite. I love The 5 Spot and The Basement East too. We’ve loved playing at Lipstick Lounge and places like Third and Lindsley and Exit/In as well!

Name a musician who you’d like to see move here?

Raelyn: Amy Nelson

Hannah: Kelley Jakle and Jessica Origliasso!

Finally, what’s in your musical future?

Raelyn: I will write and play songs I write for the rest of my life.

Hannah: Write, record, play, repeat. Write, record, play, repeat.  Light, love, grace, and understanding! Mmhmm.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: