The Fiddle Comeback

Local musician Hannah King dropped part two of her self-titled album on July 9 featuring original songs, which she will perform with a full band at Under the Big Sky on July 16

By Maggie Dresser
Musician Hannah King in Whitefish on June 30, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Growing up in the Big Hole Valley in Southwest Montana, Hannah King remembers listening to George Strait and Ace in the Hole Band cassettes with her dad on their family’s cattle ranch when she was 8 years old, just a few years after she started playing the fiddle.

“My dad loved George Strait and I remember thinking, ‘That’s what I want my fiddle to sound like,’” King said.

King continued playing mostly Texas-style fiddle music and she grew up playing in competitions until she was 18, winning the Montana state contest multiple times, regional competitions and finally the national young adult division.

After winning the national competition, King quit competing and refocused her energy on creating her own music. She moved to the Flathead Valley in 2018, but she didn’t start regularly playing music locally until about a year ago and has since played a slew of shows at breweries, wineries and other venues across the valley most commonly as a solo artist or as a duo.

Now at 25, she dropped the second part of her debut, self-titled album on July 9 featuring all original songs accompanied with an impressive band lineup. Guest performers on the album include Grammy Award-winning bass player Barry Bales, who plays for Alison Krauss and Union Station and has been an idol of King’s since she was a kid.

“When Barry played my record, I said ‘Oh my gosh, what is happening?’” King said. “He played the soundtrack to my childhood.”

With a well-connected producer, King was able to score other big names on her album, including Scotty Wilbanks, who plays keys for Luke Bryan, Jenee Fleenor, who was the Country Music Association Musician of the Year in 2019, and Rascal Flatt’s steel guitar player Travis Toy.

Now that her two-part project is complete, King will have the opportunity to perform it for a wide audience after she was selected to play a slot at the Under The Big Sky Festival in Whitefish on July 16 with a mostly local, full band.

Local musicians Matthew, Joseph and Tim Torgerson will play electric guitar, acoustics, drums and bass and Nashville-based Mary Meyer will play the mandolin with local singer Michelle Rivers on harmony vocals.

“This is my first festival as my own artist and our set is pretty much all originals and the show will be a kickoff for my album,” King said.

While King has been playing for live audiences for most of her life, she says performing her own songs creates a different challenge. Even though she spent much of her adolescence writing, she didn’t start taking it seriously until her early 20s.

“For me, it’s so personal,” King said. “All of my songs mean something to me because they’re like therapy sessions. They’re very honest to me, which is definitely vulnerable but there’s also a lot more power in that.”

King is booked with shows until early August and feels lucky to have solid musicians to perform with at venues across the valley, including the Garden Bar in Bigfork with Thom Shepherd, who wrote the hit single “Redneck Yacht Club,” on July 24.

She has tentative plans to head to Nashville at the end of the summer, where she recently spent a month while also spending time in Georgia to play with a bluegrass band.

As a fiddle player, King says it’s a good time to head to Nashville since the instrument is making a comeback after pop country music took over the scene in recent decades.

“There’s a big movement back to traditional sounding country music and people want steel guitars and fiddles but there are not a lot of players,” King said. “So it’s a good time to be a fiddle player in Nashville.”

To order King’s self-titled album, visit hannahkingmusic.us or stream it online.

King and her band will play at Under The Big Sky on July 16 at 4:30 p.m. at the Big Mountain Stage.