Budding country music star Caylee Hammack speaks like a poet and sings like a songbird. Yet when she begins to tell the tale of the wildlife situation she currently has going on in her Nashville home, she suddenly becomes completely and utterly relatable.
"I had a snake in the house, had a turtle in the skimmer, and I'm carrying off buckets of toads," Hammack emphatically tells PEOPLE during a recent interview about the craziness ensuing at the new Nashville home that she purchased back in November. "Literally, I'm going to have to start searching for the open game of Jumanji in the basement. Because I'm like, 'What is going to come next?'"
For now, that just might be a new roof and new floors, some painting and some rewiring, and if Hammack can carve in some spare time before she heads off on tour alongside Luke Bryan later this summer, she might even bite the bullet and purchase new gutters.
"God's been good to me. This house has a lot of problems, but I do too," jokes Hammack, who released her debut record If It Wasn't For You last August. "I feel like we mesh well together. I've kind of figured out that working on the house is also working on myself."
Indeed, it's long been a work in progress for the up-and-coming singer/songwriter, who in some ways, seems to have already lived a lifetime at the young age of 27 years old. Raised on the sweet yet sassy sounds of The Chicks and SHeDAISY, the Georgia native with fiery red hair began flirting with a music career at the age of 13. Five years later, she passed up a full scholarship to the acclaimed Belmont University in Nashville in favor of her small-town boyfriend, a storyline that would end up serving as the foundation of her critically acclaimed song "Small Town Hypocrite."
A deeply personal song that serves up a mesmerizing lyrical look into the monotony of small-town life and the heartbreaks that can be found there, Hammack recently released a new version of "Small Town Hypocrite" featuring an even more raw, more jagged, more vulnerable sound thanks to the vocal stylings of a certain Mr. Chris Stapleton.
"I wholeheartedly believe that manifestations are prayers you're just tossing up there," remarks Hammack, who has snagged opening slots with the likes of Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, Trisha Yearwood and Brothers Osborne in recent years. "God has answered so many of those manifestations for me. And I never imagined it. It was the first wish, to be honest, on the record that Chris would sing with me on this one."
And in essence, by adding the country powerhouse to the recording, "Small Town Hypocrite" gets another, much-deserved life, as it was on the verge of going to radio around the same time the pandemic began shutting the world down last year.
"Pretty much the grand synopsis that we got from everyone was, a young female artist right now can't put out a sad song," Hammack remembers of the state of the country music industry last spring. "We need people that we know, we need happy songs. Don't take this to radio because it's going to flop."
So she and her team made the difficult decision to save it and preserve the song — co-written and co-produced by Hammack — and wait for the perfect time to release it again.
But this time, with Stapleton.
"He sounds like we could be from the same hometown," notes Hammack with a laugh. "For some reason, when a man talks like my daddy does, it gives me a very, very big sense of comfort. It really does."
Piper Ferguson Caylee Hammack
Also providing solace for Hammack during these still uncertain times is music, as she currently finds herself tirelessly working on her sophomore album.
"Right now, I'm writing so much music," explains Hammack, who scored a nod for ACM "Music Event of the Year" with Miranda Lambert earlier this year. "And I like the music. I really like the music. I was so scared that I'd be writing the second album and be like, "I have no ideas, I'm not living, I don't have any inspiration." But I have loads of inspiration. And in that was a blessing."
Time, too, is a blessing for Hammack — now more than ever before.
"One of the beautiful things about the past year or so is that it did remind me that slowing down and gearing down to first is actually good for the engine overall," she says, almost in a whisper. "It's actually good for me. I feel like right now God is allowing me to have a moment in my life that I can be messy."