When Nashville Star Season 5 winner Angela Hacker got the great news, it must have appeared to the world shed become an overnight success. The next day, laughing off her fans queries, "Whats the first thing youre going to buy, Angela?" she just exclaims, "Why do all these people think I just won a bunch of money?"
What Angela did win was a brand-new truck and a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records in Nashville. While this certainly wasnt the beginning-or the end, for that matter- of her road to stardom, you might say her two-lane country highway has been widened and repaved. A 29-year-old single mom, Angela Hacker has always wanted to be a singer, and wrote her first song at age ten. Growing up in Muscle Shoals, AL, Angela was steeped in the musical tradition of the city where the likes of Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Ronnie Milsap flocked to record their hits. The Hacker family lived and breathed music, and thanks to the musical influence of country rocker dad Hartty (and perhaps their distant kin Elvis Presley as well), Angela and 23-year-old brother Zac proved to be the ones to beat in Nashville Star this year.
Hartty Hacker spent most of Angela and Zacs childhoods playing regional bars and honky-tonks with his band. No doubt it was the alcohol, and maybe it was a sense of complacency as well that kept Hartty from becoming the huge star Angela believed he could have been. Zacs show-stopping original tune "If It Wasnt For The Whiskey," which Hartty watched from the Nashville Star audience with a proud smile and tearful eyes, could not have said it better.
Witnessing Harttys unfulfilled potential fueled Angelas desire to make it as a singer. For several years after high school, Angela played bar gigs with a rock band, while she bounced from day job to day job in restaurants, retail, a freezing cold meat packing plant, a dry cleaners. Her longest job was selling cars. But her last job was as a certified nursing assistant- or "certified ass wiper," Angela jokes. At 25, Angela began to feel her dream slip away the way her fathers had, and she knew she had to make a change. Encouraged by friend and music publisher Mike ORear to quit her day job, Angela and her son moved to Wayne County, Tennessee where Mike found her an apartment and paid her to do odd jobs so she would have time to write and hone her craft. At first, Angela struggled with guilt about no longer working a "real job" to pay the bills. Eventually, Angelas arrangement with Mike dissolved, and she found herself struggling to pay the bills at all.
It was at this time Angelas close friend Paula suggested she play a gig at a local bar, Glasss. Angela had never played a solo show before, and worried about filling up a four-hour time slot with no one to hide behind but herself. Reluctantly, she agreed, to which Paula replied, "Good, cause I already booked it." That night, Angela made $100 and was offered a regular Monday night gig, which she gladly accepted. Over time, the gig not only became more lucrative, but more importantly, helped Angela to find herself as an artist. Being up on stage all alone forced her to become a better guitar player, to get creative with her beats, and to sing songs not the way she had heard them on the radio, but to make them her own.
During this period, Angela met and began working with James LeBlanc, a songwriter and guitar player who had toured for years with Jamie ONeal. The pair began writing songs together, two of which, "Love Me Wild" and "You Got Me," are on the forthcoming album. It was also during this time that Angela was approached by legendary publisher Rick Hall to sign with Rick Hall Music in Muscle Shoals, where Angela found her home as a songwriter.
At home with a supportive publishing company and secure with herself on stage, Angela took another leap outside her comfort zone by auditioning for Nashville Star- a decision she said was made for her by her sisters. With Zac auditioning in a separate city, she worried about one of them making it on the show and not the other. So, no one was more surprised than she when not only did they both make it to the top ten, but to the final two. Over the weeks, Angela won fans with her soulful renditions of songs like "I Cant Make You Love Me" and "Strawberry Wine," moving judge Blake Shelton to exclaim: "When I look at you I see a little dandelion growing out in the field... and then when you sing, I see cigarettes and beer and whiskey!"
Although she was considered a frontrunner from the beginning of the competition, Angela had been taught by her family not to count her chickens before they hatched. Even now, after years of supporting herself and her son as a singer, winning Nashville Star and a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records still doesnt seem real. "I really dont think its sunk in yet, even to this day," Angela reflects. "I dont know when it will sink inand maybe it wont, because I want to keep this excitement for as long as I can. Because Ive been waiting a long time to be here."