Mountaineer Days has always held a special place in Heather Hannah’s heart, and she feels fortunate and blessed to be a part of this year’s July 4th celebration in Thomas.
“This place has given me a sense of place and belonging,” Hannah said about Tucker County. “Being able to give back and say thank you to a community that has given me so much is a tremendous honor.”
Heather Hannah & Company will take the stage at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, July 2 in the old bank parking lot in downtown Thomas for Mountaineer Days. She will be joined onstage by Josh Stevens on cello and her brothers, Jacob and Josiah, playing the guitar and banjo.
Mountaineer Days is a homecoming for many local individuals and families.
“It is truly a celebration of home and that is the theme of so many of the songs I write,” Hannah said. “It is a special thing to share with people what a home looks like to me during this year’s celebration.”
Being a fourth-generation harmony singer, Hannah grew up singing gospel songs with her family while her father delivered the message. She also grew up listening to old-time and bluegrass music, such as Doc Watson and Tony Rice.
“While you have the music you were born into, you have the music that grows with you,” Hannah said. “The majority of songs I write are written here on the mountain in Tucker County, which makes them mountain music by the very definition.”
For Hannah, the songwriting process is very intimate and personal. It is usually done in the early morning hours.
“I’ve never figured out how not to write a true song,” Hannah said with a smile. “I figured I never have the business of writing about something I had not lived. It means you have to be brave enough to tell the truth about what has happened to you in a first-person narrative.
“It is one of the most rewarding things for me as a songwriter and a musician. Sometimes people will come up to me after a show and say, ‘Hey, I thought I was alone until I heard that song, or I’ve lived that song.’”
A found guitar helped define her future, even though she didn’t know how to play it at the time.
“I was able to process, unpack and heal with the guitar,” Hannah said. “Once that healing happened, I was able to move into realms of joy and celebrations and love and have music as a conduit and a voice.
“Music is how I found my people. Some of the people I’ll be playing with for Mountaineer Days have been friends of mine from my first day in Tucker County.”
She is excited to play in the place she has called home for the past 17 years.
“I never thought that I would get to participate in Mountaineer Days unless I was taking over as the next Elvis impersonator. Which I was fully prepared to do,” Hannah said with a laugh.