Hannah Taylor is no stranger to country music. For years, it provided the soundtrack for her long car rides to and from school with her father. Later, she rocked out to artists like Miranda Lambert and The Chicks with her best friend in high school. Now, she gets to share her own interpretation of the music she knows and loves in FST’s hit Cabaret, Friends in Low Places.
We sat down with Hannah to discuss her favorite songs in Friends in Low Places, moments with the audience that have surprised her, and the challenge of juggling multiple instruments over the course of a 90-minute show.
What role has music—especially country music—played in your life? What impact have the artists featured in Friends in Low Places had on you?
For as long as I can remember, music has been my source of comfort and is a vehicle for me to express myself when I don’t otherwise know how. I think that is why I am so drawn to the storytelling nature of country music. You can express so much of the human experience through stories and songs and connect with others in a meaningful way. Growing up, I was impacted by so many of the artists featured in Friends in Low Places, but especially The Chicks. They have always inspired me by how they balance the classic country style with their own “y’allternative” flair. I remember sitting in my room listening to their music and being moved to laugh, cry, and dance around.
This is your first time at FST. What have you most enjoyed about performing for Sarasota audiences? Have there been any unscripted moments or surprise interactions that you’ve had with the audience that you’d like to share?
I have loved performing for Sarasota audiences because it has a really different feel each performance. Every audience has their own personality as well as different songs and moments that they respond to. It is especially fun when the audience feels moved to join in and sing along. One night, there was a woman in the balcony absolutely jamming out to “Jose Cuervo” and singing every word. It was so fun! I came to find out that that was one of the songs she used to rock out to with her friends from college. It’s amazing how a song can bring back such distinct memories and completely transport you to a different place and time.
Another one of my favorite unscripted moments happened one night when we were tuning up for Act II. We were talking about the song “Monster Mash” and one of our cast members hadn’t heard the song and thought we were making it up. It was hilarious because nearly the entire audience joined in the conversation, raising their hands that they knew the song and that we were, in fact, not making the song up!
In Friends in Low Places, you not only sing, but you also play at least three musical instruments – the accordion, mandolin, and acoustic guitar. What’s it like to switch from musical instrument to musical instrument multiple times in the span of 90 minutes?
Having the opportunity to switch instruments so often keeps me on my toes and makes the show so exciting. It’s also helped me sharpen my listening skills as I try to find how each instrument fits in and supports the song we are all, as a cast, weaving together. For me, there is nothing quite as magical as the feeling I get when we are all coming together and connected in the music.
You are from Atlanta, GA. Did you grow up listening to the music featured in Friends in Low Places? If so, what treasured memories do you have with these songs?
I was born and raised all around the metro Atlanta area. Country music was a big part of my life—it was how my dad and I bonded during our many long car rides to school, jamming with the windows down. It’s how I still connect with my grandparents. Every time we get together they ask me to play country music for them, especially Dolly Parton. Also, I have countless memories belting out songs by artists like The Chicks and Miranda Lambert in the car with my best friend from high school.
What would audiences be surprised to know about you?
Hopefully it would be surprising for them to know that this is actually my first time playing some of these instruments! Prior to doing Friends in Low Places, I hadn’t really played the accordion or harmonica. Thankfully, I was able to pick them up quickly and now I can’t wait to grow my relationship with them and use them in my own music!
What is your favorite song to perform in Friends in Low Places and why?
Ohhh, that’s a tough one. Honestly it’s a tie for my two favorites. “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” is so special to me because I obviously love Dolly Parton and I’m so grateful to have the chance to sing and connect with Madalyn, one of my fellow cast members, during that song. The palpable hope in that song never fails to lift my spirits.
I also can’t leave out “Country Roads.” I get misty-eyed during every performance when the audience sings along. I genuinely believe human connection is why we are all on this earth and to me, there is no greater way to connect with people than through music. It’s such an incredible experience to be hit with the wall of sound of everyone’s voices coming together to sing that timeless song.