DISCOVERING A MUTUAL PASSION FOR SONG WRITING
Located at the junction of US 60 and Kentucky Highway 36, Owingsville, Kentucky is the classic rural small town, with only two major streets and a population of about 1200. If you listen closely as you drive through, you can hear some dynamic, rootsy sounds pouring out of garage jam sessions. A few years back, singer-songwriter and mullti-instrumentalist Jill Hamlin walked into one of these gatherings and was blown away by the talent of veteran musician Reed Fields. The two became fast friends and, with some of their mutual musical friends, formed the popular local cover band Highway 36.
While gaining a regional fan base with their versions of songs by legends like Allison Krauss and The Allman Brothers, Jill and Reed started writing original songs and performing them outside the group setting. This crafty moonlighting gave rise in 2012 to their Americana duo A Little Bit More and performances at black tie benefits, house concerts, taverns, fairs and festivals. One of their core venues, The Twisted Cork in Lexington, is hosting the CD release party rolling out their highly anticipated full length debut album Silhouettes. Jill and Reed recorded the 13-track collection at Nashville’s legendary Station West with famed engineer Kyle Manner, whose client list includes country music greats Dierks Bentley, Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley.
The two bring fascinating individual backgrounds into their creative vibe as A Little Bit More. Jill is a multi-instrumentalist (piano, mandolin, banjo, violin/fiddle, bass, guitar) who began playing the piano by ear at age three. She earned a Bachelor’s in Sociology with a minor in traditional music from Morehead State University, then earned her Master’s in Social Anthropology Ethnomusicology from Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland. Her multiple band associations include Mountain Delivery, Rhythm Wheel, KCTM Old Time String Band/KCTM Old Time Bluegrass Band, and she has played with J.T. Cure, bassist for Chris Stapleton. A longtime high school social studies teacher with a Masters in teaching from Morehead State University, Reed’s passion for outlaw music has led to his working with groups like Flat Creek, Ridge Runner and the Charley Lyons Band. He’s also opened shows for Exile and Chris Knight.
A Little Bit More thrives on the chemistry between its two principals, whose mutual musical influences (including John Prine, Chris Knight, Hayes Carl, Emmylou Harris) led them to create a fresh voice as songwriters and performers. Those listening to Silhouettes, like fans attending their gigs, are immediately struck with the unique switch off between lead vocals from track to track. Their philosophy here is simple: If they start writing a song, and decide that a male vocal fits the song and gets the emotion across better, then Reed takes the lead – and vice versa for Jill if a female voice is more appropriate..
Their songs on Silhouettes range from thoughtful socially conscious tunes like “Where I Am,” which touches on the epidemic of prescription drug abuse that affects so many people in their region, to spirited country crowd pleasers like “Beer Bottle” (their “fan Favorite”) and “Get Up Crowd,” a whimsical anthem every musician seeking a receptive audience can relate to. Working in perfect vocal harmony, with Jill backing Reed, the duo presents a lighthearted counterpoint to the addiction theme with the power ballad “Good Habit,” about the upside to being addicted to a loved one. Jill taps into her rebellious teen years trying to escape bullying and find herself on the passionate narrative of “What’s Going On In Memphis.”
“We both approach songwriting with an open mind,” says Jill. “We are such good friends that we will call/email/text each other with a couple of words and say ‘What do you think about ‘This’ for a song?’ And we’ll go from there. Sometimes we’ll record voice memos on our phones of one of us singing or playing guitar or piano and we may not have any words and we’ll just send it to the other and say ‘What do you think?’ When you go into a writing partnership you have to have some thick skin. Because if you say ‘I don’t like that,’ you have to be able to give and take criticism and yet still be open for other options. Open communication is the key. If we can’t talk about it, then our entire dynamic falls apart.”
“Both of us have always wanted to have a substantial career in music,” she adds, “but until we began writing, singing and playing together, we hadn’t found the support we needed to make the dream come true. “
Of the Year
Lexington Music Awards