Nashville songwriter Jesse Daniel Edwards and local LA film actress Hannah Leigh are pairing up and will be in town for a special gig December 12 at Hotel Cafe! They call their band Two Hannahs, after themselves; turns out that Jesse would have been a Hannah if he had been born a girl, so their friendship and collaboration was in fact destined to be. Their harmonies are delightful and songwriting is richly poetic, so their upcoming LA show is not one to miss.
We had a chance to get to know Jesse and Hannah ahead of the show, which you can read all about below. And Thrillcall is also excited to be giving away a pair of tickets for a lucky winner and their friend to attend the show! Download the Thrillcall app and set your location to Los Angeles to find the contest and enter.
Thrillcall: With a name as clever and serendipitous as Two Hannahs, one wonders how you met. What inspired you to join forces for this project?
Jesse Daniel Edwards: Hannah and I met at summer music camp when we were younger and we basically had the seeds right off the bat of what would grow into our formula. Hannah would bring in a song idea, I would add my bit to it, back her up on guitar, and then we’d let the harmonies takeover from there. We are both complete nerds for harmonies, and that’s something we have shared from the first time we sang together at camp. We hadn’t seen each other in a few years, but our first writing session when she came out to Nashville turned into a song (“He Never Leaves”) that we both fell in love with.
Hannah Leigh: Jesse really helped me as a writer. Before we met, I had no idea what went into making a truly rich song. I had lyrics and melodies, but Jesse taught me how to create a fabric that would make a song not just music, but more a feeling. I remember being fourteen asking him for help with lyrics; all he said was something along the lines of, “your song needs furniture, an empty room needs to be furnished. Look around the room, take it in and see what you need to add.” I remember not really understanding what he meant, but trying my hardest to turn my “heartbreak about my first kiss” into furniture in a room and then turning it into a song. It happened, I’m not sure how, but it did. And now, writing together, years later, it’s incredible! We have so much furniture!
TC: Have you performed together before?
JDE: There was a last minute pop up show in Nashville, this seated dinner show, and we were the showcasing act after a songwriter’s round. We had rehearsed for a few hours maybe is all. The audience went from being talkative and kind of not really paying attention to so quiet you could hear a pin drop, listening to every word by the time we sang the first chorus. It was trippy for Hannah and I, because it was the first time we’d really done a full show together, and we hadn’t seen each other in ages. So we were pleasantly surprised just like the audience. When we got an encore to do another song, which is really rare for Nashville, we were like, “um, I don’t think we have any more songs.” We had a blast that night, and we’ve just kept going since then. It’s a very natural, fun, and expressive collaboration. We laugh a lot when we write, and when I look over at Hannah on stage, we’re thinking and feeling the exact same things.
TC: Your joint Soundcloud page has a few uploads of recognizable tracks that Jesse had written before. Is Jesse the principal songwriter for Two Hannahs, or have you both split the duties?
JDE: When we were prepping for our first impromptu show, we only had one song we’d written, a couple cover ideas, and then my stuff that I had been working up with my Nashville band. A lot of those songs were well suited for harmonies, so we just built from there, adding more and more co-writes as we’ve spent more time writing as a team. Our personalities and experiences are pretty synced. When we started writing together this summer, we had both just gotten through these awful, recent breakups. So we were both very much in the same rough patch. We more or less just spilled out everything we had been feeling, but that had been hard to say. Music is great for that. I think the process of writing that first round of songs really helped us understand more what we were feeling, and heal. It also put forward some material I am personally extremely proud of.
HL: We more or less write together. With our sets we like to have a solid mixture of lead vocals on songs for each of us (paired with harmonies), as well as a few duet types or covers. So often times I’ll come in with some lyric ideas and Jesse will do some magic on the guitar, and we’ll tweak it all until it turns out right. Or he’ll come in with a song and we’ll work on it together. It’s a team effort for sure. But we both are on the same page pretty much with emotion, lyric depth and sound, so It makes it easy in the long run to create stuff that we’re both passionate about.
TC: Jesse said in an interview with Daily 49er that songwriting was your way of having fun, having grown up in a remote area without TV or video games. What keeps you writing these days?
JDE: Just like when I was growing up I still don’t really watch TV, and video games make me super dizzy! Sad to say, but sadness has always been what causes me to write, above all else. My best work has been born of heartbreak. Well…learning to survive, and redeeming myself through the sad moments and the losses. So, not ‘depressing sad,’ more like yearning to be stronger, the struggle to be better. I don’t live an easy life, so my story and my music is not always easy either. It’s hard to face squarely losing my mom when she was so young, or my broken heart, or my failures, but that is what I must share with people. Thankfully, playing music is more fun than ever, especially with Hannah since she’s super talented and expresses emotions in much the same way as me. She has the voice of an angel, and a certain presence onstage…people pay attention. It’s the BEST feeling, creating something magical you believe in with your whole being, in real time alongside someone from the same planet.
TC: Hannah has quite a few skills on her resume, including acting, writing, ballet and contemporary dance too. Is this your first foray into singing?
HL: If you ask my family they would tell you that they couldn’t drag me away from my plastic red stand up microphone that I had when I was about two or three years old. It came with a built in cassette tape holder, so I would put my “Kids Broadway Mixtape” In there and then make up my own baby words to the music until I actually knew how to sing. So singing and music has been in me since the start. I have a bunch of notebooks filled with song lyrics that make no sense, as well as recordings on my dad’s “legal dictation recorder” of songs that I made up on the spot as a kid that he has since downloaded onto his ipod and loves to embarass me with. All with love. It wasn’t until my family moved to Los Angeles for my sister’s acting career that I started to dabble in dancing and acting, as well. I took singing lessons all throughout these years as well as guitar. I performed at the House of Blues when I was ten, did a lot of musical theater and recorded some music here and there, but acting and dancing took the forefront of my time for the majority of my teen years. I joined Pacific Festival Ballet Company when I was eleven years old and dedicated my high school years to the dance studio, which became my second home. I was homeschooled when I was little and graduated high school at age twelve, so my dance studio was basically my high school, social life and second family. During this time, and now as well, I was also acting. Some of my favorite projects include, Gilmore Girls, An American Crime and Mad Men. Acting I feel, definitely shaped my love for storytelling in a way that I feel has helped with my songwriting, singing/stage presence and the two together infinitely fulfill me.
TC: You’ll be playing at Hotel Cafe on December 12th, but there must be a whole lot more in store. Any other details you can share about upcoming releases?
JDE: After playing Hotel Cafe in December, we will be working on trying to get a proper recording together, maybe an EP, as everything we’ve put together this year so far has been basically bedroom phone demos. So we’re doing the mad scramble trying to call everyone we know who might have a little studio or something like that. Something we always make time for too is continuing to write as often as we can. I am sure we will be onstage as well as we both LOVE performing. Hopefully no more heartbreak! It would be nice to explore happy songs too.
HL: Yes! It’s funny, we’ve both been doing well getting through these heartbreak periods and now we’re like…umm…we’re happy? What are these songs gonna sound like!? Haha. But as for upcoming projects, yes an EP would be the next step as well as producing some videos as well! We’re always open to more shows as well, and can’t wait for The Hotel Cafe!