The Gainesville, Georgia, native received his first acoustic guitar at age 5, though when his parents took him to his first lesson, the experience derailed his guitar-playing ambitions for several years.
“They told my parents, ‘Well he doesn’t know how to read and we can’t teach him to play guitar if he can’t read.’ That just discouraged me and I didn’t touch guitar again until I was about 13. I literally put it in a closet and wouldn’t touch it. But I loved to sing, so I would go to just about any karaoke place that would let me in, even at 5 or 6 years old. Even then, I would memorize every word to pretty much every Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Skynyrd or Cash song.”
By his teens, he grew interested in writing songs and knew if he wanted to grow musically, he’d have to dust off that old guitar in the closet. He started by learning every song on an Elvis greatest hits compilation. By 15, he was playing shows anywhere he could, and by the time he was a junior in high school, he was doing nearly 150 shows each year. A booking agent saw one of those shows and began helping him get bigger gigs (Hall is now signed with Paradigm for booking).
“I was playing six nights a week, whether it was an acoustic show or opening up for another artist. Especially towards the weekends, playing college bars, I would get maybe an hour or two of sleep and roll into school, probably still smelling like cigarettes from whatever bar I was playing, but I did graduate,” he says with a chuckle. “I missed out on a lot of normal teenage stuff like going to football games, but I was doing exactly what I wanted to do—play guitar, sing and write music.”
Hall moved to Nashville less than a year after graduating high school, focused on writing songs and found kindred musical spirits in writer/producers Pete Good and AJ Babcock.
“Moving here, I always felt like I was trying to find my crew of people to write with. I’ve written with so many people and they’re all incredible writers but I just never found someone that I connected with like I’ve connected with Pete and AJ and I think it’s just the trust that I have for them and that they have for me. And I know that if I give them my best title, or vice versa, that we’re going to do the best job that we possibly can.”
One of their collaborations, “Other End of the Phone,” led to a deal with Monument Records, led by Shane McAnally and Jason Owen. Now Hall is putting his shredding skills and songwriting acumen front and center on his EP, Six Strings—and he’s welcomed artists including Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Brothers Osborne’s John Osborne, Old Dominion’s Brad Tursi and more to be part of it. The project was produced by Hall, Good, and Babcock, and is set to release early next year.
“When a new artist puts out a debut EP like Six Strings, you know to pay attention,” said Monument co-president McAnally. “Alex’s stand-out vocals, his songwriting, and his incredible musicianship create the whole package, and are the reason we signed him the day we met him. It’s so telling that these legendary, and respected, artists would join him in making music together for a debut EP. It just shows that Alex Hall is offering something unique, at a time when there is so much of the same.”
Hall hadn’t intended to put out a collaborative project this year—he hadn’t planned to put out an EP at all. But like most artists, Hall’s heavy touring slate was halted once the pandemic hit. Hall was on a plane en route to London’s C2C Festival when the borders were closed in March.
“We got grounded in D.C. and turned around. So what was supposed to be a big touring year turned out to be a sitting-at-home all year kind of thing” Hall says.
Originally, the project was going to be a stripped down, acoustic album, based around his guitar work, but that idea expanded into an opportunity to bring in several of Hall’s musical heroes.
“I grew up in a time where the radio was Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Vince, Steve Wariner and all those great guitar players. We were like, ‘Well, if I’m going to ask Brad Paisley or John Osborne to be part of this, we’ve got to put an electric guitar in their hands.’”
Good purchased a studio in Nashville’s Berry Hill area right as the pandemic hit. Babcock and Hall write at the same publishing company, and Babcock also plays bass all over the album, while Good engineered the project. Tursi, Kassi Ashton and Tenille Townes each came into the studio to record their tracks, while Paisley, Gill and Osborne recorded in their home studios.
One of the first artists they thought of for the project was Gill, who contributes guitar work and vocals to “Never Seen The World.”
“Honestly, all my co-producers and I were all in tears listening to it, because it’s Vince Gill. He’s got such an incredible voice and his guitar work is amazing. And that song is special for me and my fiancée. The first few times we were going back to Georgia, and just seeing where I grew up through her eyes and finding a new love for that in a roundabout way.”
“Other End of the Phone” gets a guest appearance from Old Dominion’s Tursi. Hall co-wrote the stunner “Heart Shut” with Townes, who also provides vocals and guitar work to the track. They played “Heart Shut” together for the first time at Nashville’s Bluebird Café at Townes’ EP release party.
“Tenille and I are dear friends and this was the first song we ever wrote together,” Hall says. “We’ve been fans of each other’s music and finally got a co-write on the books. I wanted to write a duet because I am such a big fan of hers. She came in and did two takes on her guitar, top to bottom, and just absolutely crushed it,” he recalls of the recording session. “We played that for the very first time and everyone just went nuts and there was just something magical about it and the guitar playing and our voices and her style of playing and everything, too. And so it honestly had a lot to do with the way that we recorded this whole project, just very stripped down and bare bones and not overly slick but still hopefully slick enough to catch people’s attention.”
Ashton co-wrote and contributed vocals to “Runs In The Family,” an intensely personal song for Hall.
“That was one that I struggled with at first because this is a guitar-featuring project, but this song is so personal to both of us, and no one knows how to use their voice like an instrument the way Kassi does.”
Paisley contributed harmonies and guitar to “Last One To Leave.”
“It’s exactly what I love about a classic country song, and it feels like it meets that modern feel on the production side of it,” Hall says. “It just felt very fitting to have him. And that was a huge long shot, obviously, asking Brad Paisley to be on my record. But just getting to just duel out on guitars with Brad Paisley is just something I never thought I would ever be able to do.
“I think this is a project that really shows who I am and what I have to say. I’ve never had a body of music push me harder to be better as a guitar player or a singer or anything. And it definitely stretched me and I’m thankful for it because I think I’m a better artist, guitar player and songwriter for it.”
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